The last few days have been quite busy as staff and students get ready for the summer holidays. Now, as I indicated in my last post, I don’t find that I’m nearly as excited about them in the past few years as I once was. I find that I spend summer planning and thinking about how we can do things a bit differently, how we might engage a few more students and how staff and community can work together to more successfully. I’m happy, basically, with how this year has gone. We are moving forward with our work on the physical structure of the school and we’ve made some real good progress on our PLC’s – bringing our School Community Council within that structure to work on community/school initiatives.

Personally, I’m think that I have made some great strides as an administrator as I become more comfortable in my role. I’ve learned from my experiences these past few years and have gained insights into myself and being an administrator. I have done a tonne of work with technology – this blog being one of them – introducing my students to blogs, wikis, podcasts, video-taping and editing. I’ve worked with a variety of new software and am becoming much more comfortable using all sorts of tools in my daily work which make things easier to track and record. I’ve done some planning for the summer – remember if you are interested in joining other teachers for some planning and learning time during the summer – check out the teach20 wiki. This is growing each day and it looks like people are interested in making things happen.

I’ve made a commitment to record my reflections and ideas in a journal and I’m planning on spending the summer creating the habit of writing regularly and reflecting regularly. I hope that this will allow me even greater insights and help me to further develop my teaching and administrative skills. I know that, as part of my development plan, the superintendent and I will be going through this and discussing what I’ve noticed, what I have been successful in completing and where I need to dedicate more time. In doing this, I’m hoping to drive my PD as I seek ways to grow and improve, to learn and understand.

Now, as an adult learner, I find that I have a good grasp of how I learn and ways to help myself become better at what I am doing. However, like all learners, I also need a way to help keep me on track and to demonstrate what is happening in my learning. I’ve chosen a journal because I believe it is an effective way for me to gather thoughts and ideas as well as add ideas, links, books, snippets and other resources that I might be able to use as I go along.

What had me thinking about this whole thing was the marking I did earlier this week. I began to think about this whole idea of helping learners to demonstrate their learning. Myself,  I could be required to write a test about the books I’m reading or what I have gathered in the way of information. I could write a paper or even do a multi-media presentation that would show the progress of my learning. But to grade that learning seems almost counter to what it is I want to be doing and the growth that I am making. Even to use a rubric, although it would be better, doesn’t seem to fit. Really, in the end, it will be what I do, how I interact with other people, my growth as an individual and the understanding that I have developed that will really tell if I have actually learned anything. I mean, if I keep making the same mistakes when I deal with parents or students or I continue to have problems with budgeting, then something will have to be done no matter how well or poorly I did on the exam or paper or whatever. The outcomes will be obvious in the my daily actions. This is where we need to be moving in dealing with students. Moving in a direction away from the drill type testing and toward the reflective type discussions and goal-setting.

How do we report this type of learning? Can we? Can we create assessment that would give us an accurate reflection? Do we not have to allow students to put the ideas to a real situation and then reflect, find areas of strength, provide assistance and then continue forward? I’ve always like portfolios where students reflect on their own work. They’re honest about what they can do and cannot do. It’s hard to say I can …. if, when called to demonstrate or asked for examples, it isn’t there.

I mean, wouldn’t it be easier for someone to see that they need help if they were able to reflect on what it was they were doing in a meaningful manner? I know that this is not possible the system of grading we have at all levels of education and the demands for data. But as I go through the assignments and tests that the students in my classes have completed, wouldn’t there be much more impact if the students were reflecting and commenting on their own growth, discussing what they did and didn’t do and selecting objectives that they need to continue to develop or new ones that challenge their understanding right now. It would be even more powerful if this could be done in a collaborative manner with students from a variety of settings – discussing the strengths they have and the areas they need assistance.

As I read through the article that was posted on Durff”s site, I was intrigued at how the system might allow students the chance to reflect, with the assistance of a teacher, on their learning and then make critical decisions about where their learning needed to go. I’m not sold on the whole idea that they work all day on a computer and I think that this computer only type of learning will limit students in many areas. However, it does take us out of the paradigm we are in. Maybe that’s the point. As my grade 9 social class has discussed regarding paradigms in the Middle Ages, how did society move away from thinking the earth was at the center of the universe? A radical proposal. It is constantly being voiced that change is needed, that without change our students will continue to realize only a small portion of what they are capable of doing. Could it be that society needs a radical change and some stick-with-it-ness?

All I know is that as I was grading my students and thinking about what we were discussing and doing, learning to be self-monitoring and self-reflecting learners would be much more practical given the times in which we live. I know that  students will need to be monitored and guided and pushed – what teen really wants to self-analyse themselves out loud – they’re doing it internally all the time! They’re good at it – although sometimes a bit too influenced by media images!  We could provide them tools that, in the long run, would help them to look inwardly with less influence by media and more influence by other aspects of life. Right now, they’re doing quite a bit of memorizing and learning facts – which aren’t all bad but more emphasis, I believe, needs to be put on helping students to reflect on what they are saying, taking responsibility for their own learning and looking for answers to questions that dog them while still demonstrating a focus on common learning objectives and outcomes.

It could lead to year long learning – life long learning where we don’t measure school years by the number of months/weeks/days until next summer vacation.

It could happen!

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