Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quadrant A of the Rigor/Relevance Framework

This post is what I wrote for the curriculum section in our Friday Forecast sent out to the teachers. It is based on the Rigor/Relevance Framework from the International Center for Leadership in Education

Curriculum in 300 words or less!

Rigor = higher order thinking, not more work.  (Use Blooms and Webs DOK for verbs)
Relevance = learning in which students apply core knowledge, concepts, or skills to solve real-world problems.
Rigor/Relevance Framework is not a continuum.  You do not progress through the 4 quadrants, but your instructional practices fit the mold of a single quadrant.

Today we are just going to focus on Quadrant A of the Rigor/Relevance Framework.

Quadrant A - “Acquisition” - Students gather and store bits of knowledge and information.  Students are primarily expected to remember or understand this acquired knowledge.

Quadrant A’s position on the framework encompasses instruction requires students to understand, comprehend, and apply knowledge that can only be used or applied in one discipline.  This box is titled “Teacher Work”.  When instructional practices match best with the characteristics of this box, a classroom observer would find the teacher doing the majority of the work.

Examples of Quadrant A activities might be:
Writing spelling words three times each.
Completing a word search.
Calling out answers on math flash cards.
Looking through a story to answer non-rigorous questions.
Categorizing foods into various food groups.
Recalling various vocabulary terms.

Implications for Instruction:
Nothing is inherently wrong with instructional practices that fall in Quadrant A.  Some standards that are set before us are close to impossible to apply to real world situations.  When the questions comes, “why do we have to know this?”  There may be no answer other than, “for the test.”  Also, some standards use the verbs recall, define, solve, etc. which all fall in the lower levels of Bloom’s and DOK.  At times, there is just no way around Quadrant A instruction.

Canvass your instruction and pinpoint the practices that match the characteristics of Quadrant A.  Examine these practices and ask yourself the following questions:  Why am I teaching this skill, standard, or student using these practices?  What can I do to this activity to increase the level of rigor(think verbs)?  What can I do to this activity to add knowledge that can be applied across disciplines and even used in real-world situations?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Turning the corner...

I have realized recently that I have begun to turn a corner in my ability to live the life of an instructional leader.  I am beginning to define more clearly within myself exactly what I am looking for during learning engagements.  From that, I am beginning to be able to better pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.  I am even slowly beginning to work out plans and put together resources for improvement.  Now I need to learn how to coach.  I think when I get the coach thing down, that's when I'll really begin to make progress as an instructional leader.  Furthermore, my teachers will benefit directly affecting the students and their learning.  I've got a lot to learn, but I'm turning the corner!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Inquiry is...

...the way to go about teaching and learning in the 21st century and the 20th century and the 19th century and the 22nd century, etc.

I have been an administrator for just over 100 school days, so I am no self-confessed expert at being on of the chief instructional officers of a school.  However, I do feel that in my short time as an admin I have renewed my passion towards inquiry-based learning.  According to this website"Inquiry is defined as "a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge -- seeking information by questioning."

For example, I watched my daughter the other night as she played with a few newly discovered toys.  My daughter, Tinley, is a BEAUTIFUL 8 month old (I am definitely  smitten in every sense of the word), so everything is very new to her.  She heard the toy as I made it rattle, then she grabbed at it.  She messed with it on a larger scale, swinging it back and forth and then began to pay closer attention to the different parts of the toy.  She began to feel the textures, admire the bright colors, and even taste different parts.  She was seeking for information as she interacted with the toy.

This new toy is sooo cool!
Taking a picture break!

It's even got a tag!
As I watched her, I couldn't help but think about the hours upon hours that children helplessly sit in desks neatly placed in rows or table groups as an adult pours out information just hoping that the little sponges will soak it all up so it can be squeezed out onto the upcoming high-stakes test.  Tinley was so excited about her new discovery, most students are not.

How do we take the excitement that my 8 month old experienced and make it similar to the excitement that a multitude of students can experience each and every day inside the brick and mortar walls of a school?  I feel the answer lies in an inquiry-based approach.  Instead of funneling information into kids, funnel kids towards information.  Create environments that allow for information seeking and finding.

The new buzz word in my district is student engagement.  I truly believe that ALL students deeply long to be engaged.  An inquiry approach will meet that students where they are and push them to where they need to be because an inquiry approach naturally makes things more rigorous and relevant, and relevance always brings about differentiation.  If inquiry is seeking information, then usually it is because there is a problem to solve which creates a challenge that must be tackled with a project.  If you look at it that way, then you have tackled project-based learning, problem-based learning, and challenge-based learning all in one big swoop!  I'm sure there is more "buzz words" that inquiry involves, but that is all I've got for now.

I really do believe that inquiry is the only way to fully prepare our children for the 22nd century.  The good thing is...children do it naturally.  The bad thing is...we as adults always seem to get in the way.

Your thoughts?