Friday, January 29, 2010

Blogging, Julie & Julia

This blog lives in the back of my mind as a nagging concern - I rarely update it, worry about writing something clever and wish I could use it more to promote thoughts on educational reform. I also have so many things I'm interested beyond organizational leadership like teaching & learning, evolution, skepticism, science, politics, comic books & television shows. I journal almost every day but there's not one consistent thread through all those writings.

Now I'm watching Julie & Julia - great movie. And, it's inspiring me to blog more regularly. Julie Powell blogged every day about her efforts to cook every recipe in Julia Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie weaves in memories and daily views into her life as she works on the recipes. Would love to develop a thread of my own.

On another note, Julie & Julia is a great story about following one's interest - both were amateurs who dived deeply into an interest and brought meaning to their lives. Great example of how education and learning could be.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Linda Darling Hammond Keynote

School Reform Initiative Winter Meeting at Cambridge, MA
Keynote: Linda Darling Hammond

"Nurturing schools cannot be about flowers peeking out of cracks in the concrete but needs to be a whole field of flowers."

The Path of Learning: Metaphors from the Trenches
(Demonstrating how learning is more like the path of a butterfly than like the flight of a bullet - real attempts at metaphor from young children)

  • He was as tall as a six foot three inch tree.
  • John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  • He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
  • Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
The Need for More Powerful Teaching
See Ferris Bueller clip of Ben Stein's teaching. It's the model of teaching in the head of the policy makers. Just know content and deliver it.

Effective Teachers
(do both / and not engagement in false either/or battles like skills vs. knowledge, basics vs. higher's all "both / and")
...engage students in active learning
...use a wide variety of teaching strategies
...assess student learning continuously
...create ambitious tasks
...provide clear standards, constant feedback and opportunities for revising work
...create and manage a collaborative classroom

"More new knowledge created in a 3 year period than in all previous years of history put together"

Many students come to classroom not accustomed to doing the work of school and beyond being motivated by extrinsic rewards. Therefore they need authentic tasks. But many also do not have skills to be initially successful on authentic tasks. So, the correct response is to provide safety, feedback and revision (rather than what critics say...."don't do authentic tasks until they have the skills" It's "both/and"). Linda recommends the work on formative assessment of Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black research in UK

What does an equitable teacher do? Consider these questions...
  • How do we see the child?
  • What tools do we use to learn about children's strengths, experiences, prior knowledge? (promising practice: home visits, positive calls home to parents)
  • What is our repertoire of practices for teaching a wide range of learners?
  • Can we plan and scaffold the curriculum?
  • How do we reinforce learning, sense of competence and attachment?
US Outcomes in International Perspective

Linda Darling Hammond focuses on achievement and equity in Finland, Korea and Singapore as success stories.

We have more percentage (22%) kids in poverty than any other industrialized country. Educational inequality exacerbates the effects of poverty.

What are high achieving nations doing?
  • Access to health care and preschool.
  • Equitable funding
  • Elimination of tracking
  • Investments in high-need schools and students
  • Lean curriculum focused on higher order skills, supported with technology.
  • Performance assessments to guide and gauge progress
  • Massive investments in teacher education and school level teacher support
  • Assessment systems are entirely local in response to very lean national curriculum.
(All covered in Linda Darling Hammond's latest book: The Flat World and Education)

Recommendations for Transformation
  • Focus on meaningful learning
  • Support for professional practice
  • School designs that support high quality learning
  • Equitable education funding
Expectations for learning are changing

Ability to communicate, work in teams, problem solve, manage oneself, analyze and conceptualize, create, innovate, criticize, engage in learning new things at all times.. (from Chris Worldlaw in Hong Kong).

NAEP test questions do not test any of the above.
Victoria, Australia has powerful performance assessments.
Singapore has only open ended questions.

Overall, Linda Darling Hammond was pleasant to listen to but mostly preaching to the choir in this setting. I'm not clear that we leave with anything actionable or have a new insight about what we need to do. I think she is on point with all the issues she addressed but it's not hard to find agreement at the level of generalities: need to be more equitable, more support for teachers, more challenging tasks for students.