Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pushing Thinking! For "our kids"

Much of this blog post is the process of instructional rounds, so if you know the process skip to the underlined part that says: If you know the process start here:

Today we finished up the 2nd day of instructional rounds.  It was a 2 day process.  After getting feedback from our first time doing this, I realized we needed more time to "discuss".  So we got substitutes and spent an hour and 15 minutes observing 20 minutes of a lesson and then debriefing.  This is the process in short format.

Very Important!!!!

You have to have a problem of practice for this to make any sense.  And it has to be focused.  It can't be to "Do what is best for our kids".

Our problem of practice as I define it is:  to increase the cognitive demand on students using Cognitive Growth targets designed by @modernteacher .  So for example move them from constantly comprehending and retrieving to reasoning, creating, and metacognition.

Simple process:

Two sides on a paper:
  1. That is the set-up.  Very important! Do not make any inferences like, "the lesson was great" or " I know what they meant".  Only script what you see or hear... That is it. 
  2. You go with 5-8 people into a classroom, spread out and get to work scripting.  
  3. 20-30 min. later you reconvene somewhere and discuss what you saw and heard.
  4. You will need about 40 minutes for this part.  
  5. You begin by repeating everything you see from teacher and student
  6. You apply the cognitive growth target to those observations that make sense.
  7. You then compare the two lists of teacher and student and see if they match.
  8. Finally, you come up with ways to either increase cognitive demand for the lesson or think of ways in a follow up lesson to get there.
That is it, seriously! Or is it?

Here is what it really is beyond the Process I described.  Because up until now I have just retrieved information from what we did. 

If you know the process start here:

So here is what we wanted to accomplish, and hopefully we did.  We wanted to push ourselves to think about a lesson that we observed in a way that we have never done before.  When do teachers ever observe each other and then totally break it apart from 5-8 perspectives based on what they observed?  Apply how they "think" the teacher, and students were thinking.  Sounds very metacognitive, I know, stay with me.  Remember no inferences, we did not refer to the "teacher" by name, it was just, "the teacher" did this or "a student" did this.  

So we debated about where it fell on the cognitive scale.  When do you ever do this in school as an educator?  When do you ever debate where a task falls on a cognitive growth scale in school!  I was totally geeking out!  The debate pushed us and then after we came to consensus on both we move to the last part and probably most important.

How do you stretch your muscle as an educator?  You brainstorm, you throw out ideas, nothing is wrong, just recorded.  We came up with ideas that could be implemented tomorrow.  Beyond that we forced each other to think within a space where it was not based on what "We Thought".  It was based on something "Someone else" thought was a good idea for a lesson.  We were totally metacognitive at this point.  How can you implement something you don't experience yourself.  I stress learning by doing, I hoped to try and achieve this through this process.    

Wait.... what does that mean?  When you plan with colleagues or have an idea, you attach emotion to it.  If you observe a lesson from someone else and build same context together, and then converse over it, there is not as much emotion or no emotion.  So conversation can be more authentic, hopefully.  It is then not about what you observed at all, it is about how you "think". When are you challenged just to "think" about something within the same observed context, it becomes more powerful.  You build together without emotion of it being your idea.   

It is like going for a "test drive" of a NASCAR race car around the track and then meeting afterwards and talking about the experience.  You conceivably have nothing to lose.  Now racing cars is not like teaching, or is it? 

Observe a class without inferences, and then discuss it.  Facilitation has to push thinking, which I hope I did, but I am still learning and growing, as I am new to this too.  I heard so many great thoughts, I felt so much "wait time", and I totally am blown away by my staff again and their ability to go through this process.  

When as an educator during the school day do you ever stop and think about lesson design without constraints other than to think like a crazy person.  The expectation is to "think" "push" "take risks", etc.  If our conversations over the last 2 days don't prove that, then let me know, but I think it is clear that you need to push the boundaries of not only technology but thinking.  We push "thinking" in a blended environment.  We are not "1 to 1", but we integrate technology continuously, we are not pushers of technology, we are pushers of thinking and technology helps us deliver that evidence.

Don't stereotype us because we will surprise you!  My #cddolphins are innovative in "thinking" and nothing else, we are trying to build entrepreneurs of thought, not Google certified kids.  Does that make sense?  It is like we are teaching our kids to drive a NASCAR race everyday, but we start with how to hit the gas pedal, and hit skills of drafting and taking curves when it is appropriate.  We have to get there repeatedly in order for our kids to race effectively...  They need to know how to "think" and learn intricacies of "thinking" in order to be prepared for the race of life.  We produce "thinkers" because "our kids" have thoughts, and that muscle needs to be run around the track as much as possible.    

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