Monday, January 26, 2009

Action Research Week 4

I met with MR today at our F2F in Orlando regarding my work on AR. We were driving with Colby, Malika’s friend Marty and myself. I already had listened to MR and Colby discuss his AR project, ironically what he and I as well as Dan talked about the night before. It was really interesting to hear him go through this thoughts, struggles, and looking at his AR in a different light. I also have to say I felt quite privileged to be part of his debriefing and learning process. Sitting with your professor, a colleague and a stranger all talk about your work, it was quite an interesting experience. I was so impressed by what Colby is confronting at his work and the changes he is trying to illicit throughout his organization. Whether MR knew it or not, having both of us there to hear one another’s AR work, was well planned. It gave me insight into my own work environment as well as thinking about the overall dynamic change each of us in this program is trying to initiate.

Up till this point, through my AR process, I have felt very lucky throughout. I have had my cycles come together well, flowing through cycle one and two building off of each other and now finding myself before I got here struggling with what cycle three is going to be about. I am not teaching that class anymore since I have my student teacher, Randon, and feeling disconnected from my students. So having the debriefing session with MR was exactly what I needed.
We talked about what my AR is all about. I told her (and I am going through all this to get these thoughts out of my head) that really my AR focuses on making my students more successful learners which in turn I hope makes them more successful life long learners and learners in all their classes. Also, another aspect of this would be allowing me to examine practices in class that I have used since I started teaching and now I have a chance to try something new. A chance to be an agent of change. That is such an empowering feeling. I spent some time going over my first two cycles which she is well aware of seeing as how I have asked for her feedback time and again on them. I really enjoy hearing her thoughts and reflections about where I am going. I think I almost have more epiphanies when I am speaking aloud to her than me just thinking on my own. I guess that is a change within myself that I am identifying myself as a learner who needs reflection and dialogue with a mentor.

Then came stage three and this is where I really was so pleased at having all that time with Colby and MR. I expressed my challenge at now having a student teacher and am unsure of how cycle three with Randon would fit into successful learners. MR talked about how much feedback and grading have increased for me since my students now have multiple redos. I told her it was a quite a bit more and we even discussed the possibility of training the students to be better peer editors so that they could be providing that feedback to one another. I think this is a great idea and really gives them ownership over their learning as well as creating a community of learners in which to see one another grow. She had a coding system she had developed for giving feedback that I want to go over with my students and LC in order to use it when we are reacting to one another’s work:
Affirmations: praise, identifying positive attributes

Mechanical/technical corrections: make these corrections as a second set of eyes

Extensions: build on the ideas, give examples, how do I help push the learning

Redirect: critiques of the work still given in a constructive light

Training the kids on how to do each one of these will really assist me in my grading, but I still didn’t see how this fit in with cycle three or with Randon. Then I had the epiphany. Really what I am focusing on is learning and making all students more successful learners. Why isn’t Randon a learner? I started thinking about he and I as learners and how we both need each other in this mentoring relationship (That’s for you Jenith). In order for my class to be more successful learners, I need to help/ guide/ mentor Randon to be the most successful student teacher he can be. How do I do this? Modeling / mentoring and guiding. Because if I am successful, I will change as a teacher, Randon will be a stronger, better version of himself and my students will be successful learners.

I am going to talk about this with Randon, unless he reads this blog first, but what I am thinking is that for a cycle (maybe 4-6 weeks) we try peer grading together. The students will receive feedback from both Randon and I. I will still not be teaching the class, but I will still maintain that contact with their work, seeing their progress as they grow in learning, and hopefully, with double feedback, the students will become better writers, thinkers, and problem solvers because they have two rather than one. And everyone knows, two is always better than one.

If Randon goes for this, the timing couldn’t be better with their position paper AKA Change the World project. With all the writing, revising and editing that needs to take place, I am both mentoring my students to be better writers and mentoring Randon about teaching, grading, assessing and feedback.

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