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?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Blogger Behind this Blog #8

My Mindset

Lately I have been reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck PhD. This is the sort of book that challenges the way you see things. Even when you think you already have a growth mindset! It makes you look at your life and your choices differently. I really want to take some time over the next week or so to think about what it all means to me, but I find myself pondering on it all the time as it is. Today I was thinking about it in relation to my learning.

As I understand it, people with a growth mindset have learning and growth as their goal. People with a fixed mindset have maintaining their ego as their goal. Generally we have a combination of both of these mindsets at play to some degree in our lives.

In My Primary School Years
So, when I look back on my life as a primary school student, I realise that I always tried to be a couple of steps ahead of my cohort. This was initiated by my mum, who started teaching me at home before I went to school. As she tells it, I was a willing learner, so this was not a great challenge for her. Because of the head start I had, I was always a little ahead of my cohort when it came to academic subjects. I liked being at the top of my class and worked to stay there. At times I was competitive, and I would say that even though I put effort into my learning, at that time I felt that some people were born smart, others pretty, others sporty etc. (This is fixed mindset thinking.)

Entering High School
This general mindset didn't actually change in high school and I received high grades and recognition for my achievement. That said, I also enjoyed the learning experience and tried to select assignments that fit with my interests. I was happy to take on an element of challenge in an area that I was interested in, and willing to put in extra effort to demonstrate my learning in unique ways. (This is growth mindset thinking.) For subjects I was less interested in, I still got the assignments done, but more as a rush job to hand something in on time. I remember a particularly poor attempt at a science assignment that I left until the last minute.

At the end of year awards one year I was given an award for excellence in PE, and to this day I have felt that there was some mistake there. I was one of the smart kids, not one of the sporty ones. Why should I get an award for PE when there were other far more sporty kids than me! Interestingly though, it has helped me to realise that I don't have to be exclusively "smart"!

And on to University
When I was choosing subjects for Years 11 and 12 I chose subjects that would help me with teaching, in particular - psychology and sociology. As a result I got a high distinction in Human Development at University, which was really an extension of what I had learnt in Year 11. Another easy grade to get was a high distinction in Educational Futures and ICT as part of my Graduate Certificate, due to the amount of background experience and prior learning I had in the area. I also felt passionate about these subjects and loved being able to explore them more. The hardest grades I earned were credits for Global Development Education and Data Communications. They were hard because they were so foreign to me and I had so much catching up to do in order to get into the right frame of mind for them.

When I was in my early twenties I tried to write children's books and completed a Diploma in Children's Writing via correspondence. I gave up before I had anything published, and tonight as I read some of the stories I wrote all those years ago, I wondered what would have happened if I hadn't given up on this challenge. At the time I gave up because I felt I should be pouring my time into building my teaching capacity as that would lead to consistent pay. I think that in terms of my writing - I had strong writing skills, but boring plots! Maybe this is something I will return to, or maybe I've found my outlet through blogging and modelling writing for students.

I'm now on the verge of starting my Masters degree, and I've been contemplating my intentions. Why do we get degrees? Is it to prove we are qualified for a job? To suggest that we are superior? For recognition? Or to learn? Initially I was taking on this Masters course with the thought that I would smash it out and get it finished so that I had the bit of paper to say that I was done. But then, when I started looking at the degree more closely, I realised that some of the units include really helpful content that should prepare me for leadership in the future. How did I lose sight of the real reason for studying?! I love learning, so how did it become more about a piece of paper than what I would learn from the experience?

The Next Generation
My (kindergarten) son recently got his school report, with above average for reading/viewing and number/algebra. Like my mother before me, I started my son early with his academic skills through play at home. He seemed ready and interested. I wanted to make it easy for him to get As later, when grading kicks in. He is proud of his efforts with reading, and he loves puzzling over numbers. He wants to be the best reader in his class.

And so I find myself asking, where the growth mindset sits in terms of the ambition to be the best. I feel that there is a fine line between wanting to be THE best and working to do YOUR best. I don't want for my son to work at something only to be THE best at it. I want him to enjoy the journey and learn from the experiences. And when he is THE best, I want for him to keep striving. Or to complement it with developing another skill.

As you can see, my thoughts at this stage are just that - random ponderings as I grapple with a new way of seeing things and try to revisit how I have seen things in the past. I still have much to learn as I apply what I've read to my own life, to the way I guide my son, and to the classes that I teach. What an exciting journey!