Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to provide professional learning for a team of my middle school mathematics educators. A few weeks prior, the planning began with a 4 item survey:
- What do you want to learn? (This is your opportunity to influence the agenda for the Middle School Math Academy.)
- How do you want to learn? (We will have a total of one and a half days together, what do you want it to look like? Think about the physical/virtual environment of the professional learning and what works for you.)
- Professional learning would be so much better if… (Have you had an outstanding experience? Consider the most beneficial professional learning in your career. What made it so great?)
- What are you proud of? (What is happening in your classroom or on your campus you wish others knew about?)
The responses were very beneficial in the design of the professional learning. The plan for the day was for the educators to explore content and examples of quality open source resources. The structure of the day supported our work with Understanding by Design (Stage 1: clarify standards, Stage 2: determine how the leaners will demonstrate understanding, and Stage 3: design learning experiences), and also aligned to our work with Professional Learning Communities in terms of collective inquiry and action research. The educators were charged with committing to implement experiences in their classrooms and to bring student work samples back to our December meeting.
We are charged with providing opportunities for our students to become self-regulated learners. We guide them to take control of their own learning by instilling certain habits of mind, including:
- thinking flexibly
- striving for greater accuracy and precision
- questioning and problem solving
- applying past knowledge to new situations
- thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
- accessing prior knowledge, transferring that knowledge
This description above (from the CISD Learning Framework) provides a challenge we choose to accept in our mathematics classrooms.
How do we do this in the mathematics classroom? What learning experiences do we design so that our students have opportunities to establish these habits of mind?
The best resource I can recommend for any work in building educator content knowledge of mathematics is Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally by Van de Walle, Karp, and Bay-Williams.
I had the opportunity to share the work of the TASA on iTunes U Project with members of the Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards at the TASA/TASB 2015 Convention yesterday. In addition to the history and future of the project, I wanted to share the vision of possibility – a possibility of inquiry-based, learner-centered classrooms powered by the content housed in the course resource collections on iTunes U. Once again (this work has been shared many times), the feedback from the administrators at the presentation was overwhelmingly positive. With many staying after to ask questions, seek more information and even request my contact information to connect their staff with me to begin implementation. What I am struggling with lately is why this resource is not utilized by more educators. If I believe this work represents what is right for kids, content that supports powerful teaching and learning, I cannot determine why it is not used to the extent expected. It’s free. It’s aligned to the standards. It’s written for teachers, by teachers.
The problem is not convincing educators or administrators – the content speaks for itself! The problem is not the price. The primary barrier keeping educators across the state from implementing transformative practices in their classrooms with their students is AWARENESS.
One thing I know: once educators choose to take a risk, transfer the power in their classrooms to their students, create an inquiry-based environment for learning, they do not go back to traditional teaching. In fact, speaking to educators using open source content that supports authentic problem solving, I am always amazed by their humbleness. It’s no big deal, I’m just doing what’s good for kids – why wouldn’t I do this? Why wouldn’t you do this????
Awareness. That’s it. Recognize the power of a changed classroom.