Thursday, May 28, 2009

As I am preparing for my exhibitions, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to condense down by final report into a 10 minute presentation on my work. We have an outline our LC developed in order to get us thinking about our presentation. The outline that we constructed basically looked like this:

Exhibition Presentation Outline
· Elevator pitch introduction: (1)
· Present your action research - what did you read/Lit review that lead to your AR work (1)
· what approach you took - AR cycles (2)
· how it worked- (2)
· what changed - in yourself and in your subjects (2)
· what did you learn overall: about your practices, your workplace, and yourself - essentially a conclusion (2)
*remember to keep using your metaphor!

Lucky for us, MR came out yesterday with a timeline as well to guide us along:
(1 min) Introduction-- your opening statement should be more interesting than My action report is about.... You might start with a provocative statement, a quote, a question, or some other way of getting the interest of your audience. (It is good practice to memorize your opening and closing sentences. ) Really put some thought into the your first sentence as that starts the tone of your presentation. This can be something that you mull over for the next few weeks.
(1 min) Some theoretical justification or some framing in terms of the literature. You all did a lit reivew... tell the audience what you learned or what was the most critical thing you learned from your reading and how it helped shaped your planning .
(30 secs ) Tell us about the problem you plan to tackle in your context
(30 secs) A comment or two about why action research is a good strategy for explroing your problem might be helpul
(3 min)Then in broad stocks, what did you do in each of the cycles. You will NOT have time to tell the whole story in all of the rich detail. Give us the "Cliff Notes" version. Depending on your work, you might want to give more time to one cycle. You don't have to spend equal time.
(3 mins) Then tell us what you learned from the experience of doing action research...--what you learned about your own development or practices,--what you learned about creating change in workplace (including that it is not as easy as you might have thought) ,--what you learned about yourself as you worked through the process.You might end by sharing an insight, a quote, telling us something youplan to do in the future or maybe by giving advice to the new recruitsfor cadre 12.
So I started going through my final report trying to pull together elements that I thought captured each area in my LC outline. Here is where I am at so far:
Opening on screen- fuzzy sort of Monet-esque picture of me
Elevator pitch introduction: (1)
A teacher can see behind the stone facade that masks student potential. How does a teacher unlock the masterpiece that lies within each and every student? How does a teacher engage her students to want more, to know more, to be more? Students in a traditional educational setting struggle to find their place in the world of learning. Education seems something more done to them than they are a part of the design and implementation of their learning. Students should be more than receptacles of information teachers fill up and pass along from class to class, hour to hour. Students who are valued, encouraged, motivated and who have high expectations set for them achieve. Too often as educators, we allow students to slip through the cracks disappearing behind layers and layers of paint covering who they really are. Teachers do not expose the original work of art that lies beneath the facade. Students need to be collaborators in their learning working with their teacher and peers to change the picture of education. Students need to expect more from themselves than they have done previously raising the standard of achievement and learning. No more should a student desire to just finish a product, but instead produce a creative and interesting new way to demonstrate their understanding. Teachers should work together with their students. By engaging their students in meaningful, relevant real world projects, teachers are communicating a larger message to all the learning matters. By assigning projects that must be completed on time and only see one version, teachers are halting the learning process. Instead, teachers and students should be engaged in learning as a process with multiple revisions of student work and reflection on the learning process throughout. Then, learning becomes the focus, not simple completion.

Students must be held to a higher level of expectation, be participants and leaders in constructivist learning environment collaborating with their teacher and peers, revising piece after piece thus moving from blank canvases to wonderful masterpieces of art.

Present your action research - what did you read/Lit review that lead to your AR work (1)
Michelango is often quoted as having said that inside every block of stone lies a beautiful statue (Zander and Zander, 2000, p26). In our current educational system, many students are viewed not as beautiful statues but rather simply as blocks that are unwilling to change. The industrial model of education has received the brunt of the blame being cast on all sides from teachers, to students, to legislatures and the larger community. Rather than focusing on assigning more blame, many researchers suggest what is needed is a shift in conceptualizing student learning and motivations in order to create learning environments that are beneficial for all parties. (The Alliance for Excellent Education , 2008;Tapola & Niemivirta 2008; Jones, 2008; Khamois, Dukmak & Elhoweris, 2008; Vansteenkiste, Timmermans, Lens, Soenens, & Van den Broeck ,2008). This review of these studies will examine the modifications necessary to transform our traditional classrooms by focusing on reshaping the classroom environment, recasting the role of a teacher and his/her instruction, and increasing student motivation. By creating student centered classrooms where teachers deliver personalized instruction, there is evidence that students are more motivated to learn and be successful thus revealing the possibility that lies within every stone.

what approach you took - AR cycles (2)
In the first cycle of my action research, in order to empower my students to become more successful learners, we decided as a class to remove the possibility of a D. No student could get by with barely passing. So that I was not setting my classroom up for failure, we decided that students needed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning and understanding. Students and teachers need additional opportunities to improve on their learning since learning is a continual process. When given chances to revise their work over and over gain, my assumption was that students’ comprehension, writing, and success would improve. Also, students needed a role in deciding how they are going to be assessed. When students know the expectations for work ahead of time, they can determine their own grade and take ownership over their grade.
In the second cycle of my action research, our class accepted a student teacher where we focused on helping him become a more successful learner and teacher while still retaining the No D policy, multiple revision policy and student generated rubric. Together, we studied the use of feedback and explored the idea of one to one feedback, oral feedback, modeling effective uses of feedback, peer feedback, and written feedback. The students, the student teacher, and especially my self all grew tremendously as successful learners as a result of this cycle.

how it worked- (2)- use PowerPoints?
also think their reflections are a testament to the power of students having a say in the design of their education. By students being in charge of their grade through the multiple redo policy, the students generating the rubric to assess their learning, and failure not being an option, students achieved more in this class than in many of my previous years teaching this same class. I feel that through their comments, this was the best many of the kids had ever achieved in a Language Arts class. This success would have been possible without the mutual pairing of the No D policy with the multiple redos. I think the class would not have been as successful if only one element would have been implemented at a time.
1) Extensive Feedback: We decided that we needed to give feedback throughout the paper. Even if students are making the same mistakes, we thought it was important to give thorough feedback since we are doing limited in class peer to peer feedback. With the peer to peer work, we found that we needed to do a better job training our students on how to give feedback. This could be an extension of this work into next year and their next writing assignment since they have seen Randon and I model feedback and they have reflected on the kinds of feedback they have received from us.
2) Using similar language terms for editing helps students: I used writing terminology that is familiar to the kids when I taught first semester and Randon used language in his feedback when he taught the class. This might have lead to some confusion because I overheard students debriefing with Randon at their final writing conference that they were confused as to some of the terminology (explanation of quote, relate quote to point of paragraph, relate quote to thesis- Anne’s terminology v. Randon’s –quote says, point to the paragraph, make the point). Keeping our language similar would assist the students in their feedback and understanding.
3) Stress Coherence. We discussed the need to focus on bringing all their points back to the overall point of the essay. This was a struggle for Randon having never taught writing before. This is one area consistently where he would consistently focus on details rather than the students making the big argument. Are they actually relating everything back to the thesis?
A major area of reflection is the change in giving feedback both to our students and to Randon. The students responded so well to helping us all learn and grow from the experience. When first presented with dual sets of feedback the students were really overwhelmed. Interestingly though, although the feedback was abundant, they rose to the challenge and realized how valuable the feedback was even if it seemed too much for them.
Looking forward, I am wondering how I will do all this next year without a student teacher. I wonder what will make the greater difference in my students’ success: more class time to work or individualized time with teacher (Ruggles or Smith) or even dual feedback on assignments? In school there is limited time for me to connect and conference with each student. Not to mention, I actually need to teach the curriculum and meet each student’s learning needs in a 55 minute class period. So as the teacher in the classroom, I must decide how to spend our class time to benefit all students not just some. Can I enlist the assistance of the students who are more proficient or advanced in providing feedback to some of the struggling students?
Based off their feedback, most all students found growth in their writing. 21 students indicated positive growth in writing. This is a huge accomplishment for not only them as they have improved, but for Randon’s teaching as well. This demonstrates the power of mentoring and feedback (oral, written, 1-1) in changing the students by changing Randon.

what changed - in yourself and in your subjects (2)
1-When students feel in control and empowered, as we all want to feel in our lives, change is possible. Students realized that by determining the rubric, there were going to be no surprises in the grade. And, if students did not achieve to the best of their ability in round one of an assignment, they had the opportunity to keep revising it as many times as necessary up till the six week period in order to truly demonstrate their learning and understanding. They seemed to really embrace the idea as a class that failure was not an option.
2-One thing that really surprised me was how encouraging all their feedback was towards me as their teacher and the changes I was trying to make in the classroom. Some students now see their learning and grade in their hands and not so much in the teachers. I think this is a dramatic shift for such young kids to experience. I also was impressed by the reflections of students who really see my role as a teacher as more of an encourager, not wanting them to fail, but instead giving them multiple opportunities to be successful. It makes me wonder what teachers have done in the past to them that teachers haven’t created this feeling within them before. This echoes the difference between teachers as coaches and teachers as assessors. Students are differentiating roles of a teacher into a golden standard
3-Focusing more specifically on the multiple revision policy, I think one of the things I garnered from their comments is how critical it is for students to be able to redo/ revise/ rework their work in order to learn. …My students overwhelming value the chance to redo their work, and see it not as an expectation placed by me, but an expectation they place on themselves. They value the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to grow as learners. Whether it is through feedback I have given them as their teacher, the peer feedback or student teacher feedback, they have taken all of this in mind to change their work
One aspect all indicated was that the feedback from the teacher was instrumental in their ability to redo their work
I am not sure I would be capable of giving the quantity of feedback in all of my classes that was necessary to assist these students.
Another area to acknowledge is helping the students see themselves as writers not merely students in a Language Arts classroom. I think the students do not always see the huge changes they have made since they stepped foot into my classroom back in August. I noticed this as well with Randon. He would be so focused on the negative or things he did not do well, that he would forget all his accomplishments and areas of growth. So whether it is helping my students see themselves as more successful writers, readers or learners, I need to focus on making this an aspect of my classroom. Learning is a continuum and we are all on the path towards continued improvement.
Over the semester, I have seen growth in Randon and myself each of us becoming a different version of who we were before. Having never taught before, Randon grew into someone who put together a writing unit, developed writing skills in his students, and challenged them to change the world with their essays. He grew in learning to accept feedback from me and his students in order to improve as a teacher. There is still so much to learn for him (giving consistent feedback, remembering the big picture with writing, variety in feedback, expanding in explanations), but he is on the continuum of learning especially if he learns to accept, reflect, and be open-minded. He has had such an experience of student teaching because he not only had me mentoring him, but in a way, he had a classroom of students mentoring him in teaching and learning as well.
I saw a change in how I think about feedback as well. I realized how important it is to make sure I am explaining my comments, the value of 1-1 time with my students, the value in providing multiple feedback times without overwhelming myself, and the need to train my students to be better at giving feedback. I already see how important it is for me to explain the kind of feedback I give and why I give that feedback. Thinking ahead, I will make a more conscious effort to give positive feedback but making sure it is meaningful and relevant.
Another change in me was the realization that I need to be supportive of ways Randon wants to teach things even if I disagree. It is better to let him or my students fail and learn from their mistakes rather than jumping in to try and save them

what did you learn overall: about your practices, your workplace, and yourself - essentially a conclusion (2)
Just as my students moved from blank or masked canvases to masterpieces of art, so too have I been changed through this process. This year has been a challenge and a blessing at the same time.
I learned that it is more important to learn from my students. If they need me to work harder by providing them with more feedback so that they can be successful learners than that is my job. If only given one chance to succeed on an assignment, they do not learn, they simply feel defeated and give up. Giving multiple opportunities improves their writing, their work ethic, and their personal feeling about themselves as learners. It also improves the student teacher dynamic because they see all of us working together to achieve the same thing: success as learners. I am learning from them, they are learning from me, and they are learning from one another.
The responsibility rested on their shoulders. I had moved from the enforcer of policies to a supporter of their learning. It was such a natural shift and so welcomed by me. The positive change to the learning environment was transformational. I could now be the teacher I wanted to be. I could be the coach, motivator, encourager, educator not the task master, scheduler and hand holder. Kids were staying after class to finish work. They were reflecting on their learning and changes they witnessed meta-cognitively

do not know why it took until I was working on my Masters to feel that I had permission to change.

Whether they knew it or not, their drive to do more and be more, was inspiring me to do the same for them

I have incredible support around me to try new things- to be the masterpiece of myself. I am surrounded by greatness that my students embody. They want to work hard for someone who believes in them. When they are challenged to do more and be more, they rise to that level. I know great things lie ahead for these kids. They will be forever changed and opened to the possibilities that are contained within them. I see the same for my student teacher Randon. He has so much to learn, but if open to the opportunities, he will be amazed at the transformation that comes from learning from others and reflecting himself. Lastly, I have learned the possibilities that lie with in me. I am an agent of change who will not be satisfied with mediocrity anymore. I will hold myself and my students to a higher standard.

Through empowering my students, I have empowered myself. The art of possibility has created not only more successful students but a more successful teacher and learner as well who will continue on the path of reflecting, changing, questioning, and growing.

Close with clear picture of myself and my class.

I still need to do a lot of condensing, but I think I am at least getting an outline down that works and is more manageable than where I was a week ago. I need to do some thinking about my backboard and brochure. I am going to continue with the art metaphor and creating great works of art, but I need to make sure that aligns with the art of possibility. Anyhow, lot of thinking and time narrowing down.

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