myPDtoday Every day is a PD day Sat, 23 May 2020 01:31:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 myPDtoday 32 32 The Power of Pause Sat, 23 May 2020 01:16:13 +0000 This is a time to pause as the decisions that are made at this time will have a ripple effect on education, children & families for years to come. Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday

The dramatic pause is a hallmark of film, tv, stage, and radio drama. That moment when everyone knows that there is something extremely important going to happen. A main character must make a decision that often determines their fate or the fate of someone else.  

The Pause – One of my favourite pauses is in Star Wars when Luke, after defeating Darth Vader is faced with killing him, allowing his hate to control him or deciding to follow the light and follow the good. The pause. He stops. Looking down at his father. His gloved hand.Intense. Just writing about that moment I’m holding my breath. I know what he does and yet, that moment still can make me …pause.

The Educational Race – Education, it seems, is unaware of this need for a pause. In frantic, unending movement, there appears to be no time to pause. Summers, which use to be when there was time to pause between the frenzied activity of spring seeding and planting and the equally crazy fall harvest period, is now filled with unending summer conferences where, if you listen to the hype of all those who are promoting their books and banners, there is no time for teachers to pause if they are, in fact, dedicated to their students, their work, their life as teachers. School districts ‘encourage’ teachers to hone their skills and learn about the latest ’thing’, which seems to be whatever the publishers and educational promoters have decided needs to be next. EdTech companies use the summer to introduce new apps, extension, skills, levels, badges, and course teachers can add to their constantly growing litany of achievements. 

There is no time to pause. 

And when teachers DO take time, the guilt mongers are all over them – How could they NOT be working all the time? The success of the children depends on the unending servitude of always working. In fact, I would suggest that technology has, in many ways, made it harder for teachers to pause. Too many educational speakers, thinkers, and gurus are out there telling them that, to pause, is to lose time that is necessary for the success and future of their students. There is no time to rest. But in doing so, we are forgoing not only the time to pause but the time to reflect and ponder. To take time to imagine a different future. Lost is the time to reflect and question if all that is being done in the name of learning and education is really what is good for learning and education. Is what we are being sold worth the time we are giving up for our own time to ReNew, ReFocus and ReCharge. From what I have observed, what we lose is far greater than any small steps forward we gain. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about continual learning. My whole premise for what I do and for this blog is that learning can take place every day in so many ways. “Every day is a PD day” is something that I believe is essential. It is something, I believe, we need to rethink in education. Learning isn’t limited to certain days or activities but, in fact, is all around us in so many different ways. It can happen exactly when we need it because it is available. But, I also believe that people need to take time to pause. To rest. To not work. To not be involved and worried about what is next. Their mental health, physical health, and spiritual health require time away. It requires time for each person to ReNew, ReFocus, and ReCharge. This is essential for the success of all involved in education and in life. The ability to pause in order to reflect and grow is as important as being able to access professional/personal learning whenever one needs it.

 Education – It is Time to Pause Luke, at that moment, looks down at this hand, his father. He has a choice to make. 


He doesn’t rush around trying to figure out what to do or where he needs to go. He doesn’t go after the emperor. He doesn’t see if there is a conference being put on with a speaker who once was a Jedi but has now turned to deliver motivational speaking cloaked as professional learning. He doesn’t check to see what the gurus are saying about what he needs to do as a Jedi in order to be a better Jedi. 


He takes time to consider his decision. And in that moment, his fate is in the balance. I’m not sure the fate of education is in the balance. However, I would suggest that the frenzied rushing around isn’t helping with making a decision that is best for students, parents, teachers, and schools. There are more and more parents that are expressing frustration at this time as their entire worlds are turned upside down. 

I’ve seen a number of people post similar reactions. Even a number of teachers.

People continue to treat this as an educational crisis when in fact it is a medical crisis. This is a time to pause because the decisions that are made are not just about the next few months or the upcoming school year but will have a ripple effect on children and families for years to come. We are in a medical crisis which is causing all sorts of uncertainty. Let us focus first on this. 

The Never-Ending School Year – Education has become one never-ending year that doesn’t take time to pause. Even students are being required to ‘continue the learning’, we wouldn’t want the dreaded summer slide. One school year blurs into another until childhood is suddenly over. Right now we have an opportunity to pause. To take a moment to consider what will be. 

Will we take that moment and consider what is the next step? 

To resist the darkness, throw down our lightsabers and stand up. 

Or, will we miss this moment totally because we are too busy trying to do something to make it look like we are doing something because people who have been telling us we need to keep busy are telling us we need to do something and try something in a never-ending run-on sentence which has lost its meaning long ago.

I do hope, that in this moment, we decide to pause. To stand up. Throwdown our lightsabers and resist the darkness. We all know that, in fact, Luke’s decision didn’t just save him but also saved his father from the darkness. But it didn’t come without pain and a chance that his decision was wrong. It required he withstand the pain of making his decision but, because he didn’t rush forward but took time to pause, he eventually brought balance back to the universe. 

Luke understood the immense importance of his decision. 

Maybe it’s time to pause – to resist the temptation to rush forward – to take time to ReNew ReFocus ReCharge.

I do hope we are able to resist the educational urge to look busy constantly doing something. 


It just might be the best thing we do. 

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#saskedchat – April 18, 2019 Sat, 20 Apr 2019 23:37:21 +0000

This week’s #saskedchat was an opportunity for some free association with participants asked to respond to word or phrase in the format of When I Say…. You Say…..

This is the third #saskedchat in which we’ve used this format. Participants seem to like the option to be able to take the discussion in a number of different ways and it really allows for a broader spectrum of ideas to emerge. Although the chat was right before the Easter break for many of the teachers, there was still a good number of participants who joined in the exploration!

One of the great things about this type of format is that participants are given greater choice in how they respond since there isn’t a question but a series of words and phrases that they are asked to reflect on and respond. As you can see in the images below, there was a wide range of educational topics that were explored.

As moderator, one of the reasons I really enjoy this format is because of the wide range of responses that participants provide which then leads to some great explorations of the different responses. As a teacher, some of the best experiences I had was when I stepped back from leading the discussions and provided students the opportunities to explore their own ideas, nudging them along or giving them a slight suggestion to explore things from just a slightly different angle. During these discussions, participants do that for each other, sharing their ideas and thoughts and, in doing so, nudging others to look at things in a slightly different way.

I invite you to take a moment to check out the conversations and head over to wakelet to see the whole exploration that took place.

Check out the archive from the chat for more great ideas and insights!

The archive for this week’s #saskedchat is now available – a bit late but it’s ready! Thursday April 18, 2019 via @wakelet— Kelly Christopherson (@kellywchris) April 20, 2019

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#saskedchat April 11, 2019 Mon, 15 Apr 2019 03:35:03 +0000

Playing to Learn


It’s happens so naturally with children.

Well, usually.

Many of us have been at some appointment and watched as a parent has tried in desperation to keep their child from turning the chair/bench into some sort of object for play in the hope of keeping them quiet.

A rock. A stick. A feather. A discarded bag. Almost any item a child finds can be turned into an imaginary object. An open stretch of sidewalk or a bench becomes a new world or a favourite place. It doesn’t seem to matter what’s around, children can turn almost anything and anywhere into play. Imagination leads them off to discover and explore, invent and create. All without leaving the backyard or the appointment chair.

Although we understand more today about the importance of play and it’s effect on learning and development, unstructured play is still viewed by many as a recess activity, limited to Kindergarten classes and doesn’t really have a place in the classroom. So, as we often do during #saskedchat, we explored the Plahying to Learn and it’s importance for all students.

Playing to Learn

Our last #saskedchat was a great exploration of Playing to Learn! Suggested by @kfidelack, participants eagerly shared their thoughts and ideas about the importance of play for learning, not just for younger children but for all students.

Play can have a variety of different meanings depending on the situation and context. In schools, a great deal of the play in classrooms is structured, meaning that the teacher has outlined what is going to happen and what is involved. This type of play can include various types of games connected to learning activities using a variety of technologies, from such things like traditional BINGO and scavenger hunts to QR codes, Kahoots and Quizlets.

Gamification – the use of game design elements in creating learning experiences, continues to grow and develop in education as more teachers look for ways to engage students in learning through using different design elements in lessons and units.

Each of these different uses of play is structure play – guided by the teacher who has varying level of control. Play is part of the learning experience as planned by the teacher.

Unstructured play, play not guided by the teacher or adults and not usually related to a game with standardized rules, often takes place at recess or, in some early learning and kindergargen classrooms, a part of the learning day. During this time, students are provided with time to play with other students or by themselves. This type of play provides children the opportunity to create and imagine, to explore and innovate.

#saskedchat Exploration

During #saskedchat, participants explored the necessity for students at all grades levels to have time to play while learning. Many participants shared how they include different forms of structured and unstructured play, the benefits for students of including play, and different options for organizing play in the classroom. Participants had some great ideas about using play and how it affects student growth and development.

These are some of the participant comments.

Check out the archive from #saskedchat.

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#saskedchat -Dec 20th, 2018 Mon, 24 Dec 2018 21:33:55 +0000 This week #saskedchat had a special Holiday Edition. The chat focused on sharing, caring, giving and goodwill towards others. The participants shared some great ideas and insights as we explored the following questions during the chat:

As always, there was some great ideas and resources shared by participants. When it came to sharing resources participants felt were important, they had a wide variety of suggestions! From resources to read to centers to technology, participants shared their ideas. Below are just a few of the suggestions!

As educators, sharing a love of learning is one of the benefits of the job. Participants shared some of the different ways they share their love of learning. Those below demonstrate the different ways that educators go about sharing with other their love of learning. One theme that ran throughout the comments was the power of face-to-face discussions, whether outside of the school at conferences or in the school with other educators, students, and parents. I especially like how @FbellomoB focused on teachers sharing! Every day is a PD day! There is opportunity to learn each day and to share with others that love of learning!

Like the conversations mentioned above, those that take place during #saskedchat cover a wide variety of topics – often participants will stray off topic to have amazing side conversations which they still tag into the chat using the hashtag. The great thing about this is that you can see these conversations and learn from them and, if you want, join in and be part of them.

There are many more great ideas and suggestions in the archive of the chat. If you are interested, head over to the archive – December 20th, 2018. 

Our next #saskedchat will be on December 27th, 2018 at 8pm CST. @bickd will be our guest moderator exploring Curriculum Integration. It is the last chat of 2018 so come out and join in the discussion!

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#saskedchat December 6/18 Fri, 07 Dec 2018 19:36:00 +0000

The December 6th #saskedchat exploration was focused on Re-Imagining Education – where do we go from here? This topic was suggested by @lannysaretsky a teacher from Wadena and is very timely given the ongoing consultations that are taking place in the province of Saskatchewan. The ReImagine Education initiative is one that is focused on reshaping public education. 

Re-Imagine Education is a bold initiative asking us to challenge our views of what education looks like today and what it could look like in the future. This initiative will clarify the issues facing education today, imagine what the future might look like and plan how to make the vision a reality. Re-Imagine Education

The following video explores students ideas about Re-Imagining Education. 

During the chat, participants were asked to respond to the following questions as part of an exploration of Re-Imagining Education:

  • What would re-imagined education look like for students?
  • What would re-imagined education look like for parents? 
  • How might we re-imagine education for the community? 
  • What might re-imagined education look like for teachers? 
  • How might education be re-imagined to support reconciliation?
  • How might education be re-imagined to be more inclusive for all students?
  • How might education be re-imagined to support global connections for learning? 
  • TA – What is something you can do right now to begin to re-imagine education in your classroom/school/community?

There were many great ideas suggested by participants for each of the questions. What was great was that some of the participants were from outside of Saskatchewan and were sharing what had been going on in their schools or jurisdictions as they also work toward Re-Imagining Education. One of the great things about #saskedchat is the global perspective that often happens as people join the chat from all over the globe. It helps us to see that there are many other educators who are passionately exploring and trying innovative ways to address the needs of their students and community and who are willing to share with us in this journey.

You can check out the archive of the chat here . 

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#saskedchat November 29th Fri, 07 Dec 2018 02:44:47 +0000

On the November 29th edition of #saskedchat @bickd joined us as a guest moderator. Dawn has been a guest moderator a number of times and always does such an amazing job. She always has a great variety of questions that explore the topic of exploration in a variety of ways. This time was no different as Dawn led an exploration of Differentiation that explored the topic from a variety of perspectives. 

Another great thing having Dawn lead the discussions it that it allows me a bit more time to interact with the other participants and explore the questions from their perspectives. This doesn’t always happen when I’m moderating the chat so it’s a real treat when it does happen! I’ve included the archive of the discussion below. There are a number of great resources that were offered up by participants that are related to Differentiation and would be worth exploring. You can find the archive here 
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#saskedchat – November 15, 2018 Fri, 23 Nov 2018 23:01:57 +0000

This week #saskedchat did a bit of a stroll through the past as we explored some of the questions from past chats. Reaching back to 2015, we explored a variety of topics including classroom environment, assessment, technology, and teacher development. 

Participants shared resources, anecdotes, and responded to the questions by sharing from their experiences in the classroom and working with other teachers. It was interesting to reflect on how many different discussions have taken place since #saskedchat began 8 years ago and the breadth of topics that have been discussed. This came up a few times in the discussion, just how many different aspects of education have been explored during the chats and the variety of topics that have been covered. 

Check out the entirety of the chat below or go to the archive


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From the Back of the Classroom Thu, 24 Aug 2017 21:33:08 +0000 What’s your favourite place to work?

Where do you go to do deep work?

Is it different from where you do reading?

Where do you do most of your correcting?

Do you have that favourite chair where you love to read?

This is where, each morning, I spend time reading, free writing, and meditating. It’s my comfort space.

Screenshot 2017-08-24 13.53.06

But it’s not where I spend time doing research or deeper writing.

Flexible Seating

Screenshot 2017-08-24 13.21.16
I’m a big believer in flexible seating – providing students with different options for where they sit/stand when doing work during the day. I am noticing a stream of pictures and articles of classrooms focused on flexible seating. There are definitely some amazing looking classrooms with all kinds of seating arrangements and different options for sitting and working.

But is it all necessary? What are the key aspects that should be considered?

My wife, a Learning Resource Teacher, spends a great deal of time working with teachers helping them with implementing flexible seating in their classrooms among other things. Everything from standing desks to squishy seats. But, she is also very aware that this doesn’t work for all children.

As a parent, she knows that our 8 year old finds it difficult to concentrate in the classroom, especially with so many options. At times, according to his teacher, he is almost overwhelmed with the options. Although he likes the different options, flopping across a ball, bouncing on a squishy seat, he finds it very difficult to stay on task unless he’s at a more conventional seating arrangement. As parents, we’ve experienced this same situation with a couple of our children. Providing options can be a great thing but it can also become an overwhelming distraction.

As I discussed in my post Classroom Design – Not everyone likes learning at Starbucks about the importance of classroom design on learning, we need to be careful in decisions about classroom environment and ensure decisions are based on sound educational practices. As Eric Sheninger discusses in Research-Influenced Learning Spaces

We need to move away from classroom design that is “Pinterest pretty” and use research/design thinking to guide the work.” – Eric Sheninger and Tom Murray

Much like the ‘Ditch-the-teacher-desk’ that became a trend, flexible seating seems to be something that has become a topic of conversation.

The Teacher’s Desk

I know that there are great reasons for getting rid of the teacher’s desk. I got rid of mine years ago. But, I also learned that there were other considerations to keep in mind that, well, I didn’t consider before I made the move. I needed a working space in the classroom and had to make adjustments in order to manage this. When I was an administrator and a few teachers wanted to get rid of their desks, we met in each room to discuss the different ways to accommodate this while still providing options for the teacher to work. With 5 of us in the room, brainstorming ideas about the advantages and disadvantages was also a discussion about classroom design which eventually led to further classroom changes.

Barrett, Davies, Zang, and Barrett (2015) identified three dimensions, or design principles, to be considered in classroom design:

Naturalness: relates to the environmental parameters that are required for physical comfort. These are light, sound, temperature, air quality and ‘links to nature’. In particular there are specific requirements needed for children’s learning environments.

Individualisation: relates to how well the classroom meets the needs of a particular group of children. It is made up of Ownership, Flexibility and Connection parameters. Ownership is the first element and is a measure of both how identifiable and personalized the room is. Flexibility is a measure of how the room addresses the need of a particular age group and any changing pedagogy. Connection is a measure of how readily the pupils can connect to the rest of the school.
Stimulation (appropriate level of):has two parameters of Complexity and Colour. Colour is straightforward, but does encompass all the colour elements in the room. Complexity is a measure of how the different elements in the room combine to create a visually coherent and structured, or random and chaotic environment. It has been suggested that focused attention is crucially important for learning.

We all have different preferences for doing work and, usually, it depends on the work we are doing. When I’m doing research and writing, I like to work in a space that allows me to focus and is free from distractions and has natural light. My wife works at the kitchen table. Our 16-year-old likes to work in the living room in a chair or at his desk in his room, depending on the work he is doing and his mood. The 14-year-old likes the kitchen table as it allows him to be social while working. As for the 12-year-old, you can find him on the floor, lying on the couch, sprawled across a chair or sitting on his bed but he likes a quiet space. The 8-year-old will read to someone wherever but it usually involves a great deal of shifting and moving and probably a few side-bar conversations about something that catches his fancy. When our older daughter was in university, her favourite study place was the library (away from 4 energetic boys)!


  • From the back of your classroom:

    How do you view the learning environment (as a student or a teacher)? Is this view based on opportunities for learning?
    What was the main focus for how you designed the learning space?
    Where did you get your inspiration for the space?
    Did you consider Naturalness, Individualisation, & Stimulation in the design?
    Have you asked others about the design? What were the reactions (learning focused or other)?
    Have you considered safety and movement in your design? Can it accommodate all learners?


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Mastery Learning – A Craftperson’s Mindset Tue, 22 Aug 2017 12:00:57 +0000 Ever start out playing an instrument only to let it sit in the closet after a few weeks? Did it end up on eBay or varage sale?

Or how about a video game where you get to a particular level and just can’t seem to get past it so you quit?

Or that shot that you just can’t make?

What is the difference between those who get to a certain point, are ‘good’ and those who become masters of their craft?

According to Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, those who achieve mastery practice about 10,000 hours. Although this has been contested by some, there is still the general agreement that those who achieve in their field of choice put in more time than others.

But is all practice the same?

Deliberate Practice

Cal Newport in So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Why Skills Trump Passions in the Quest for Work You Love describes how developing the mindset of a craftsman requires a dedication to deliberate practice. In order to grow and develop, we need to seek feedback, implement that feedback, and continue with deliberate practice in a continuous loop. Using different examples of people from a variety of backgrounds and vocations, Newport explores how not all practice is the same and that to move beyond the ‘average’ requires deliberate practice. People who continually improve are those who seek input about their work from others. But this input isn’t just generic, “What do you think I could do better?” but specifically directed at specific aspects of their work. They then use the input to become better at what they are doing. These people seek are deliberate feedback about how they can improve, stretching themselves to do things just beyond their abilities. They are working to improve and then seeking yet more feedback.

Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practices demands….Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it “deliberate’, as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in. Geoff Colvin

Newport tells the story of Jordan Tice, a professional guitar player, who developed his craft through deliberate practice – trying new things and getting feedback. When Jordan first began he sought out the help of a teacher who would give him timely, specific feedback.

Not only did Jordan’s early practice require him to constantly stretch himself beyond what was comfortable, but it was also accompanied by instant feedback. The teacher was always there, Jordan explained, “to jump in and show me if I junked up a harmony.” Watching Jordan’s practice routine, these traits – strain and feedback – remain central. Cal Newport

Making Connections – Sensing Shifts

Last week George Couros asked about the idea of Master-Based Learning. In his tweet, he referenced an article from – Goodbye to Grades? Mastery-Based Learning is Becoming the New Standard. I encourage you to read through the article.
Mastery-Learning is a shift from a mark-based system of advancement and, instead, focuses on feedback and growth as the students progress along a continuum toward mastery.  Marks are still used but they are not the primary mode of communicating progress. Like developing a craft, feedback and improvement are an important part of the learning process. For students, portfolios become an integral part of the learning continuum as students are able to demonstrate their understanding of concepts through various modalities within their portfolios. Over time, their development and growth is part of this learning document as well as their own reflections about goals and ideas about improvement. Students use their skills and knowledge in a variety of areas, bridging the typical subject separation issues currently found in classrooms. Working towards mastery – setting goals, receiving feedback and stretching to improve – are critical attributes for students to develop. And just like Jordan, the feedback from a teacher is an integral component of improvement – always seeking to improve in some area – lifelong learning.

Currently, the main focus of reporting is on test scores and reporting grades to parents. This shouldn’t be surprising given the testing culture that exists at a global level. Countries across the globe are ranked in numerous ways by various groups with a myriad of results, often with a whole variety of interpretations. Sometimes cobbled into this discussion is the idea of teacher compensation and pay. Often lost in this discussion is the “learning” part.

Mastery Learning

Screenshot 2017-08-21 21.07.25

In the assessment class I teach at university, one of the topics we explore is an assessment plan which is an examination of the use of assessment in a particular unit of study. The reason for this is to help students see the importance of feedback for student learning and growth and the role feedback has as part of the assessment process. As in the case of Jordan’s teacher, it was the ability to “jump in” that was a critical part of the learning but being able to do that requires there is an end destination that is clear to both the teacher and the student.

Teachers often talk about providing feedback and Formative Assessment has become an important topic as part of classroom assessment practices. There is growing awareness that providing feedback to students throughout the learning process is vital to their growth and development. Helping students to view assessment as part of the learning process is also an integral part of having a Growth Mindset.

However, as Dr. Carol Dweck has discussed, Growth Mindset isn’t just about trying:

Growth mindset’s popularity was leading some educators to believe that it was simpler than it was, that it was only about putting forth effort or that a teacher could foster growth mindset merely by telling kids to try hard. A teacher might applaud a child for making an effort on a science test even if he’d failed it, for instance, believing that doing so would promote a growth mindset in that student regardless of the outcome. But such empty praise can exacerbate some of the very problems that growth mindset is intended to counter.

Having a Growth Mindset means students believe they have talents and abilities and the way to improve these are to challenge them, work hard to improve, stick with learning something even if it doesn’t come easy – that’s how development and growth occur.

Setbacks and feedback weren’t about your abilities, they were information you could use to help yourself learn – Carol Dweck

Often, teachers want to be able to go with teachable moments or take a path suggested by students or let students head out on their own path and ‘jump in’ when it’s needed but hesitate because of the focus on covering content and meeting curriculum outcomes. This often results in a prodding process of learning. Another result of content focus is the teacher designs a series of fun activities for students. Having fun while learning is important but, often, fun becomes the primary objective.

There is a third alternative. As Katie White points out, if we know where we are going, we should feel confident to be able to take side paths and allow students to explore.

Blending the desire for adventure with the need for clarity supports a softened edge. This is the same reason why knowing our learning goals empowers and reassures us at the same time. If we know where we will end up, it gives us much more freedom to meander and explore the landscape on the way. Katie White, Softening the Edges – Assessment Practices that Honor K-12 Teachers and Learners

In this way, students are provided the opportunity to explore and delve into areas of interest, receiving feedback from the teacher who can ‘jump in’ when necessary since there is a clear destination for learning.

Newport outlines 5 Habits of a craftsman’s, 3 of which I find to be very adaptable for schools and classrooms.

1. Define “Good”:

How clear are the goals for learning? Do students know where they are going? How will we know when we have achieved what we set out to do? What will it look like? Sound like? What will we be able to do? For each of the examples Newport provides in the book, each person was able to identify what it meant to be ‘good’. Part of doing an Assessment Plan is to do exactly this – identify what is ‘good’. What is the destination and how might it look? This is often something quickly glossed over during planning – “We’ll create a rubric. I’ll find a rubric. I’ll give them feedback.” But what is the goal? Yes creating a rubric is part of the process as is giving feedback. But, could Jordan’s teacher give feedback or “jump in” without knowing the goal?

For many of us, we often begin without a clear goal. “l will get in better shape. I will lose weight. I will quit smoking.” These seem clear enough. But how will I know when I have reached them? What type of feedback will I need to receive?
When I finally quit smoking after endless attempts, it was because I set a specific goal with specific steps that clearly outlined what I would do to replace the bad habit with a better habit and who I would seek out for support to help me achieve the goal. To this day, over two years since I stopped smoking, I still use journalling but it has evolved to become my Morning Pages for writing.

2. Stretch and Destroy:

Stretching is often uncomfortable. Anyone who has taken part in athletics has at one point been required to do some stretching, either to warm up before an activity or cool down afterward. When I stretch, there is usually a point during the stretch that is just a little uncomfortable where I hold without going further as this may cause injury. According to Newport, this is similar to deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice is often the opposite of enjoyable. Cal Newport

When we are learning something new, we are often uncomfortable. It can be frustrating and sometimes hard to continue on. This is what Dr. Dweck was describing as a growth mindset – seeing the frustration and setbacks as being an important part of the learning process. If we only do what is easy, it’s not helping us stretch ourselves.

The second part, Destroy, focuses on feedback that is deliberate and helps us to become better. The honest feedback sheds light on areas that need improvement. With Mastery Learning, students use this feedback to continue toward the learning goal. It’s an essential part of developing skills for life-long learning. Todd Henry, in his book Louder than Words – Harness the Power of your Authentic Voice, shares the story of Neil Peart, the drummer from Rush considered to be one of the greatest rock and roll drummers. When asked during a Rolling Stone interview why he continues to take lessons, Peart replied

“What is a master but a master student? And if that’s true, then there’s a responsibility on you to keep getting better and to explore avenues of your profession. I’ve been put in this position, and I certainly don’t underrate that. I get to be a professional drummer.” This mind-set of continuous growth is what keeps the masters at the top of their game.

Children, the ones who we should be untethering and provide feedback toward mastery learning, continue to be squeezed into a learning system that often lacks such opportunity and feedback.

3. Patience –

Steve Martin, when describing his learning to play the hammerclaw banjo :

if I stay with it, then one day I will have been playing for forty years, and anyone who sticks with something for forty years will be pretty good at it.

Patience, probably the most difficult aspect of developing a craftperson’s mindset.

Patience, the willingness to forgo immediate satisfaction in the pursuit of something better at a later date.
In a world of instant gratification, this isn’t always easy. Yet, it can be found all around us in the work of game creators, artists, musicians, athletes, and apprentices the world over.

Schools have a unique opportunity to help students develop patience as they work toward mastery. There is an opportunity to develop patience through a cycle of learning, feedback, retrying, feedback – working towards improvement and mastery.

Yet, this is often short-circuited. As A J Juliani discusses in Why Stickers, Pizza Parties, and Tickets Didn’t Work in My Classroom,

All rewards have the same effect. They dilute the pure joy that comes from success itself.

Too often, the focus on short-term gains often over-shadows the patience required reach mastery. Grades are often used to separate the haves from the have nots. Behaviour charts instantly tell everyone how they are doing and show everyone else how they compare leaving little time for the patience needed to develop mastery.

Mastery develops over time, cultivated through feedback and the opportunity to do things over again incorporating feedback. Often, we begin by mimicking the work of others and then, after developing confidence, move out onto our own. Great musicians begin by playing the songs of earlier great musicians and writers study the writing of great writers. Each learns the craft before eventually moving off to do their own works. However, in schools, this is often not the case.

As a child, one of the worst labels you could receive was to be called a copycat. The strange irony is that mimicking is the very mechanism by which each child learns to unique. Todd Henry

All too often, students are asked to move mastery without having the time to get the necessary feedback in order to develop and improve their work. Mastery takes time and requires patience. It often shows itself after periods of seemingly little progress and, like so many of the greatest artists and writers, after being able to mimic and master the work of others.

I Wonder…

1. What would happen if schools shifted their focus to mastery learning and developing a continuum?

2. How can portfolios be used to demonstrate the power of feedback and a learning continuum?

3. How planning and assessment can be used to help students to focus on the learning?

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this.

You can connect with me at @kwhobbes on Twitter, leave me a comment here, or email me at

Until next Tuesday, keep the wonder alive!

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From the Back of the Classroom Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:00:32 +0000 Ever consider what the classroom looks like from different perspectives?

As a student, I often sat at the back of the room. Not right at the back as that was sure to draw attention but next-to-the-back – no one really notices you there.

Except for math. In math class, I sat right at the front next to the teacher’s desk.
From grade 8 until grade 12.

Right. In. The. Front.

It was the best place to sit.

My teacher knew I needed the help. He gave me a safe place to ask questions so no one would really notice.
He knew I needed the help and placed me in a position to succeed. I didn’t always like it but it was what I needed.

Have You Sat at the Back of Your Room?

Screenshot 2017-08-03 13.50.54

As an administrator, I would often sit at the back of a classroom to watch what was happening. Sometimes, I’d purposely wait at the door just to watch. The teachers knew I wasn’t trying to ‘catch’ anyone, I was just observing. My observations usually began with what I had noticed from the back of the room.

As a teacher I often taught from the back and sides of the classroom, moving around the room. Part of the reason was I can’t stand still but the other part was I had spent a lot of time at the back of the classroom while in school and know that students like to have you support them. From the back, you can see things you don’t from the front. And, if you let the students lead the learning, you can see even more. I also purposely seated students who needed more assistance at the back – where I could help them AND see what was going on. Today, with the different technologies and the variety of strategies that are available, teachers don’t need to be at the front of the room.

From the Back of the Classroom

How much time do you spend at the front of the classroom? How could you shift that time?

What does your classroom look like from different places?

Do you have certain areas that are used more than others?

Ever thought of audio recording a lesson – then playing it back as you sit in different places in the room.

What would you hear? Whose voices would stand out? What happens as you switch where you sit?

How do you sound to students in different places in the room?

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