Tag Archives: edreform

Be The Nudge

A student hands in a paper a week late, and the next few moments could define the rest of their life. The teacher turns to the student and says

Senario 1

“I knew you could do it! I’m proud of you for getting this done. I’ll get it back to you as soon as I can and we’ll look at revisions to make it even better. As you know, the next paper is due at the end of next week; how are you doing on that one? Let’s work together this week to make sure you can get that one done on time.”

Senario 2

“This was due a week ago, I can’t accept it now,” and turns back to their computer.

Senario 3

*rolls eyes* “You have quite the nerve to turn this in this late; I’ll accept this one, but no more. Why can’t you ever get anything in on time?”

Which of these situations is most likely to help the student move forward? In which case do you think they are most likely to turn in future papers on time?

I’m currently working with some students in a math course designed to help them be ready for the next course despite prior failings. I had a conversation with a student and his family yesterday where I was able to convince them that 1) I cared that they succeeded in the course, 2) that I want them to actually learn the material to be ready for the future, to ensure that more opportunities are opened for them as they progress in education and life, and 3) that I would support them in their progress. That student went on to complete two formative and two summative assessments within a few hours after that conversation, after completing only one during the rest of distance learning. They emailed me 10-15 times and watched a number of clarifying videos I sent.

This was a student who needed to be shown support.

Students not completing work is frustrating, and having stacks of makeup work can be seriously overwhelming; I have seen no evidence, however, that zero-tolerance late work policies actually help students improve. Instead of doing better next time they simply lose hope.

One of the primary functions of our job is to inspire hope.

It is my hope that this hard time of pandemic shows us all that the support we are willing to extend because of calamity should be extended each and every day; that we should be supporting students, not shaming them; that we as educators can be the nudge that pushes them forward rather than the scoff that holds them back.

How else can we be the nudge rather than the scoff?

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Innovation and Disruption in Everyday Education

Two nights ago I came across a tweet from Huntington Post Education;

I then modified and retweeted it;

What followed was an overwhelming number of retweets, favorites, and follows (at least for me, with a measly 600 some followers). Additionally, if you click on the link, you will see that HuffPo has since changed the title of the article to These 11 Leaders are Running Education But Have Never TaughtInteresting.

The vast majority of the RTs and interactions shared my sentiment, but one caught my eye;

And a conversation ensued;

Challenge Accepted.

As I started thinking about who and what I was going to highlight here, the tweets kept rolling in. This one really got me thinking.

The excerpt that really struck me;

Of course, even in Disrupting Class, the predictions of the ed-tech end-times were already oriented towards changing the business practices, not necessarily the pedagogy or the learning. [Emphasis mine]

I think that the ‘disruption’ really needed in education is to simply utilize methods of instruction and systems that have been demonstrated to be effective through research. In the end I don’t think we need to revolutionize the entire system, as we have pockets and individuals to serve as wonderful models. The real problem is how to scale from individuals doing great things to a great system as a whole.

As I highlight some of these innovations by everyday teachers, let’s start with the greatest disruption in my teaching, Modeling Instruction. Modeling is a highly researched, highly effective method for teaching Physics. Modeling came out of a great disruption; physics teacher David Hestenes wrote a basic concept inventory for his physics classes thinking they would rock it. Instead, they bombed it. Years of research then gave birth to Modeling. Frank Noschese, a ‘normal’ physics teacher in New York State, gave a great TEDx talk demonstrating how students “Learn Science by Doing Science” using Modeling. In fact, Frank was recently lauded by a non-educator for his work with modeling. Kelly O’Shea is closing in on 200,000 views on her blog where she posts guides to how to  implement MI, her modified MI materials, and other thoughts relating to physics education. She teaches at a private school in NYC. Both (and the many other modelers ‘disrupting’ traditional physics teaching) are ‘just’ teachers.

Standards Based Grading (SBG) is a movement in education more widespread than modeling instruction. The basis of SBG is to guide students towards mastery of topics rather than pushing them through an outdated factory model of learning.  Rick Wormeli and Robert Marzano are two academics leading the charge in SBG, though it has primarily succeeded as a grassroots movement of educators working in isolation. Frank and Kelly, mentioned above, are also teacher-leaders in this field. SBG has in fact even entered the higher-ed realm, with Andy Rundquist pioneering its use through non-standard assessments in his physics classes. In my district my wife was one of the first to implement SBG 5ish years ago as a result of her Masters thesis. Many others have followed suit, and, for certain in my case, the result is increased student learning.

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a movement where students learn by doing, with a flexible route to demonstrating learning in comparison to other methods of instruction. The most visible example of PBL I know of is Shawn Cornally’s BIG school, where he is attempting to scale PBL to make school more awesome, a worthy task. Project Lead the Way is an example being implemented in my district, a program where students learn engineering through PBL. Students interact regularly with engineers from Seagate, Toro, and other local firms, and produce plans and prototypes with their guidance. Two other teachers at my school pioneered the building of an Environmental Learning Center around “the idea that meaningful learning happens when students engage with the community around them, including the natural environment.”

Many teachers were Flipping the Classroom before Khan Academy popularized it, and many have similarly continued to innovate within the flipped structure. Ramsey Musallam in particular popularized a variation called Explore Flip Apply, which was developed because of research indicating that sparking students’ interest and thinking through inquiry before providing content delivery improves learning outcomes. A local colleague of mine, Andy Schwen, wrote a nice post describing his transition from a pure flip to the EFA model.

Twitter is utopia for individual educators uniting to improve learning, and perhaps the best example of this that I know of is a loose collection of math teachers known as the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere. They use the hashtag #MTBoS, interact regularly, and have fantastic conversations about student learning. What’s really amazing is that from this virtual community has sprouted a real one. Tweetups are a regular occurrence (I have participated in three), and for two years now they have organized a loose, edcamp-style workshop called Twitter Math Camp. Last year 100+ educators took part.

I’m fairly certain that I’ve missed numerous ‘disruptions’ and ‘innovations’ out there. So my challenge to you; fill the comments with examples. They can be specific instances (projects, lessons, whatever), or general cases. I am particularly interested in examples outside of the math and physics world in which I primarily live. Blow it up, my hope is that maybe someone important will notice and realize that educators are the voice that’s missing from the education reform table.