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Innovative 21st Century Teaching and Learning

Teacher Performance Frameworks

I have been following with much interest the blogs, news articles and debates about teacher rating occurring in the USA. Part of my interest stems from the discussion that is starting to occur in Australia, driven by our Federal Government, about teacher performance and productivity.

I want to say something upfront here … I actually believe measuring teacher performance is critical to the process of developing quality learning and teaching. However, I think that virtually every government driven approach that uses student value-added data as the key measure is flawed and will drive teacher behaviour that will destroy the great things about education and learning.

I know that I am supported by many others in the opinion about the destructive nature of the current teacher evaluation approaches.

The essence of my belief stems from three points:

Teaching and schools are team environments
Student mindset, attitudes and learning abilities have an enormous impact on their ability to perform
Socio-economic factors have an enormous impact on a student’s ability to perform
So rather than pointing out why this system is destructive without pointing out a possible solution, let us look to where else we could find possible approaches to measuring a teacher’s performance inside the team environment that student learning occurs.

The most highly measured teams in the world occur in sport. Whether the player plays American Football, Soccer, Australian Rules Football, Baseball, etc. a wide range of statistics are gathered. In EVERY SINGLE high performance sporting team in the world, who all have an enormous commitment and reliance on performance, one does not measure the value and performance of individual players in a team sport by the touchdowns or goals scored. You measure the value or performance of a player by their ability to perform their role – normally measured by a range of key performance indicators. The game is won by the cumulative effect and effort of the individuals delivering on their roles within the game (including dealing with the counter-strategies and plays of the opposing team).

Now drawing a link to schools and learning. The game being played is the student demonstrating the skills and understanding required by the educational system for that year level. In the case of schools the measure of success, in many teacher performance approaches, is the value-adding to students of their ability to perform on a single test on a particular day in a particular year. To win that game the team in the school must perform in their role - so that is what we must measure.

So what could we measure that would give a reasonable indication of the ability of a teacher to perform in their role?

A team’s victory is the accumulation of actions that leads to a winning score – the winning score itself is a secondary effect of those actions. In the same way the student performance is a secondary effect of the school team’s accumulated actions.

The measures would have to be based on what the teachers are directly responsible and accountable for. So what are they directly accountable for that would lead to a reasonable set of measures?

I have been inquiring into this with a working party of teachers as I support them in developing a teacher performance framework for their school. We ended up with similar thoughts to teacher performance that Bill Gates (shock horror) discussed in a recent article. After several months of work this is what we ended up with … and it makes complete sense.

A teacher is accountable for three major areas that lead to student performance as an effect:

Their capacity to build a professional working culture defined by aspects such as being in positive staff relationships, being a team member, being professional, and being self-reflective.
Their capacity to build positive relationships with students and parents defined by aspects such as role modelling, praise and encouragement, creating a safe environment, communication, encouraging risk-taking in learning, etc.
Their capacity to deliver the curriculum through appropriate pedagogical practices defined by aspects such as curriculum documentation, unit planning, evidence-based powerful learning practices, etc.
This can be represented by the following Venn diagram. The Venn diagram indicates that the best performance comes from the conjunction of all 3 elements. A Teacher can have some performance by being strong in one or two of the framework areas but the greatest performance will occur when all 3 are present.

If a teacher is challenged in their personal capacity to be a team member, be professional, self-reflect … then of course it would affect their ability to build relationships with students and do their job.

If a teacher is challenged in their capacity to role model and build relationships with students and parents, then it again would impact performance and delivery of curriculum.

If a teacher is challenged in their ability to apply evidence-based pedagogy, plan authentic learning units, have quality educational learning rituals in classes, this would also affect performance.

What we have done as a working party (which includes teachers, heads of departments, senior management within the school) is to create three formative rubrics that are designed to describe explicitly what the behaviour of teachers would be on key focus areas within these 3 domains. We are currently identifying a scaffold of structures, habits, and processes that would support the development of teacher performance along the spectrum we have defined.

In my next blog I will go into the formative rubrics we have designed to support teacher development in these 3 key areas and how we are intending to use these both support building teacher capacity and measure their performance. When you see the rubrics you will be quite surprised about how empowering they can be for teachers.

Please feel free to comment on this blog. If you are interested in finding out more about our work please email me at adrian@intuyuconsulting.com.au.
September 15th, 2012 @ 2:35AM | 2 Comments | Post a Comment

Are you ready for the Australian Curriculum?

I thought I would provoke some discussion and thinking up front in today's blog. I want to be especially confronting to the status quo that schools are in at the moment because we have a belief ... opinion ... viewpoint ... that most schools are living in lala land about the Australian Curriculum. [Note: Lala Land is that land you go to when you put your hands over your ears and shout loudly "lalalalalala" to block out the conversation someone is trying to have with you!"]

We have been working with a range of schools in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia and our opinion about the readiness of schools for implementing the Australian Curriculum is a resounding NO!!!!!!

This is not a critical issue at the moment but I don't believe many schools (nor the governments for that matter) have confronted what it is actually going to take to authentically and professionally implement the Australian Curriculum to honour both its intent and the possibility available from its embedding.

We have some perspective on this because we have spent the past 18 months working with primary and secondary schools, government and independent schools, teacher teams that are on board and those that are not, and across several states, and have spent an enormous amount of time and thought looking at what are the factors that will empower and enable the effective implementation.

We have HAD TO DO THIS as part of being paid by the schools and being effective as a consultancy.

The implementation of the Australian Curriculum is an extraordinary opportunity to create a shift in the learning and teaching profession. It is one of those line in the sand sort of moments that will define education in this country ... or not (if schools don't act). The next few years will involve some enormous transitions for the way that schools and teachers think, plan, and operate in their learning environments. It will challenge the habits and rituals of learning within the learning environments. It will demand that teachers develop themselves continuously to be more masterful. It will be confronting, challenging, sickening, and thrilling.

What it IS going to take for the Australian Curriculum to be delivered well is a paradigm shift in the way that teachers provide learning and schools support learning.

To give you a sense of our thinking and observations of what it will require, I sat down and wrote out a list of some of the actions schools would need to take at a minimum to be effective and cause learning performance across their school.

Have you mapped out the Achievement Standards across the year levels to see how they flow and fit and could be linked?

Have you audited your current curriculum documentation to get a sense of what you are currently delivering?

Has there been a skills mapping that articulates how both the subject specific skills and the general capabilities will be coherently built upon through the year levels?

Have you set benchmark expectations for each year levels end-of-year expected skills and understandings to measure progress against?

Has the school set time aside for teaching teams throughout the year to map out and plan each year level's implementation of the Australian Curriculum?

Have you begun to trial some Australian Curriculum units?

Have you documented any Australian Curriculum units already delivered and reflected upon what worked and what didn't and refined the unit?

Have you looked at the timetable and thought about how to redesign it to allow for new learning approaches and cross-curricular learning?

Has the Senior Leadership developed a progressive plan over the next two years of how they will support teachers with time, professional learning, and critical friends to support the cultural shift?

Are there developmental structures to support the embedding of new teacher practice, strategies, habits and thinking?

Are there frameworks to support teacher growth, acknowledge teacher performance but also to professionally deal with teacher non-compliance?

We are working with schools on all of these aspects and over the coming months our blogs will be sharing the results of our work with various schools so you can start to see the unpacking of this thinking.

My question to you (and please email me at adrian@intuyuconsulting.com.au) is ... what do you see needs to be addressed and where are you stuck?
July 3rd, 2012 @ 9:53PM | 5 Comments | Post a Comment

Deliberate Practice and Skill Development

One of the clear facets of the Australian Curriculum is the requirement for teachers to explicitly develop skills in the students. These skills include both the subject specific skills as well as what are now termed the general capabilities (another name for interdisciplinary skills).

The challenge for teachers is figuring out HOW they are going to be more explicit about developing the required skills. Part of the challenge is that, for the most part, teachers have operated with the HOPE that students will develop the required skills by practicing or participating in activities. Well … to a certain extent this does develop the skills but in a world of performance this is insufficient.

K. Anders Ericsson has pioneered the research into deliberate practice. One of Ericsson's core findings is that skill expertise has more to do with how one practices than with merely performing a skill a large number of times. An expert breaks down the skills that are required to be expert and focuses on improving those skill chunks during practice or day-to-day activities, often paired with immediate coaching feedback. Another important feature of deliberate practice lies in continually practicing a skill at more challenging levels with the intention of mastering it.

One of the structures that we use as we facilitate teacher’s Australian Curriculum planning is the formative rubric. We use the structure of a formative rubric (see the Rubric Student Version and the Rubric Teacher Version) to support the teachers to unpack not only what the skill chunks are at different stages of skill development, but to provide a structure for teachers to articulate the explicit approaches they will use to develop and challenge the students. Our experience is that teachers have a ‘light bulb’ moment and suddenly it all becomes clear.

The thinking behind the formative rubric is this. Expert teachers generally know what level of skill a student is displaying in the way they are demonstrating in their work. However, this is an instinctual thing with teachers which they address when they see it. If we are going to actually support the students in developing a mastery approach we have to move this from an anecdotal 'on-sight' approach to explicitly articulating what it is we are looking for, the evidence that we require them to produce to demonstrate that they are at a level, and the strategies we will be using to develop their skill. Once we have captured this information suddenly the process of developing visible feedback mechanisms that the students drive becomes much easier. The result is that performance increases, the more competent students have a structure that can extend them, teacher's have more time to support the struggling students, and the students begin to have tools that allow them to become independent learners.

It does take time to articulate it well as it challenges the teachers to get really clear about WHAT demonstrable behaviour it is they are looking for. I have attached a sample rubric for research so you can get an idea of how we unpacked one skill at a year 8 level.

Another benefit of going through the process is that the teachers suddenly realise their mastery of a particular area and can coach and give away their understandings and mastery to others. Win-Win really!

Any thoughts or comments?
May 8th, 2012 @ 10:24PM | 4 Comments | Post a Comment

The 21st Century Planning Process

I have this belief that the planning documents need to lead teachers through the thinking and behaviour you are trying to encourage in them. They are not just to capture information (although this is an important part of the process). How the teachers fill in the documents will tell you a lot about their current thinking.

So when you look at HOW the teachers fill in their current documents, their detail, their use of the current planning documents, and so on ... their actions will reveal their mindset and understanding and how much they value the process of planning. It will identify gaps in their thinking and possibly their understanding. It could also identify gaps in rigour and the discipline of planning.

In designing the process of planning I would want to make sure that the documents and the planning process lead the teachers through the thinking I want them to undertake to develop a coherent, cohesive unit that meets the school's pedagogical focuses. There is a step by step process you want them to go through. If you look at Jay McTigue's Understanding By Design approach the planning templates are filled in a particular order and the process takes one through the process.

Now I, personally, am interested in performance - enabling both teachers and students to perform exceptionally. When you look at the performance of people there are four major areas which get in the way of them performing successfully.

They don't know WHAT to do
They don't know HOW to do it.
They don't know WHY they do it?
Or there are OBSTACLES beyond their control
When I look at many school planners ... there is a lot of identifying WHAT to do. Most of the HOW in teacher unit plans are very vague to my "Engineer" oriented brain. The WHY comes from having clear Key Understandings. Obstacles can be addressed via "common misconceptions" or the teacher identifying the common barriers to progress (whether they be understandings or skills or whatever) and identifying strategies to support students to overcome them.

If I am looking at Planning Documents (whether they are house plans, learning plans, game plans for a sport, plans for an organising a conference, etc) I really want to be able to see;

WHAT is the goal and WHAT it will look like when it is all completed (goal skills, understandings)
HOW will we get there (what tools, skills need to be developed, resources, learning strategies, and the explicit steps to get there)
WHY (how it links to past learning and future learning, big picture)
OBSTACLES (what could be some potential obstacles and HOW we will overcome them)
The planning documents should be clear in showing this. When I see this information we can then be clear that the event is going to happen (whether it is a unit, house, conference, bridge, or whatever). That is what plans are for.

For me, planning documents should begin with the end point (the destination) - the WHAT

What are the key understandings (achievement standards) I want the students to gain by the end of the unit? This will link into what they already know and the WHY of the unit.
What skills am I wanting to be developing through this unit (both subject specific skills and core competencies/general capabilities pertinent to this cohort of students)? What thinking do I want them to do?
What content will be the vehicle for this journey?
Knowing all of this ... what could be a culminating event where the students can summatively and authentically demonstrate their understandings and skills to achieve? What does this look like? feel like?

We now get to the HOW

So now knowing the WHAT ... what would be the list of steps I would take to have the students successfully accomplish reaching the end point having developed the skills and grasped the understandings?

What tools will I use when?
What resources will I need when?
What graphic organisers?
What incursions or excursions?
How will I hook them or engage them?
What questions could I formulate to begin and to guide them through the process?
What could be common misconceptions of barriers for these students? How will I support the students to overcome these barriers?
What structures will I use to support the students and myself to facilitate the process?
This outline of my thinking is WHY I would include documents such as a check list, and formative rubric in the planning documentation. This would address part of the how.

When you look at your planning documents you really want to be able to see the whole picture and process.

Do you see this in your school teaching / learning plans?
April 4th, 2012 @ 8:41PM | 3 Comments | Post a Comment

The Learning Jigsaw

This week\'s blog comes from Narelle Wood. Narelle is our Australian Curriculum expert and has worked extensively across a range of schools in supporting powerful learning in the literacy and English domain.


An indulgence of mine is jigsaw puzzles. I will sit for hours trying to complete a particular section and it has got to the stage where I have sat at the table for 2 days straight to complete one. I recently completed one of penguins standing on a sheet of ice; there is not much colour in Antarctica. By the time I had completed the puzzle I had the usual self-satisfied feeling of solving a problem but this was muddled with feelings of frustration and annoyance. It’s safe to say the lack of clarity in what I was trying to achieve diminished the normal enjoyable experience. I have come to realise completing a jigsaw puzzle is much like learning; fitting smaller pieces together to see the bigger picture. Where we sometimes fail as educators is in not giving our students sufficient information to complete their learning jigsaw puzzle.

I’ve came to this realisation when I was teaching Literature in 2010. I had a small and reasonably capable class. What was new for me was that the students knew how they learnt and demanded, nicely, that I teach them in the way they knew worked best.

Early in the year I had spent some time with the Year 11 Literature teacher and we had mapped out a very detailed scope and sequence chart. Walking into each class I knew what outcomes needed to be addressed and how they related. The route altered occasionally to respond to the needs of my students. But the students were demanding me to share that curriculum map with them. They wanted to see the big picture as well as the small details on each individual piece, and they wanted to know how it all fitted together.

The demand first appeared as; “what are we learning this for?” I refrained from biting and explained the benefits of deconstructing poetry; we were skill building. Each lesson I faced similar questions. Exasperated by the seemingly constant challenges I finally took in the scope and sequence chart and all the other curriculum documentation, sat down with the students and explained it.

The exercise, initially, was really a way to shut them up, but to my surprise and delight, they were generally interested. The questions asked about the curriculum were intelligent and insightful, and in most cases questions that we had posed ourselves in developing the curriculum documents. I also found it interesting that the students were surprised we had gone into so much detail; we had mapped out when and what meta-language they would learn. When I explained that meta-language was a significant component of Literature, you could see the pieces fit together. No longer was euphemistic language something that Miss Wood just liked to talk about, it had a purpose.

I thought, initially that the interest was because of the stereotypical students that take Literature – the more bookish or academic types. So I decided to experiment on my Year 9’s; in a completely ethical and educationally sound way of course. I did the same activity. I had a greater range of the so-called academic ability and I was curious to see their response. It sparked much debate and we did get stuck on “why write essays” for about 30 minutes of the 45 minute lesson. They too had some very interesting and well formed arguments about their learning and its purpose in their lives.

What both experiences showed me is that students are interested in their education but we, unwittingly at times, limit these opportunities by limiting the information we give them. This is like asking them to complete an extraordinarily detailed jigsaw puzzle with no pictures, instructions or clues - an overwhelming task for even the avid jigsaw puzzler.

So, why do we not share the curriculum with students? Why do we not involve the students in writing the curriculum? Surely if we wish our students to take more responsibility in their learning we need to give them some ownership over what and how they learn.

The results of Robert Marzano’s 2003 research on school effectiveness strongly supports that a clearly documented and workable curriculum at the whole school level is the most important factor in student achievement. The documentation is worth doing for a large number of reasons. It provides:

an understanding of where the students learning is going
allows the students to make explicit connections between subjects
can allow them easier access to past learning by seeing the skills as accumulative rather than replacing old knowledge with the new
it provides them a framework for reflection by asking them to self-assess where they are at in the learning sequence
it is a practical demonstration that planning matters
Granted, it is a daunting task, especially if all the documentation needs to be student friendly. So, how do you complete a giant exceptionally complicated jigsaw puzzle? One piece at a time. I know the work I did made a profound difference to the way I approached my teaching. And I now live with hope that after students have long left the classroom they continue to ask “what am I learning this for?” and keep adding pieces to their jigsaw puzzle.
March 25th, 2012 @ 7:29PM | 1 Comments | Post a Comment