Cut the curriculum — from willrichardson.com by Will Richardson

Excerpt:

Here’s an idea: A Minimal Viable Curriculum (MVC). That’s what Christian Talbot over at Basecamp is proposing, and I have to say, I love the idea.

He writes: “What if we were to design MVCs: Minimum Viable Curricula centered on just enough content to empower learners to examine questions or pursue challenges with rigor? Then, as learners go deeper into a question or challenge, they update their MVC…which is pretty much how learning happens in the real world.”

The key there to me is that THEY update their MVC. That resonates so deeply; it feels like that’s what I’m doing with my learning each day as I read about and work with school leaders who are thinking deeply about change.

 

When we pursue questions that matter to us, rigor is baked in.

 

From DSC:
I love the idea of giving students — as they can handle it — more choice, more control. So anytime around 8th-12th grade, I say we turn much more control over to the students, and let them make more choices on what they want to learn about. We should at least try some experiments along these lines.

 

 

As everyone in the workforce is now required to be a lifelong learner, our quality of life goes much higher if we actually enjoy learning. As I think about it, I have often heard an adult (especially middle age and older) say something like, “I hated school, but now, I love to learn.”

Plus, I can easily imagine greater engagement with the materials that students choose for themselves, as well as increased attention spans and higher motivation levels.

Also, here’s a major shout out to Will Richardson, Bruce Dixon, Missy Emler and Lyn Hilt for the work they are doing at ModernLearners.com.

 

Check out the work over at Modern Learners dot com

 

 

From DSC:
Not too long ago, I really enjoyed watching a program on PBS regarding America’s 100 most-loved books, entitled, “The Great American Read.”

 

Watch “The Grand Finale”

 

While that’s not the show I’m talking about, it got me to thinking of one similar to it — something educational, yet entertaining. But also, something more.

The program that came to my mind would be a program that’s focused on significant topics and issues within American society — offered up in a debate/presentation style format. 

For example, you could have different individuals, groups, or organizations discuss the pros and cons of an issue or topic. The show would provide contact information for helpful resources, groups, organizations, legislators, etc.  These contacts would be for learning more about a subject or getting involved with finding a solution for that problem.

For example, how about this for a potential topic: Grades or no grades?
  • What are the pros and cons of using an A-F grading system?
  • What are the benefits and issues/drawbacks with using grades? 
  • How are we truly using grades Do we use them to rank and compare individuals, schools, school systems, communities? Do we use them to “weed people out” of a program?
  • With our current systems, what “product” do we get? Do we produce game-players or people who enjoy learning? (Apologies for some of my bias showing up here! But my son has become a major game-player and, likely, so did I at his age.)
  • How do grades jibe with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)? On one hand…how do you keep someone moving forward, staying positive, and trying to keep learning/school enjoyable yet on the other hand, how do you have those grades mean something to those who obtain data to rank school systems, communities, colleges, programs, etc.?
  • How do grades impact one’s desire to learn throughout one’s lifetime?

Such debates could be watched by students and then they could have their own debates on subjects that they propose.

Or the show could have journalists debate college or high school teams. The format could sometimes involve professors and deans debating against researchers. Or practitioners/teachers debating against researchers/cognitive psychologists. 

Such a show could be entertaining, yet highly applicable and educational. We would probably all learn something. And perhaps have our eyes opened up to a new perspective on an issue.

Or better yet, we might actually resolve some more issues and then move on to address other ones!

 

 

Assessment for Learning: It Just Makes Sense — from facultyfocus.com by Cathy Box

Excerpt:

Assessment for Learning (AfL), sometimes referred to as “formative assessment” has become part of the educational landscape in the U.S. and is heralded to significantly raise student achievement, yet we are often uncertain what it is and what it looks like in practice in higher education. To clarify, AfL includes the formal and informal processes that faculty and students use during instruction to gather evidence for the purpose of improving learning. The aim of AfL is to improve students’ mastery of the content and to equip and empower them as self-regulated, life-long learners.

There are many strategies that serve the purposes of AfL, commonly centered around three questions: 1) Where am I going? 2) Where am I now? and 3) How can I close the gap? (Chappuis, 2015; Sadler, 1989; Wiliam, 2011). This process represents a natural progression from the beginning of a lesson to closing the learning gaps at the end and provides a recursive loop when necessary. The following narrative describes two AfL strategies that I have found work extremely well in my courses, resulting in higher quality work, leaving me time to provide feedback on the more challenging aspects of the assignment. These strategies fall under the question “Where am I going?” and are true to the tenets of AfL, having a significant impact on learning and putting students squarely in the driver’s seat.

 

“Indeed as one of the most prolific writers on the topic, Alfie Kohn suggested, ‘assessment should be an unobtrusive servant of teaching and learning.’ (source)

 

 

Modern Learners 2018 Provocation of the Year — from modernlearners.com by Bruce Dixon

Excerpt:

In this context, provocation is therefore about deconstructing meanings and hidden agendas, challenging assumptions and seeking new ways of thinking not just about what we do, or how we do it, but most importantly, why we do what we do.

It is in this context that the choice for our 2018 Provocation of the Year came down to a single word… assessment.

 

 

“Indeed as one of the most prolific writers on the topic, Alfie Kohn suggested, ‘assessment should be an unobtrusive servant of teaching and learning.’ Now there’s a provocation to really start a vibrant conversation.“

 

How faculty can ‘click’ their way to a more inclusive classroom — from edsurge.com by Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy

Excerpt:

What do you think is important for an instructor to do when using classroom response systems (polling software or clickers)? Select all that apply.

A) Choose questions that most students will be able to answer correctly.

B) Vary the types of poll questions beyond multiple choice.

C) Ask students “Please discuss your answer with a neighbor.”

D) Stress that students answer questions independent of their peers.

Classroom response systems (CRS) have a mixed reputation. Studies have suggested that these tools, which allow students to respond in real time to questions provided by an instructor, can improve student learning. But other reports show that is not always the case.

Like many education tools, it depends. And in the case of clickers and other classroom polling software, it largely depends on how instructors are using them. If used thoughtfully, we’ve seen that CRSs can help facilitate active learning in a classroom. What’s more, these tools can be used to also facilitate an inclusive classroom.

What do we mean by an inclusive classroom? Faculty risk excluding certain students and impeding their ability to succeed when they aren’t intentional about design and facilitation. Inclusive course design involves more than choosing content; it also requires considering the number of assessments, opportunities for practice, the chances for students to assess their understanding of material, among other attributes.

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
This is where the quizzing features/tools within a Learning Management System such as Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard Learn, etc. are so valuable. They provide students with opportunities for low-stakes (or no-stakes) practice in retrieving information and to see if they are understanding things or not. Doing such formative assessments along the way can point out areas where they need further practice, as well as areas where the students are understanding things well (and only need an occasional question or two on that item in order to reduce the effects of the forgetting curve).

 

 

 

 

Combining retrieval, spacing, and feedback boosts STEM learning — from retrievalpractice.org

Punchline:
Scientists demonstrated that when college students used a quizzing program that combined retrieval practice, spacing, and feedback, exam performance increased by nearly a letter grade.

—-

Abstract
The most effective educational interventions often face significant barriers to widespread implementation because they are highly specific, resource intense, and/or comprehensive. We argue for an alternative approach to improving education: leveraging technology and cognitive science to develop interventions that generalize, scale, and can be easily implemented within any curriculum. In a classroom experiment, we investigated whether three simple, but powerful principles from cognitive science could be combined to improve learning. Although implementation of these principles only required a few small changes to standard practice in a college engineering course, it significantly increased student performance on exams. Our findings highlight the potential for developing inexpensive, yet effective educational interventions that can be implemented worldwide.

In summary, the combination of spaced retrieval practice and required feedback viewing had a powerful effect on student learning of complex engineering material. Of course, the principles from cognitive science could have been applied without the use of technology. However, our belief is that advances in technology and ideas from machine learning have the potential to exponentially increase the effectiveness and impact of these principles. Automation is an important benefit, but technology also can provide a personalized learning experience for a rapidly growing, diverse body of students who have different knowledge and academic backgrounds. Through the use of data mining, algorithms, and experimentation, technology can help us understand how best to implement these principles for individual learners while also producing new discoveries about how people learn. Finally, technology facilitates access. Even if an intervention has a small effect size, it can still have a substantial impact if broadly implemented. For example, aspirin has a small effect on preventing heart attacks and strokes when taken regularly, but its impact is large because it is cheap and widely available. The synergy of cognitive science, machine learning, and technology has the potential to produce inexpensive, but powerful learning tools that generalize, scale, and can be easily implemented worldwide.

Keywords: Education. Technology. Retrieval practice. Spacing. Feedback. Transfer of learning.

 

 

From DSC:
Ever notice how effective Ted Talks begin? They seek to instantly grab your attention with a zinger question, a somewhat shocking statement, an interesting story, a joke, an important problem or an issue, a personal anecdote or experience, a powerful image/photo/graphic, a brief demonstration, and the like.

Grabbing someone’s attention is a key first step in getting a piece of information into someone’s short-term memory — what I call getting through “the gate.” If we can’t get through the gate into someone’s short-term memory, we have zero (0) chance of having them actually process that information and to think about and engage with that piece of content. If we can’t make it into someone’s short-term memory, we can’t get that piece of information into their long-term memory for later retrieval/recall. There won’t be any return on investment (ROI) in that case.

 

 

So why not try starting up one of your classes this week with a zinger question, a powerful image/photo/video, or a story from your own work experience? I’ll bet you’ll grab your students’ attentions instantly! Then you can move on into the material for a greater ROI. From there, offering frequent, low-stakes quizzes will hopefully help your students slow down their forgetting curves and help them practice recalling/retrieving that information. By the way, that’s why stories are quite powerful. We often remember them better. So if you can weave an illustrative story into your next class, your students might really benefit from it come final test time!

Also relevant/see:

Ready, set, speak: 5 strong ways to start your next presentation — from abovethelaw.com by Olga Mack, with thanks to Mr. Otto Stockmeyer for this resource
No matter which of these five ways you decide to launch your presentation, ensure that you make it count, and make it memorable.

Excerpts:

  1. Tell a captivating story
  2. Ask thought-provoking questions to the audience
  3. State a shocking headline or statistic
  4. Use a powerful quote
  5. Use silence
    When delivering a speech, a pause of about three or even as many as 10 seconds will allow your audience to sit and quiet down. Because most people always expect the speaker to start immediately, this silence will thus catch the attention of the audience. They will be instinctively more interested in what you had to say, and why you took your time to say it. This time will also help you gather your nerves and prepare to speak.

 

 

 

You spend weeks studying for an important test. On the big day, you wait nervously as your teacher hands it out. You’re working your way through, when you’re asked to define “ataraxia.” You know you’ve seen the word before, but your mind goes blank. What just happened? Elizabeth Cox details the complex relationship between stress and memory.

 

 

Some of the ways to reduce stress that was mentioned include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Doing practice tests — especially under similar conditions; under time pressure for example
  • On the day of the test, take deep breaths

 

 

 

Connecting Assessment and Learning — from scholarlyteacher.com by Spencer Benson

Excerpt:

Formative assessments provide information on students’ levels of understanding or performance. Formative assessments are designed to facilitate learning and improving teaching, curriculum/course design, and learning progress. They are typically low stakes and inform the teacher and student about current understanding and practices, primarily to improve understanding and performance. Summative assessments are used to evaluate student knowledge, understanding, or performance. Generally, they involve tests to determine grades and rankings.

Many formative assessments facilitate learning and motivate students: the ubiquitous; “are there any questions?”, 1-minute papers, pop quizzes, on-line quizzes, clicker questions, muddiest point, jeopardy games, etc. Formative assessments are frequently low stakes and often assigned a few points to encourage students to complete them. Formative assessment “sans” points are unfortunately often ignored or not taken seriously. How do we adapt summative assessment that captures the developmental aspects of formative assessments?

Below are four suggestions that have been shown to provide for deeper learning. Two approaches are focused on getting students to think about the content in useful ways and two are designed to help students perform better on traditional assessments.

 

 

Where Do I Even Start? — from byrdseed.com by Ian Byrd
Three places to begin differentiating for gifted kids

Excerpts:

I get lots of questions from overwhelmed folks who have suddenly landed in a new job in gifted ed and have had little training (heck, sounds a lot like me on my first day!).

“Where do I even start!?” is a very common cry. Here are three places to begin differentiating for gifted kids.

1. Pre-Assess
Pre-assessment is key! Without it, you’re setting out on a journey with no map and no compass. You have to know where your students are at before you differentiate.

2. Accelerate
Once you see where your students are at, the simplest way to differentiate is just to go faster! Acceleration can happen at many levels…

3. Give Complex Work, Not Merely Difficult Work
Many of you have attended my full-day workshop on the difference between difficulty and complexity. I think this difference is key for planning quality differentiated tasks that aren’t just more work.

 

Why demand originality from students in online discussion forums? — from facultyfocus.com by Ronald Jones

Excerpt:

Tell me in your own words
Why demand originality? In relating to a traditional classroom discussion, do students respond to the professor’s question by opening up the textbook or searching for the answer on the Internet and then reading off the answer? Some might try, but by asking questions the professor is looking to see if the students grasp the discussed concept, not if they know how and where to find the answer.

Online students have the advantage of reflection time, along with having the textbook and Internet search engine open when responding to discussion questions. With a few simple clicks, virtually any question can be answered by searching the Internet. Once again, why demand originality? Classroom learning takes place when students are required to think; that’s a few steps beyond clicking copy and paste. As instructors, we should encourage our students to be resourceful and to learn the skills of locating and incorporating scholarly literature into their work. But we also must instill the learning value of synthesizing sources in such a manner that produces evidence of gained knowledge.

 

From DSC:
I like the idea of asking students to put it into their own words. Not just to get by the issue of copying/pasting or trying to stem plagiarism, but because it’s more along the line of journaling about our learning. We need to actually engage with some content in order to put that content into our own words. Not outsourcing our learning to others. Journaling can help us clarify what we’re understanding and where we still have questions and/or concerns.

 

 

Encouraging participation of all in the course: Moving from intact classes to individuals students — from scholarlyteacher.com by Todd Zakrajsek, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Excerpts:

During every class session, read the room by watching individuals. Are students taking notes, nodding along as others speak, or even advancing the discussion by building on the comments of classmates? Are verbal responses merely defining terminology, or do they make connections between the text and real-world examples? Analyze the extent to which certain examples or content areas are received by individual students. Take note when student responses are merely noise to fill the void when you are not talking. Overall, look for individual characteristics that emerge within your course as a community of learning is being established.

Keep in mind that it is often less threatening to one’s ego to claim a lack of preparation for class than it is to admit that one is finding it difficult to understand the material. For those who need a bit of motivation to come prepared, a quiz at the beginning of class will help students to come to class ready to discuss the material for that day.


As all students are pressed for time these days, a quiz might be the added motivation that most students need. These quizzes do not need to be extremely challenging, but they should be challenging enough to ensure the required preparation is done. That is, one should not be able to get responses correct simply by guessing. For students who do not understand the material, quizzes will not prepare them to engage in class discussions or to answer your questions during a discussion lecture. For those students, failed quizzes might add additional pressure and cause less engagement with the material. Struggling students who are not prepared for class need assistance to understand the material. Carefully structured small group projects and discussions might be the best way to get their voices into the class. Ask increasingly difficult questions as part of the discussion, and when you know you have struggling students reserve some of the easier questions for those students.

 

 

Gen Zers look to teachers first, YouTube second for instruction — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser

Excerpt:

Students in Generation Z would rather learn from YouTube videos than from nearly any other form of instruction. YouTube was designated as the preferred mode of learning by 59 percent of Gen Zers in a survey on the topic, compared to in-person group activities with classmates (mentioned by 57 percent), learning applications or games (47 percent) and printed books (also 47 percent). A majority (55 percent) believe that YouTube has “contributed to their education.” In fact, nearly half of survey participants (47 percent) reported spending three or more hours every day on YouTube.

The only method of instruction that beat out YouTube? Teachers. Almost four in five Gen Zers (78 percent) reported that their instructors “are very important to learning and development.” That’s nearly 20 percentage points higher than the YouTube option.

While Millennials also value teachers above all else for learning (chosen by 80 percent), that’s followed by printed books (60 percent), YouTube (55 percent), group activities (47 percent) and apps or games (41 percent).

 

 

Also, see the work from Pooja K. Agarwal | @PoojaAgarwal
Assistant Professor, Cognitive Scientist, & Former K-12 Teacher. Follow  and subscribe for teaching strategies at .

An example posting:

Retrieve, Space, Elaborate, and Transfer with Connection Notebooks — from retrievalpractice.org

Excerpts:

How can we encourage students to retrieve, elaborate, and connect with course content? Here’s a strategy called Connection Notebooks by James M. Lang, Professor at Assumption College. Connection Notebooks include retrieval practice, spacing, elaboration, and transfer – all in five minutes or less!

Ask students to dedicate a specific notebook as their Connection Notebook at the beginning of the semester (or provide one for them) and have them to bring it to class every day. Approximately once a week, ask students to take out their Connection Notebook and write a one-paragraph response to a “connection prompt” at the end of class. For example:

  • How does what you learned today connect to something you’ve learned in another class?
  • Have you ever encountered something you learned today in a TV show, movie, song, or book?
  • Have you ever experienced something you learned today in your life outside of school?


Connection Notebooks are effective for a few reasons:

 

 

Also, see the work from Learning Scientists | @AceThatTest | learningscientists.org

An example posting:

 

In this digest, we put together 5 blog posts by teachers that focus on implementing spaced practice in one specific subject at a time. For more of an overview of spaced practice, see this guest post by Jonathan Firth (@JW_Firth).

 

sapced practice in practice
 

 

100 things students can create to demonstrate what they know — from teachthought.com

Excerpt:

[Here] is a diverse list adapted from resources found at fortheteachers.org of potential student products or activities learners can use to demonstrate their mastery of lesson content. The list also offers several digital tools for students to consider using in a technology-enriched learning environment.

 

 

 

Cake, cake, cake. That’s the theme for today’s update! — from Pooja Agarwal and retrievalpractice.org

In addition to loving cake, this sweet delight illustrates how we can best support learning in the classroom: with retrieval practice, formative assessment, and summative assessment.

Read on for yummy goodness:

  • How these three ingredients are similar and different
  • Why this combination makes for a perfect cake
  • Why learning is not a bake off, cupcake war, or throw down (sorry to disappoint!)

Three key ingredients for learning
Chances are, you’re familiar with this two-part process:

Formative assessment: Checking on and monitoring students’ learning, which provides teachers and students with information about progress. We think of formative assessment as inserting a toothpick to see how the cake is doing while it’s baking.

Summative assessment: Discovering what students know by measuring learning. This is when we get to celebrate accomplishments with cake and also get a sense of what can be improved upon.

But where does retrieval practice fit in?

Retrieval practice: Learning how to crack an egg, measure ingredients, and mix it all together. This is when we embrace mistakes rather than emphasize perfection, because challenges are a good thing for learning.

What does this mean for you?

Key similarity: All three involve bringing information to mind. In other words, they all require retrieval! From the outside, it can look like one seamless process, and that’s a good thing. Learning isn’t linear and neither is retrieval.

Key difference: Retrieval practice doesn’t require data collection. Nothing needs to be recorded in the gradebook. Retrieval is a no-stakes opportunity when students can experiment, be challenged, and improve over time.

Takeaway: For powerful learning, we must be mindful of which ingredients we’re using, which stage we’re in, and how we can incorporate even more retrieval practice throughout the entire learning (and baking) process.

 



Also, be sure to see their guides here:

Go to retrievalpractice.org/library to see some great guides on using retrieval practice



 

Get started with rubrics — from thecreativeeducator.com by Melinda Kolk
Make assessment a classroom conversation

Excerpt:

A rubric is an assessment tool that clearly outlines expectations for student work. A rubric describes which performances will be assessed and specifies the criteria for assessing them. Rubrics can be used throughout the process of student work, making them useful for project-based learning implementations.

Because rubrics describe what high performance looks like, they are great tools to help students gauge their work and provide an opportunity for conversation between students and teachers about high-quality work.

Creating a rubric for the final product and various components of project work can ensure a more accurate, specific, and useful assessment.

A rubric is an authentic assessment tool that:

  • Provides clear expectations for a project.
  • Considers the product as well as the entire project-building process.
  • Enumerates the performances on which students will be evaluated.
  • Explains what constitutes excellence for each performance.
  • Helps students understand what they need to do to excel.
  • Prevents subjectivity and bias during the evaluation process.

 

 

Also see:

 

this graphic links to a search for rubrics out at FacultyFocus.com

 

 

 

From DSC:
Rubrics need to be very carefully designed/constructed though; otherwise rubrics can spoon-feed students the answers in an age where problem solving capabilities are really needed.

 

 

 

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