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Reading from the CFT Desk: #CFTrecommendations

April 26, 2014

I came across the following pieces this week that you might be interested in putting on a pile to read in the near future.

Poll: Majority of Students Engaged, Education Week, by Evie Blad

She reports on a recent Gallup Education poll that shows: “Students who strongly agree that they have at least one teacher who makes them “feel excited about the future” and that their school is “committed to building the strengths of each student” are 30 times more likely than students who strongly disagree with those statements to show other signs of engagement in the classroom.”  The takeaway is that school officials should not discount the social and emotional factors that can help students realize their cognitive potential.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life: Anna Quindlen on Work, Joy, and How to Live Rather than Exist, Brain Pickings, Maria Popova

If you don’t follow Brain Pickings, you are missing out on something really special. Popova produces some of the most interesting posts on a variety of topics that would interest anyone who wants to grow as a learner.   She often explores books she has read that touch in unusual ways.  This piece is is about how a commencement speech that Anna Quindlen was supposed to deliver at Villanova University in 2000 got canceled because some students protested her liberal point-of-view on many topics.  Quindlen wrote a short book, A Short Guide to a Happy Life, based on the speech she was supposed to give.  Her is a special quote than Popova shares from the book:

Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That’s what I have to say. The second is only a part of the first. Don’t ever forget what a friend once wrote to Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator had decided not to run for reelection because he’d been diagnosed with cancer: “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office.  Don’t ever forget the words on a postcard that my father sent me last year: If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.

This is a wonderful piece by Popova.

Professional Learning as a creative process, Anthony Armstrong, Tools for Learning Schools, Spring 2014

An interesting article that profiles how Adlai Stevenson High School in IL differentiates its professional learning programs for its nearly 300 teachers and 150 curricular teams.  They already employ a PLC model (Rick DuFour was superintendent many years ago).  Within the model they have designed a learning map that guides faculty as they engage in ongoing, job-embedded professional learning.  Based on the work of Csikszentmihalyi (2008), they’ve designed a five stage model: preparation; incubation; insight; evaluation; and elaboration.  Using their learning map has given them the flexibility to meet the diverse needs of faculty in areas of formative assessment and other school initiatives.

The Standardized Testing Rat Race: Performance Assessments for the Common Core, Robert Rothman, Harvard Education Letter, December 2013

Superintendent of Danville, KY schools writes: “We’ve been in a standardized testing rat race.  We realized what we were doing was not producing graduates with the skills they will need.”  Danville, KY has adopted a new set of requirements that involve performance-oriented assessments linked to the Common Core.  They are asking students to perform tasks, show how they arrive at a solution to a problem and justify conclusions they make.  There is a recognition that the Common Core expects students to master skills that are not easily measured on a standardized test.  CCS expect students to use evidence, analyze problems more deeply, and synthesize, interpret and think creatively about problems.  Therefore, Danville is taking matters into its own hands.  A good article for looking at a model being adopted in one school district.  If schools and teachers give in to preparing students only for the high-stakes tests used to evaluate their performance (not a useful model in my estimation), then they will miss the opportunity to tap into more interesting and exciting ways for students to demonstrate what they know, understand, and can do.

Beyond Worksheets: A True Expression of Student Learning, by Shawn McCusker, Mind Shift, April 23, 2014

Possession of facts is not learning. What is an important skill is the ability to sift through abundant information, identify what is valid and meaningful, then use it to create meaning and express it. This is why student creation is so important in the new economy of information.

This piece ties into the piece above written by Robert Rothman.  Authentic learning requires students to identify the information and knowledge that is most useful and valid.  I like the idea that possession of facts is not learning.  Learning happens when students demonstrate an ability to use, shape, evaluate and apply the knowledge and skills they acquire.  The author writes:

This constructivist approach, as outlined by Dennis Jonassen in his 8 Characteristics of Constructivist Learning, values hands-on and experiential learning that allows students to create multiple representations of ideas. 

This post builds a justification for teachers to create a differentiated learning environment that allows students to address topics at a level of complexity that suits their leaning style or perference.  It should encourage them to create and construct knowledge not merely “memorize” it.

If you have interesting articles, books, or blog posts that you would like to share, post a comment to #cftrecommendations with a link to your piece.

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