“Most of us are infected by what learning theorists call ‘illusions of fluency,’ which means that we believe we have obtained mastery of something when we have not.”
James Lang (see item #7)
“Feedback is only successful if students use it to improve their performance… If our feedback doesn’t change the student in some way, it has probably been a waste of time.”
Dylan William (see item #1)
“[W]e’re nowhere near ready – and perhaps never will be – to use feedback on character as a metric for judging the effectiveness of teachers and schools.”
Angela Duckworth (see item #2)
Robert Evans (see item #4)
“When a stack of papers sits on my desk, I walk out of my classroom and clear my thoughts of writing assignments and literary passages. I explore the parts of the school I rarely see: the music rooms where students sing, the woodshop where the smell of cut wood fills the hallway, the cacophonous cafeteria. I feel uplifted seeing my students in the world outside my classroom. I return energized and ready to teach – whether I like it or not.”
Patrick O’Connor, a Massachusetts high-school English teacher, in “Why Good
Teachers Don’t Have to ‘Like’ Teaching” in Education Week, March 30, 2016 (Vol.
35, #26, p. 20-21), www.edweek.org
In this New York Times article, “grit” guru Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania) says she’s pleased with the growing recognition of non-cognitive skills as a key element in students’ life success, including these three clusters:
But Duckworth is alarmed that some educators are incorporating assessments of character into schools’ high-stakes accountability systems. “[W]e’re nowhere near ready – and perhaps never will be – to use feedback on character as a metric for judging the effectiveness of teachers and schools,” she says. “We shouldn’t be rewarding or punishing schools for how students perform on these measures.”
Duckworth’s concern springs from two limitations inherent in students rating themselves on character traits:
• Reference bias – Different schools have different standards for what constitutes “coming to class prepared” (one of the self-control attributes), for example. In one school, it might mean that when the bell rings, you’re at your desk with your notebook open, last night’s completed homework in front of you, and your full attention on the teacher. In another school, the criteria might be more relaxed. Researchers found that students’ self-ratings varied considerably depending on the norms of their schools and weren’t objectively reliable.
• Incentives for gaming the system and cheating – Attaching high stakes to character attributes can create extrinsic rewards and punishments that displace the hoped-for intrinsic motivations to behave better. “While carrots and sticks can bring about short-term changes in behavior,” says Duckworth, “they often undermine interest in and responsibility for the behavior itself.”
Duckworth concludes with these observations on the burgeoning study of non-cognitive skills:
In this Journal of Staff Development article, Karen Hawley Miles (Education Resources Strategies) and Anna Sommers (a high-school English teacher) make the case for shifting district human-capital resources in four ways:
• Restructure compensation and career paths. It’s widely agreed that teacher salary increments based on education credits and additional degrees “have minimal impact on teaching effectiveness,” say Miles and Sommers. Better to shift some of those funds toward extra compensation for some teachers based on demonstrated performance, increased responsibility, and contributions to the school and district. Three districts that have moved in this direction are Denver, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and Los Angeles.
• Shift funds from general coaching to job-embedded content experts and teacher leaders working with teacher teams. “School systems typically provide few formal opportunities for teacher leadership,” say Miles and Somers, “and they invest little to develop teacher leadership.” A better strategy, they believe, is selecting highly effective teachers, training them carefully, giving them increased pay and reduced class schedules, and putting them in a leadership role with teacher teams or content areas. The authors believe this is a much more productive strategy than generalist coaches spread thinly across a school or district. Examples of successful teacher leader programs are Touchstone Education’s Merit Prep, D.C.-based Ingenuity Prep, Aspire charter schools, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Strategic Staffing Initiative.
• Extend and maximize teacher time for collaborative learning and planning. Working against this are state learning-time requirements coupled with collective bargaining agreements, daily scheduling imperatives, and the desire to avoid pulling teachers away from their students during instructional time. But some districts have orchestrated early-dismissal and late-arrival times and other scheduling and staffing variables to create weekly team collaboration time. Achievement First charter schools, working with 45 percent more annual hours than most regular public schools, have created 117 annual hours for collaborative planning that takes place within the instructional day.
• Leverage and coordinate teacher support through curriculum, assessment, evaluation, and technology. The key is to get these components supporting each other – for example, curriculum content driving professional development, interim assessments providing data for teacher teamwork, and the teacher supervision and evaluation system providing information and coaching on carefully chosen classroom skills and pedagogical knowledge. Miles and Sommers point to Achievement First schools as an exemplary model in this area. In AF schools, the “deliberate orchestration of different functional areas ensures that goal setting, training, instruction, data gathering, analysis, feedback, and revision are coordinated as complementary streams of activity,” say the authors. “The overlapping structure allows different decision makers to be aware of simultaneous efforts and reinforce and share a common vision.”
In this Harvard Business Review article, Everett Spain (U.S. Military Academy at West Point) and Boris Groysberg (Harvard Business School) report on their study of how exit interviews were conducted and used in 210 organizations across 35 countries. They found that exit interviews didn’t always produce valuable information: asked to name a change that was made based on speaking to employees as they departed, fewer than a third of executives could give a specific example. “It’s not surprising,” say Spain and Groysberg, “that many people we spoke with believe that exit interviews have a negative return on investment.” One reason is that in most organizations, exit interviews are conducted by HR, treated as an operational duty rather than a strategic opportunity, and often shared with managers only on request.
In addition, say the authors, many organizations use exit interviews as an excuse not to have meaningful retention conversations with current employees. Exit interviews “should not be the first conversation a company has with an employee about his or her feelings and ideas,” say Spain and Groysberg. Employees should regularly be asked questions like these:
Retention conversations revolving around questions like these are key to surfacing professional and personal issues before they lead to an untimely departure.
Even under the best circumstances, employees leave, and that’s where exit interviews can be very helpful to an organization. Of course such interviews will produce useful information only if departing employees are completely honest, and there are several reasons why this is not always the case: time pressure as employees leave for a new position; lack of motivation to share their feelings; not wanting to say anything negative about a supervisor they like (or don’t like); and not wanting to jeopardize a good reference.
Spain and Groysberg found a small number of organizations that have been able to surmount these barriers, producing the following benefits:
“Small Changes in Teaching the Last 5 Minutes of Class” by James Lang in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 1, 2016 (Vol. LXII, #29, p. A36-37), http://bit.ly/1qoNCLt; Lang’s book on this subject is Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2016); Lang can be reached at email@example.com.
“The work writers do is both exciting and daunting,” say author/consultants Joan Dabrowski and Kate Roth in this article in Literacy Today. They believe interactive writing is a classroom routine that can play a major role in boosting elementary students’ confidence and proficiency as writers. Interactive writing involves the teacher serving as the expert writer for students as they construct a meaningful text, and then “share the pen,” composing with the teacher, all while discussing the details of the writing process. Here are the components of each interactive writing session:
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About the Marshall Memo
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This weekly memo is designed to keep principals, teachers, superintendents, and others very well-informed on current research and effective practices in K-12 education. Kim Marshall, drawing on 44 years’ experience as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, and writer, lightens the load of busy educators by serving as their “designated reader.”
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Core list of publications covered
Those read this week are underlined.
American Educational Research Journal
American Journal of Education
ASCA School Counselor
ASCD SmartBrief/Public Education NewsBlast
Better: Evidence-Based Education
Center for Performance Assessment Newsletter
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Elementary School Journal
Harvard Business Review
Harvard Educational Review
Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk (JESPAR)
Journal of Staff Development
Kappa Delta Pi Record
Middle School Journal
Peabody Journal of Education
Phi Delta Kappan
Principal’s Research Review
Reading Research Quarterly
Responsive Classroom Newsletter
Review of Educational Research
School Library Journal
Teaching Children Mathematics
Teaching Exceptional Children/Exceptional Children
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The District Management Journal
The Journal of the Learning Sciences
The Language Educator
The Learning Principal/Learning System/Tools for Schools
The Reading Teacher
Theory Into Practice
Wharton Leadership Digest