Resolution Reflections: Reassessing My Classroom Shifts of 2016

Thursday, January 5, 20174:30 PM

Good resolutions are like a good lesson plan, or so I claimed earlier this week in Rethinking Resolutions: How Good Teaching Can Improve Your New Year’s Resolution. If you’re in the 8% of Americans that achieved yours, they were likely simple and tangible but challenging, too. They probably required critical awareness and cultivated optimism. Like a good lesson, they can be assessed to show success.

That’s exactly what I will start to do today. My classroom resolutions were published in July in 5 Shifts for My Classroom in 2016. Then, I discussed five anticipated changes for my classroom for the current school year:

  1. Rethinking grades
  2. Portfolios, publishing, and growth
  3. Project-based learning
  4. From engagement to empowerment
  5. Failing forward

I’ve had a lot of fun with my students this year, along with the successes and challenges that any school year brings. It’s time to look back and forward to see what I planned, how I’m doing, and were I will go for here. With the advice of resolution experts in mind, I’ll explore a few tangible and measurable goals for the remainder of this year along with the steps I plan to take to get there.

With project-based learning on the list, I also need to promote the great Hacking Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy. This new release will be my guide to implementing some of these plans to make change in my classroom and for my students.

Resolution Reflections

  • By promoting reflection and both peer and self-assessment, I’ve worked hard to devalue grades and emphasize meaningful feedback. This has definitely led to more opportunities for conversation, revision, and growth--but there are still grades attached.
  • This year’s students were more resistant to social media and I haven’t emphasized publishing for authentic audiences nearly enough. They’ve done some awesome work that I was sad was only for me. I share plenty of it, but want to shift the culture to where share--and want to share--too.
  • PBL hasn’t happened yet. Our projects have been more about my vision than theirs so far. We need to work on this.
  • I’ve done fairly well with engagement and empowering student voice, but I think we can do more. I realize now that many of these goals and comments are connected--by working on the goals above, I think I can promote empowerment and ownership of learning.
  • The idea of no student failing is a complicated one. So many of my students are working hard, coming to extra help, and revising everything, so they always show growth. Sometimes I still struggle to reach some of them and am especially concerned when there are major issues with attendance or effort. Still, I think this year’s emphasis on building relationships helped here.

For more posts related to these shifts and resolutions, read What I Learned from Students’ Narrative Writing, Using Technology to Enhance Student Voice and Audience, Failing Forward: Students Reflect on Almost Escaping #BreakoutEDU, When Students Self-Assess, or Starting the New School Year by Putting Relationships First.

Reassessing Resolutions

I know my classroom goals and have evaluated some of my success. Now, I need actionable plans to revise and achieve them. Instead of addressing every single past shift individually, I want to focus on three simple concepts:
  1. Reflection and feedback over grading
  2. Empower students in learning (student centered)
  3. Share with the world (and each other)

I now see PBL as a way to achieve these goals rather than an isolated shift. In #HackingPBL, Cooper and Murphy explain that they want to demystify the process while promoting high impact instruction and learning strategies. Those kinds of resources are exactly what I need. Moving forward, I want to include students more in the planning process so that we are creating projects and activities that are not designed for them but by them, embracing their voices, needs, interests, and ideas to meet our class’s standards and goals.

For my tenth graders, I want to use a portfolio system for the second semester. Students will track their growth, reflect on artifacts that demonstrate learning, and then make arguments for their grades. They will have that power but learn to use it wisely, which will involve a commitment to teaching students to provide meaningful feedback--something I know we can (and need to) work on.

Finally, I want to embrace the mini-lesson. I like to think that my students do way more talking than I do, but I’ll reevaluate that to make sure the focus is on them and their learning. Cooper and Murphy discuss mini-lessons, writing, “The concept of bite-sized does not mean you should just practice talking faster. Focus on the vital information students need to know to work more productively on their own . . . The key is giving them information they can use right away” (99). For me, this is a valuable takeaway to always make my own learning, as well as my teaching, actionable and specific.

Sometimes I think I’m my own worst critic. I could list dozens of ways I want to--and sometimes need to--grow and improve. I like the idea of a check-in on these goals and my progress every few months--I’ll let you and this blog help keep me honest.

Earlier this week, I asked you to share your classroom resolutions--please continue to do so. Now I’m also interested in your progress and growth in past resolutions along with your plans to achieve this year’s. Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

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