Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What makes a teacher highly effective ... and what allows transformative learning to occur?

I had the privilege of meeting with my Cluster Initiative group yesterday. With Professor Garfield Gini-Newman, we discussed what it means to make progress with our students and truly assess them. What is progress? What is the criteria we use to assess it? What makes a teacher highly effective? And what allows transformative learning to occur in a given classroom??

When studies on highly effective teachers were conducted, six common traits emerge:

1. Expectations for students are clearly stated, and exemplars are provided that are not just student work! These exemplars do not need to be exemplary, but the teacher can show the students a range of papers instead and figure out the criteria for evaluating each one.
2. Student work can be found EVERYWHERE!
3. The teacher does not stand still and lecture but constantly moves about the room.
4. Multiple small group activities for students can be found. Rarely are students seen sitting in rows.
5. High levels of instructional discourse are present!
6. Clear organization of materials, lessons, and the room is evident. Materials are easily accessible, and no class time is wasted due to the teacher's lack of preparation or provisioning.

We all know that great teachers come in a variety of different packages. All great teachers, though, build in clear, daily routines for their students. The students know why there desks are arranged the way they are. Frequently, they are responsible for arranging the desks themselves into a given arrangement, as much movement is incorporated into their lesson. These kinds of great teachers have students access multiple kinds of memories: automatic, emotional, auditory, episodic, and semantic. The teacher is all over the room!!

In nurturing a community of critical thinkers, highly effective teachers encourage students to make up their own minds, provide reasons and supports in students' observations, behaviors, and conclusions, and seriously consider others' perspectives and alternative approaches to a given problem.

For students, transformative learning can only occur when a variety of important factors are put into place in the classroom by this highly effective teacher:

1. Students' thinking and perceptions of the world are altered as a result of new knowledge.
2. Students integrate new knowledge and create connections to deepen their understanding of themselves and their world.
3. Learning leads to a shift in mindset and consciousness.
4. Students are willing participants with a vested interest in the learning process.
5. Students are encouraged to engage in inquiry.
6. Students examine personal assumptions.
7. A heightened awareness of oneness develops through critical inquiry.

All effective teachers must then ask themselves: "Do I teach to the curriculum guide or to transformative learning?" Well, luckily, student assessment can be as learning and FOR learning! Instead of evaluating all the students' work themselves, great teachers know how to make assessment part of their daily lesson for students through self or peer-reflection.

To create true transformative learning, great teachers need to provide the following for students:
* daily and frequent assessment for learning
* effective classroom questioning
* teaching for conceptual understanding
* using visuals as a source and mode of representation
* teaching to students' talents and needs
* interrogative written text
* considering multiple lenses and approaches
* embedding student choice
* self-regulated skill development
* making learning purposeful.

As Lorna Earl says to her students about assessment for learning, "Everything you say, write, and do in here is part of my assessment for your learning." Here, the teacher is a true facilitator of student interactions and discourse.

There are six steps to design critical challenges for students, which is NEVER easy! The teacher can ask students to:
* critique the piece
* judge the better or best
* rework the piece
* decode the puzzle
* design the specs
* perform to specs

Some examples of these student tasks include:
1. Write three powerful questions related to ___________________.
2. Does the illustration effectively represent the situation? Why or why not?
3. Rewrite the story's ending from a different perspective.
4. Create a better solution to this problem.

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