9. Short item: The 1619 Project
“For as long as there have been students, there have been lazy methods for getting work done.”
Amy Cavanaugh (see item #3)
“Sometimes written feedback is not the best or most effective strategy for improving student learning.”
Andrew Miller (see item #2)
“The key question when giving feedback is: Will it be actionable and useful?”
Andrew Miller (ibid.)
“When we’re in the presence of someone who intimidates us, it gets a lot harder to speak up publicly, especially if there’s a chance that what we say might be wrong or different from the norm in any way. This is about a thousand times more true if you’re around 13 years old and your whole goal in life is to fit in.”
Jennifer Gonzalez (see item #4)
“If you say to a group, ‘Does that make sense?’ most people are going to act like it does, even if it doesn’t, because they assume everyone else in the room totally gets it and they don’t want to look like the lone dummy.”
Jennifer Gonzalez (ibid.)
“School improvement is most surely and thoroughly achieved when teachers engage in frequent, continuous, and increasingly concrete and precise talk about teaching practice.”
Judith Warren Little, 1990
“A National Experiment Reveals Where a Growth Mindset Improves Achievement” by David Yeager, Paul Hanselman, Gregory Walton, Jared Murray, Robert Crosnoe, Chandra Muller, Elizabeth Tipton, Barbara Schneider, Chris Hulleman, Cintia Hinojosa, David Paunesku, Carissa Romero, Kate Flint, Alice Roberts, Jill Trott, Ronaldo Iachan, Jenny Buontempo, Sophia Man Yang, Carlos Carvalho, Richard Hahn, Maithreyi Gopalan, Pratik Mhatre, Ronald Ferguson, Angela Duckworth, and Carol Dweck in Nature, August 7, 2019, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1466-y, spotted in an Education Weeksummary by Sarah Sparks on August 7, 2019, available at https://bit.ly/2ZgMrTE; Yeager can be reached at email@example.com.
In this Edutopiaarticle, Andrew Miller affirms the power of giving students feedback (John Hattie’s meta-analysis found a very impressive effect size of 0.7), but acknowledges the workload involved in grading papers, writing comments, and conferring with students. Miller suggests these ways for teachers to use their time well giving feedback:
•Individual feedback isn’t always necessary. “Sometimes written feedback is not the best or most effective strategy for improving student learning,” he says. For example, a teacher might notice a recurring error in students’ responses and address that with the whole class. “This is instructional feedback,” says Miller, “using student assessments as a tool to reflect on our teaching and reteaching the content in a new way.”
•Get students doing the work. An example of not following this suggestion is laboriously correcting every usage error in students’ essays. The alternative: saying “I’m noticing many capital letter and punctuation mistakes” and then handing papers back for students to identify and fix the errors.
•On summative assessments, give detailed feedback only to students who will redo the assignment.Miller’s rationale: “The key question when giving feedback is: Will it be actionable and useful?” If students won’t have a chance to put feedback to use on a revision or re-take, it’s not a good use of a teacher’s precious time.
•Give feedback when requested. One teacher Miller worked with offered brief feedback conferences to students when then asked for them. She was concerned that students who most needed help wouldn’t ask, and this was true, but as word got around that everyone could get just-in-time help, all students took advantage of it.
•Focus on self-assessment and peer feedback. Provided with assessment criteria, students can fine-tune their own work, saving lots of teacher time. Students can also be the best explainers, and a collaborative classroom culture is highly desirable. But Miller cautions that clear protocols and modeling are necessary for this to work well.
•Don’t wait for the final product. “Instead of spending hours in epic sessions of writing feedback on a full draft,” says Miller, “provide it in smaller ways that are spread out over time. This is not only more efficient but better for students, who get more digestible feedback that is actionable and timely.”
“For as long as there have been students, there have been lazy methods for getting work done,” says Illinois high-school teacher Amy Cavanaugh in this English Journalarticle. But according to recent surveys of students, plagiarism has escalated in recent years, largely because of what’s available on the Internet and how easy it is to cut and paste other people’s work. Cavanaugh polled her own ninth graders and almost all of them fessed up to taking answers from classmates or the Internet in the previous month. “I’m just so stressed out,” said one, “and if someone has the answers to a stupid worksheet, I’ll take them.” “It’s just sort of normal,” said another; “I’m not a cheater but I share.”
That student’s lack of shame stems from a youth culture that engages in wholesale sharing of music, photos, videos, memes, tweets, posts, and more. The line between harmless interpersonal communication and violation of the traditional norms of intellectual property is fuzzy because authorship of lots of online material is unclear and kids get used to the idea that sharing a tweet credits the source. A 17-year-old German author who was accused of copying large chunks of her best-selling book defended her use of “mix and match” by saying, “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.” Students who are immersed in this culture know that sharing schoolwork and online material is against the rules, but they don’t see it as a serious transgression.
Educators do, but Cavanaugh believes their response is ineffective. “If students do not feel ashamed of what they’re doing,” she says, “our current, mostly punitive, strategies for deterring plagiarism are useless, and so are our assessments.” Here’s her example of an approach that doesn’t work – and how to tweak it so it does:
Early in her career, Cavanaugh assigned the following essay prompt as her class read To Kill a Mockingbird: “What does the mockingbird symbolize in the novel?” Students who Googled “mockingbird symbolism” found a wealth of information: other kids’ essays on that exact topic, a comprehensive SparkNotes analysis with cited evidence, and impressive critical articles by scholars who had thought through the question and come up with top-notch answers. Teachers can’t expect students to ignore such a treasure trove of material, says Cavanaugh: “When the questions that are proposed ask them to regurgitate the ideas of those that came before them, we can guess what the outcome will be…”
One student said to her, “It’s just a matter of working smarter, not harder. If the answer is out there, it’s kinda dumb not to look.” But there’s a big downside: “Students often work harder to avoid getting caught ‘stealing’ ideas than they do thinking meaningfully about the question, or even about the answers they find, and they don’t have opportunities to improve.” Clearly, mockingbird symbolism-type essay questions are a problem and don’t advance the deeper mission of the English curriculum.
Cavanaugh decided to take a different approach, making “the devil into my ally”: she asked students to do an Internet search for credible material on that question, analyze and evaluate the reasoning, and defend, qualify, or refute what they found. “This assignment,” she says, “requires the same kind of literary analysis, but minimizes the incentive to plagiarize and better acquaints students with using outside sources effectively.” She tries to orchestrate assignments and discussions that aren’t “busywork.”
Over the years, Cavanaugh has also focused on classroom culture, developing relationships with students, and creating a community that is trustful and in which students feel they can take risks and make mistakes. She also minimizes high-stakes homework assignments and has expanded her use of in-class discussions, weekly in-class essays; group inquiry; and questions that require original thinking, for example: Is Atticus justified putting his kids at risk? Should we pity Mayella?
In this Cult of Pedagogyarticle, Jennifer Gonzalez analyzes the awkward moment when a teacher or speaker asks a question and gets crickets. “If you feel like you’re doing all the talking up there,” she says, “and you want to get more from the people listening to you, you might just need to make a few small changes to your delivery to turn a one-way lecture to a much better conversation.” First of all, some possible reasons for an unresponsive audience:
In this paper from SEII (School Effectiveness Inequality Initiative) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Elizabeth Setren, Kyle Greenberg, Oliver Moore, and Michael Yankovich report on their randomized controlled study of flipped instruction in two classes at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point: Principles of Economics and Introduction to Calculus. The researchers believed these courses were an ideal testing ground for flipped instruction because students were randomly assigned to several sections, assessments and grading policies were standardized, and the curriculum called for extensive problem solving. Twenty-nine instructors, 80 class sections, and 1,328 students took part in the study, with all instructors teaching both flipped and traditional classes.
Students in the flipped classes were asked to view a video of a lecture beforehand and then engaged in in-depth discussion and application of the concepts through practice problems, group work, and lots of interaction with the instructor. Students in the control group got business-as-usual lectures in class (with the identical content as the flipped video) and solved the same problems outside class. Here’s what the researchers found:
“Effects of the Flipped Classroom: Evidence from a Randomized Trial” by Elizabeth Setren, Kyle Greenberg, Oliver Moore, and Michael Yankovich in SEII (School Effectiveness Inequality Initiative), August 2019, https://bit.ly/2zacyNq
In this article in Education Week Teacher, Madeline Will empathizes with teachers who don’t have their own classroom and must travel with everything on a cart – “an exercise in patience and organization.” Will gathered tips from teachers who’ve been there and from Elizabeth Randall’s book, The Floating Teacher: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving:
•Make nice with host teachers. “Those relationships can make or break your experience,” says Will. If teachers’ rooms are left tidy, they often reciprocate by sharing shelf space, leaving board space for lessons, and even allowing early arrivals to set up.
•Improvise an independent reading library. Some options: ask for shelf space in each classroom and rotate “featured” books among them; create a virtual library where students can read a synopsis about the full collection and request their choices; and take photos of books and create a poster or photo collage to hang in each room for student “shopping.”
•Provision the cart with the right stuff. That includes a file folder for each class, note cards, sticky notes, paper, pens and highlighters, binder clips, handouts, and an extension cord. Anything that can be scanned should be in the laptop.
•Accessorize the cart. Consider painting it a bright color (one English teacher called her pink cart “my shadow, my personal assistant, my little fashionista”); installing a bicycle bell to prevent running over toes in crowded corridors; and having holiday decorations like Easter rabbits and light-up shamrocks.
For all the challenges, there are benefits to floating. “You really get to know the faculty, the campus, and the students,” said Randall; “you’re out a lot, the students see you. It’s a sociable thing if you make it one.” Teacher Josh Caldwell writes about the benefit of seeing what’s going on in many classrooms and “serendipitous collaboration that comes from having another teacher in the room. We should all step out of our comfort zones a little more often.”
The 1619 Project – This first installment of a New York Timesseries is a major classroom resource for thinking through the history and legacy of slavery in the U.S.:
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All Things PLC
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ASCA School Counselor
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Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk (JESPAR)
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Peabody Journal of Education
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Teaching Children Mathematics
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