Thursday, January 6, 2022

My Journey with ISTAA Experienced Teacher Accreditation #7

You know when you get busy doing life and then discover something that really needs to be made a priority? Well this post is just that. 

When I wrote the last instalment, after failing accreditation, I thought that the story of my experience had finally come to an end. Of course, I wasn't thinking that I would one day be writing again after passing accreditation. I don't think I was willing to believe that would be possible until it actually happened. 

It is now January 2022, and I was actually awarded my Experienced Teacher Accreditation Certificate in December of 2020. But still accreditation plagues my mind. Throughout the most recent attempt I felt anxiety every time my thoughts drifted to the accreditation. When I think of it now, it's with relief, but it still brings to mind those painful emotions. By my reading of our new MEA, I don't think I would have been required to do it under this new agreement, given that I started prior to 2003 and have MANY years of teaching experience! 

But it's done now. 

Choosing an Approach
The second time around, I did the Standards Based Approach rather than the Action Research Approach. I know that in some of my earlier posts I raved about the Action Research Approach due to the learning I gained from the experience. My commendation now has changed because I realise that the tight requirements of accreditation are not conducive to the learning experience that comes from action research. Part of action research involves taking risks and embracing failure. If you want a great learning experience, do action research. If you want to demonstrate your competence, do accreditation. In my opinion, the two should not run side-by-side. 

Planning and Guidance
Having chosen the approach I would take, I planned out what I would use and started collecting early. I was VERY specific with pointing out the evidence and explaining this in my annotations. I also worked closely with the staff member at our school responsible for accreditation. I was upfront and honest with him, explaining my experience, my concerns and my fears. He took on the responsibility of being my supervisor. We met together fortnightly before COVID to keep me on track and ensure that my documentation was thorough enough. More than ever before, I was open to feedback and willing to make any suggested changes. 

Time Management
While it caused me great anxiety, I fought through whenever I had a good chunk of time, and worked to make things easier to come back to when I had small pockets of time available. Fortunately I scheduled my observation lessons at the end of 2019 and the first few days of 2020, so by the time COVID hit, I had already finished these. Due to the challenges of COVID, we had the option of extending the deadline. Initially I intended to take this option, so that I wouldn't get caught out by a mad rush to finish up. However, my supervisor assured me that I would be okay to hand it in earlier, thus finding out my results before Christmas. This made sense as I had all my evidence and was mostly through writing my annotations, and just needed to finish up a few things and get the Head of School Report. 

Being Thorough
I really went over everything with a fine-tooth comb, using the checklists they gave to make sure I had covered EVERYTHING! My supervisor also went over everything and was responsive to my panicked emails seeking clarification. Never in my life prior to this had I been so thorough. By the time I handed it in, I couldn't find fault with anything. 

And I passed with no need to resubmit. This was an incredible relief. 

What I learnt
Through this experience I've learnt that there are times when perfection is required. Times where I have to go above and beyond to ensure I have been thorough in meeting and demonstrating requirements. Times when I have to make sure that what seems logical in my head is spelled out clearly and explicitly for others. I've learnt that I can draw on the expertise of others for feedback along the way rather than trying to do things all on my own. And I've learnt that I can recover from my failures, but the memory of them probably won't pass! My self-confidence definitely took a hit from this failure. I didn't realise how much so until last year when, having finally conquered this challenge, my confidence seemed to lift again. I think on some level I was worried that I wasn't worthy of being an Experienced Teacher after all. That my skills weren't up to it, and that it was not just accreditation that I was failing, but my whole career! While that wasn't always on my mind, there definitely were times that I doubted myself. 

These days I have friends doing their accreditation, and the main advice I have is: 
  1. Don't do the Action Research method. 
  2. Get started early and plan what you will use. 
  3. Be thorough and explicit when showing your evidence and writing annotations. 
  4. Keep checking with their documentation to make sure you are within the guidelines. 
  5. Get feedback from someone who knows the process well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Journey with ISTAA Experienced Teacher Accreditation #6

Unfortunately this journey didn't have a happy ending. It fact, it feels like my biggest fail yet. While I was putting everything together, it felt like I was on track, however I failed to meet most of the descriptors according to the criteria the AIS had, and once I failed I had no means for resubmitting. My disappointment over this has been a real struggle for me. Usually if I've failed at something there has been something I could do about it to recover it. I tried everything I could think of here, but it has come to the point where I just need to let it go, learn the lessons and move forward.

I'm taking a year off accreditation and then will reapply at the end of 2018, but this time will choose the Standards Based Approach. I hope to try action research again, but not in an assessment capacity, and only if I have someone to walk with me through the process. I think I bit off more than I could chew.

I still believe, however, that there were many positives that came from my attempts at action research around Growth Mindset, formative assessment and feedback this year. Personally it has helped me to deal with the setbacks better (including this one!) and has greatly improved the relationships I have with the students I teach. In my opinion - though difficult to prove - students academic results have improved as a result of the actions I put in place - be that related to growth mindset, formative assessment or feedback.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

My Journey with ISTAA Experienced Teacher Accreditation #5

Wow! The past year has been crazy busy as I have worked through the Experienced Teacher Accreditation as well as working on my Masters of Educational Leadership. I've thought about blogging a few times, but just haven't had the time or head space at the end of the day. Now, having reached the end of my accreditation, I thought it a good time to tie up the loose ends here.

My overall evaluation of the Experienced Teacher Accreditation - Action Research Pathway, was that it was a very worthwhile use of time and excellent professional learning. I went into it hoping to make good use of the year and hopefully learn along the way. I knew I needed to do the accreditation, but I didn't want to spend the year just trying to tick things off a list of descriptors. The action research pathway was the answer to this.

The Challenges
There are many elements to juggle within the Action Research Project, and it takes some time to get your head around it all. You still need to be ticking off descriptors and collecting evidence throughout the year AND it should be related to the action research project. I found myself second guessing myself a lot throughout the process and not really sure if I was on track. There were no success criteria or word counts or any other guide for what was required for parts like the Description, Analysis and Evaluation. I'm hoping I got there in the end, but won't be surprised if I need to revisit some things in order to get final approval.

Going in I didn't really know much about action research, and I still feel a little in the dark about that. I ended up finding some readings through my university which helped to clarify a few things, particularly as I came to the analysis stage. I struggled to understand whether I needed "hard" proof of my findings, or whether it was about interpretation. I feel I ended up with a little of each just to be on the safe side.

My Project
For my project I investigated the impact of Growth Mindset on Year 1 students' academic achievement through formative assessment and feedback. I felt that Growth Mindset coaching would make students more receptive to feedback, resulting in improved outcomes. I used Class Dojo videos as the stimulus for discussion in mini lessons and then followed through with Growth Mindset feedback and statements. I also used parts from "The Growth Mindset Coach" by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley. Following on from this I worked with students on giving and receiving feedback.

Results of my Action Research
I used a Mindset questionnaire at the beginning and end of the project to determine how students' thinking changed throughout. It also showed me students with a tendency toward a fixed mindset, making it easier for me to target them with individualised coaching when they were struggling with a difficult task or unwilling to attempt something challenging. The results from this questionnaire showed that students had shifted toward a growth mindset during the project.

I also looked at students' academic progress during this period and found that their reading levels improved by a greater rate than my class during the same period last year. At the end of the year I will have some comparison data for spelling as well.

Beyond the quantitative results, there were also the experiences of the students in the class. I selected some case studies and found that there were significant results amongst students who began in the lower quarter of the class. For example, one made significant progress throughout the project and was bumped up to a higher level for spelling, reading and maths, and he rose to the challenge each time. Another made HUGE gains with his reading, going from a PM level 10 to 27 in just six months. These results suggested to me that while all students benefited and improved, those who were lower performing and also had elements of fixed mindset had the most to benefit from the program.

I had thought that it would be through feedback that improvement would be made, but now I think that the change in mindset actually impacted in many ways:

  • students were interested in feedback and could see that it was to help them learn
  • students wanted challenging tasks and were happy to put in the effort to learn
  • students realised that they could actually do things if they just stuck at it
  • students felt free to engage and contribute ideas, knowing that they wouldn't be shunned if they made a mistake
  • as their teacher I didn't give up when they persisted with bad habits, but rather kept working at it with them, knowing that they can change - even if it takes longer.
  • I got better at giving immediate feedback when I could see there was a problem, or making a note to return to it soon.
  • I enlisted the help of parents to work on some things when the class had moved on to something else
  • I made an effort to cater for all students - providing a challenging task for all - even when this made things less streamlined and comfortable.
Going Forward
Having been down this path, I'm afraid I can't go back. I'm hooked! From here on in, I know the Growth Mindset will be a part of who I am and how I teach. I will also continue to work on improved formative assessment and feedback to complement the Growth Mindset coaching and ensure that all students are pushing toward their potential.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

My Journey with ISTAA Experienced Teacher Accreditation #4

Getting Some Guidance from the AIS

When I last wrote about the Experienced Teacher Accreditation process, I had just completed my literature review and project proposal. At that time I was not entirely happy with what I had put together as it had been a bit of a rush towards the end. I really wished that I could have more time to get it right. I was also somewhat limited in the academic literature that I had access to at that time as I was not connected to a university.

This term I received an email to say that someone had reviewed my writing and had provided feedback for me. I looked over the feedback and felt a bit stumped. The person who had read my work was confused by the way that I had put my information together. She thought that I was saying that students develop a growth mindset through receiving feedback from formative assessment. But what I was trying to say was that students benefit from having a growth mindset when receiving feedback from formative assessment. 

The AIS contacted all the teachers involved in the Action Research Pathway to let us know about two professional development opportunities in which we could meet with the reviewer to discuss our work further and also receive further information about the process. Feeling uncertain about what I could/should do to improve my literature review and project proposal, I thought it was important to attend one of these days. I got the "ok" from work and headed in last Tuesday.

It was a huge day, and very brain intensive. By the end of the day I had a migraine and still had to go back to work for Parent Teacher Interviews! The great thing was that I got a lot of clarity through the process and now feel I have a better sense of where I am headed. I still need to put at least a day's worth of work into sitting down and restructuring things, but I now understand more about action research and the importance of being clear about the constructs and how they relate to one another. 

I enjoyed hearing about the variety of projects that teachers are working on. Everyone was so passionate about their choice of topic. I heard lots of people sharing their sentiments about how they were worried their project was too big, but they really wanted to explore all the parts. Some people, like me, had begun working on their ideas last year, and one had already presented on her findings at an international conference! Lots of people were talking about what they will focus on for their project, but already considering the other questions that have been coming to light that they would like to investigate as well. 

I feel that this professional learning session was really beneficial because it helped to reinvigorate us as well as providing the nuts and bolts of what needs to be done. It was encouraging to hear the experiences of others in the process and to realise that we all generally felt as much in the dark when it came to formulating an action plan, completing a project proposal and writing a literature review - none of which form part of our usual teaching role. Many people expressed how challenging this had been having not done any form of formalised learning since graduation, plus doing it alongside normal work load and towards the end of the year with so many other time pressures. 

Going forward, I feel excited about where my project is headed. My question is now: What is the impact of Growth Mindset on Year 1 student academic achievement through formative assessment?
I have spent this term building a supportive classroom environment and teaching students about the Growth Mindset using a variety of videos including those available through Class Dojo. I am using elements from the lesson plans in The Growth Mindset Coach and I have been working with my students on the language that we use in the classroom when facing challenges. 

Next term I will focus more on giving, receiving and using feedback. I need to spend some time these holidays thinking though exactly what this will look like and the data I will be collecting. I will also revisit my literature review, this time with access to a wider array of resources (due to other studies I am also doing now) and adjust my project proposal accordingly.

For those considering this option for 2018, I believe that they're allowing more time for the projects in the future. I would highly recommend this pathway for the accreditation because you learn so much through the process. It is incredibly confusing at times, and frustrating, but through the process you make changes to the way you do things and find a new level of excitement in what you do. Teachers that I spoke with said that the changes they have made have become a part of the way they do things now. They can't go back to how it was before. 

What are some of the things that you have found useful for invigorating your teaching? What things have helped you to make changes for the long-term?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Study Techniques for Busy People

On top of my usual teaching load and working through my Experienced Teacher Accreditation, I thought I'd finish off my Masters in Education Leadership this year! I knew that it would make for a busy year, but I don't think I realised just HOW busy things would be. As I started first semester at University, I had to get used to the whole online environment and figure out how to get the readings for my classes. One of my biggest struggles has been finding time to do the readings, so I decided to get creative with how I do this. Here's what I worked out:

Let Siri do the reading 

I don't live too far from work, but each day I have over an hour of commute. Ordinarily I have used this time for listening to podcasts or enjoying some of my favourite songs. I now use this time to listen to the readings I need to get done.

Step 1: Download the readings and send them email you can access on the iPhone or iPad.

Step 2: Go into email, download file and import with iBooks.

Step 3: Change settings. Go into General, then Accessibility, then Speech. Toggle Speak Screen.

Step 4: Open the reading in iBooks. When the reading is displayed, scroll down from the top of the page using two fingers. This will bring up a control bar and Siri should begin reading the page.

Siri doesn't pronounce all words correctly, and I found it amusing that she struggles with some words that a techy 'person' should know - like ICT and "geeking out" and "technologies". Ideally it would be great to be able to teach Siri how to pronounce the words that she is getting wrong. Perhaps this is something Apple will build in at a later point in time.

Annotate the readings with Notability

I got a new iPad for Christmas, with the intention that it could help me through my studies this year. So far I've been really pleased with how it's working out for me, and I LOVE having the Apple pencil. After I have listened to the readings, I need to return to them in order to prepare a response for the assessment of the course. I like to be able to scribble down ideas and highlight the important parts to come back to. For this I use Notability, and then I don't have to cart around a pile of papers everywhere. Please note, this is an app that needs to be purchased from iTunes.

Step 1: Go back to the email I sent the readings to.

Step 2: Import the reading with Notability this time.

Step 3: Go into Notability and respond to the dialogue box - either select the pages you want to import, or import the whole thing.

Step 4: Open the file and make notes using the available tools. I prefer to handwrite and use highlighter, but you could add text or post-its if that is your preference. For my other posts about using Notability, go here.

Build a YouTube Playlist

There have been a number of YouTube videos as part of my course materials this semester. Again, these are things that I would prefer to listen to "on the road" or walking my dog, rather than eating into official study time. Making a playlist to store these, and logging into YouTube on the various devices I use means that I can access the videos easily wherever I am.

Step 1: Log into YouTube.

Step 2: Go to a video you want in the playlist.

Step 3: On the bottom left, select "Add to", then at the bottom of the dropdown box choose "Create New Playlist".

Step 4: Enter a name for the playlist and select Create. Your video can now be accessed within that playlist, in your "library".

Step 5: To access your playlist on your mobile device, log into YouTube with the same account, select the Library tab. Find your playlist and play your video.

Another benefit of logging into YouTube is that it will suggest other relevant videos, given what you have been watching. This can help to provide further exploration and depth when researching the topic.

The next thing I need to find a short-cut for is collecting citations for the texts I use. I have been using the Citation Machine to help with this, but I really should get better at collecting the citations as I go, rather than having to chase that up when I use them in my work.

Do you know of any other time saving study techniques that you could share to help other busy people?