Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Prejudices & Learning

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
- Albert Einstein

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adversity in Learning

Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?

Walt Whitman
US poet (1819 - 1892)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Realistic in Today's World?

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.
- Thomas H. Huxley

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gilda Lyon's Presentations on Teaching

Trainers - Science

When I was researching assessment and how to assess the quality of teaching, I ran across these wonderful presentations by Gilda Lyon, a career science teacher in Tennessee. They are definitely of value for anyone who thinks that pre-assessment is a waste of time. She also gives some wonderful suggestions for performing informal formative assessments to help students identify what they know and what they still need to learn. I'd appreciate knowing what you think of her presentations.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just when you think you know everything

You run across something you wish you'd been reading all along. Just found a site that should be on on my list of links. Edutopia.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beyond Smiley Sheet Evaluations

In our work on developing a plan for Middle School Redesign, we identified the need for teachers to elicit feedback from students and parents regarding the success of their teaching and their students' learning. One of the most commonly used tools for evaluating training in the work world is the smile sheet. Researcher Will Thalheimer has developed his own evaluation \that seeks to provide more specific feedback regarding specific objectives and concepts taught. He even provides a link for you to download his form to use as a template for your own course evaluation. Of course, his form is designed to measure reactions to a one-time workshop offering, but his approach is interesting and would be very useful to apply in the work training setting.

Downes Definitions of Education and Learning

From his canaries.ppt presentation,

Education is fundamentally a process of communication;

Learning is fundamentally a process of growth.

-- Stephen Downes

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New law changing the way districts statewide calculate GPAs

New law changing the way districts statewide calculate GPAs

We keep trying to even the playing field so schools like UT Austin don't end up with such low percentages of blacks or others from low socio-economic backgrounds.

We need more research on effective assessment and qualitative evaluation. Predictors of success cannot always be reduced to numbers.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

25 Teachers Who Drastically Changed the World | Teaching Tips

25 Teachers Who Drastically Changed the World | Teaching Tips

Every once in a while I need inspiration to continue in my chosen path. This list acquainted me with some unknown names and included some well-known figures I don't often think of as teachers.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Why I'm a Generalist

Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything.
- Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who Dares to Teach Must Never Cease to Learn

1799. John Cotton Dana (1856-1929). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989

Below are some of my other favorite quotes about teaching.

The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards; and curiosity itself can be vivid and wholesome only in proportion as the mind is contented and happy. – Anatole France

If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years, plant a tree. If for a hundred years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests. -- Kuan Chung (d. 645 B.C.)

Learning without thinking is labor lost; thinking without learning is dangerous. -- Chinese Proverb

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It is the object of learning, not only to satisfy the curiosity and perfect the spirits of ordinary men, but also to advance civilization. – Woodrow Wilson

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.

-- Thomas Szasz (b. 1920), U.S. psychiatrist. “Education,” The Second Sin (1973).

A teacher can but lead you to the door; learning is up to you. – Chinese Proverb

The teacher’s task is not to implant facts but to place the subject to be learned in front of the learner and, through sympathy, emotion, imagination and patience, to awaken in the learner the restless drive for answers and insights which enlarge the personal life and give it meaning. -- Nathan M Pusey, President, Harvard

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Teaching is . . . .

Teaching is about transmitting information and best practices through human interaction from one generation to the next.

How do we measure quality teaching? Through principle-based assessment rather than scores-driven regulation.

Self-assessment (what used to be called reflection) is key to improvement.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Resource Based Learning: Definition

RBL: Definition
Canadian Website for Saskatchewan Schools about the integration of teaching and research, with teacher/librarian as resource for the student researcher.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Austin is 21st in high school graduation rates

Austin is 21st in high school graduation rates

Austin has a graduation rate of 58.2%. The surrounding suburbs have a rate of about 71%. The ethnic rate stats at the end of the article are interesting and may be more reliable, since they are nationwide averages. It would be interesting to compare the ethnic make-up of AISD schools compared to those same suburban schools.

The sad fact that these statistics highlight, even though the article is silent -- No child left behind has resulted in children failing out of the public education system. Students who cannot meet the standards are more likely to drop out, and less likely to be encouraged to remain in school. The stakes (withholding of federal funds) are too high for the schools, and the measures too focused on scores (narrowly interpreted), rather than growth in student achievement.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

How do we identify effective teachers and encourage their continued professional growth?



Most of us use subjective criteria to evaluate teacher effectiveness. Based on our own experience, we know an effective teacher when we experience one, either in our own learning or that of our children. Effective teachers motivate their students to learn, foster students’ self-esteem and their students’ belief in their own ability to master a subject or skill. Effective teachers model their own passion for learning and curiosity about their subject matter. Effective teachers set clear expectations for their students and challenge them to achieve not just the minimum, but their best. Increasingly, teachers must model life-long learning for their students to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing world.

Most of the studies, I reviewed noted the difficulty both in identifying effective teachers using objective criteria, and the dangers in relying solely on performance data that can be easily manipulated. Moreover, teachers work in schools, and the conditions in which they work affect the quality of their teaching. As one school board director noted, “Put a good teacher in a bad system, and the system wins every time.” Our challenge is “not only to nurture good teachers but also to develop good schools in which teachers can be effective.” (Olson, Lessons from Abroad)

It is interesting to note that identifying effective teachers has become increasingly tied to efforts to quantify student achievement and provide a differentiated pay scale for teachers rather than relying on a single-salary schedule. AISD’s own strategic compensation plan is tied to TAKS improvement in reading and math and is targeted primarily to “high needs” schools. The difficulty lies in tracking performance of individual students over time and linking those students to their teachers, and accurately accounting for differences in varied student populations. Most of the studies I reviewed noted the need to “develop and implement longitudinal data systems” to provide objective information linking teacher performance to student achievement.

Some of the ill-fated efforts in places such as Florida and Houston can be attributed to narrowly focusing on short-term improvements in scores, and failing to support collaborative efforts to increase students and teachers improved performance -- instead establishing competitive measures based on rankings. Rather than encouraging the sharing of best practices among teachers and schools, this would seem to foster rivalries and manipulative practices that would in the end defeat the goal of raising the achievement of all students.

The studies I found most compelling placed a strong emphasis on teacher-developed criteria for setting performance standards and professional development goals, guided by the priorities and needs of the local districts in which they worked. We must reward experienced, effective teachers who mentor novice and developing teachers. “Performance-pay plans should encourage more teachers to document effective classroom practices and share them with their colleagues.” (Performance Pay for Teachers, p. 4)

Other ideas worth noting:

  • Establishing base pay systems with tiers of “novice, professional, and expert.”

  • Supplementing base-pay with performance-pay open to all teachers.

  • Demonstrated ability to improve student performance should be rewarded with leadership opportunities, such as mentoring novices and peers, sharing effective teaching strategies, and serving on advisory committees. Excellent teachers should not have to become administrators in order to achieve adequate compensation.

  • Offer incentives to teachers who work in high-need schools but only if they are adequately prepared to address the school’s specific learning needs.

  • Include accomplished teachers in establishing performance standards and developing compensation plans.

  • Encourage all teachers to open up their classrooms to formative evaluations by peers, expert teachers, and administrators. Teachers need feedback in order to improve their teaching skills.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Results Statements For Middle School Reform Action Team


Foster communities of life-long learning that are student-centered -- whether that student is a child or teen, parent, teacher, or administrator. This implies a need for building relationships that are multi-dimensional and on-going, including one-to-one, peer to peers, and expert to novice.

Monday, March 03, 2008

School Reform

"People who love soft methods and hate iniquity forget this, that reform consists in taking a bone from a dog. Philosophy will not do it."
- John Jay Chapman

This is so true. Change is hard. So hard that we often cling to the problems we know, rather than adopting new approaches.We are researching improving the quality of educators in our middle schools, WITHOUT increased funding. There is no doubt that budgets for AISD are already pinched.

Friday, February 22, 2008

How do you develop and support high quality educators?

Currently I'm on a task force to help redesign the Austin ISD's middle schools. My particular team has been charged with developing an action plan for strategy one of the plan:

We will develop, recruit, support, retain, and recognize high quality principals, teachers, and staff at every middle school to ensure that every student has a quality education.

Big job, right? Well, we're trying to tackle it in manageable chunks, so my focus is going to be on support and development. Still big, but hopefully an area where we can make some concrete suggestions that can be implemented w/o breaking the budget. If you have any links you'd like me to look at, please post them here.

Ask and ye shall receive. . . Time's Cover Story this Week.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Interesting Discussion of Learning: Constructivist and Connectivism

Free Learning and the "so-called" failure of connectivism and constructivist learning.

I always find Downes' take on things interesting. Here he takes to task someone who believes our constructivist theory of learning has failed. What constructivism brought to light that it's almost impossible to "design" learning that fits every novice.

I want to get back to this later.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

What you know is different than what you remember?

I'm going to have to read this blog more often. I like the research that is presented, though it requires more than just a casual perusal.

Importance of Enthusiasm for a Subject

"Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Or as Henry Ford said:

"Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas."

When I was younger, my enthusiasm was often commented upon by my elders. Now I wonder, is enthusiasm a characteristic of the young? Perhaps, but I've met young people with little enthusiasm for anything. In fact enthusiasm is often labeled "uncool." But I believe it is still important to convey to students one's on love of learning about a subject.

How can teachers who aren't engaged in their subject, expect to engage others in it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

PBS Programs on Teens

These shows which will be of special interest to Parents of Teens.

You can watch these programs online.