Saturday, January 28, 2006

From the Archives

We have all completed the course where we had to do this assignment. I'm looking over old email archives and ran across this email from Al who was helping us think about what we had to do next. I don't think we captured it in the blog.

January 2005 email from Al

What we need to do for the assignment:

Identify a cohort of students in need of support.
Gather as much data as you can about them, and look carefully at this data in order to assess current outcomes. Data should include but not be limited to: results of standardized- and curriculum-based assessments, student work, and teacher observations. Data should be analyzed and broken down by sub-groups.
Determine what structures, decision rules, and mental models underlie the practices that lead to these outcomes. To do this, ask yourselves: If these were in fact the desired outcomes, what would you have to think and do in order for this to make sense? What would one have to believe, and what current practices are logical outgrowths of these beliefs?

Our brainstorm and thinking

What we would believe if we wanted the outcomes that we got

1. believe that time is not a factor in how they get credit (that it always can be made up, easily)
2. hope that they would learn a lesson by not getting credit (so we’d use those credits as a tool for “teaching them a lesson”)
3. think that we have little or nothing to do with them getting credit (that it’s all up to the student)
4. believe we ought to allow them to figure out how best to be successful (we would assume that their reason for not being at school was about them doing the right thing)
5. believe that we don’t have to work very hard at improving our teaching practice
6. believe that we should make them guess what’s in our heads
7. believe we should give up on really difficult kids
8. believe that a “presenting” interest is what’s going to get us to their passion

These are the practices that we engage in that reflect the above beliefs

ª Tell them “you are not going to earn credit” (belief #2)
ª Tell them “it’s easy to make up credit”(belief #1)
ª Allow them “incompletes” (belief #1)
ª We don’t keep track of “abandoned” projects or “failed” classes (belief #3)
ª don’t use the grids well to show incremental progress (belief #6)
ª don’t have a standard policy for looking at what “makes up” a credit (belief #6)
ª we do not as a cultural practice, keep student work as artifacts of their learning (belief #3)
ª we don’t (as an institutional practice) share common criteria for what meets expectations (belief #6)
ª tell them that time is not a factor in how they get credit (that it always can be made up, easily) (belief #1)
ª we don’t have systems that identify and assist kids that are failing (we leave it up to the parents and kids) (beliefs #2 & 3)
ª we teach to compliant kids and allow non compliant kids space to fail (and then believe that they are “learning a lesson”) (belief #7)
ª when the interest projects don’t pan out, we blame the kids. (belief #8)
ª do not engage with staff development (belief #5)

These are the beliefs and practices that we abandoned because we don’t think we believe or practice these things:

ª believe that ability is innate and finite
ª change everything so that it’s unfamiliar
ª not check in to let them know where they are on their journey
ª ask them to do stuff that has no meaning for them
ª not care if they didn’t get it
ª not pay attention to how they learn

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