Monday, July 31, 2017

Portfolio: Leading in a Group: Courageous Conversations

I am taking the Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ. Our culminating task involves creating a leadership portfolio by choosing items from each module of the course to share and reflecting on its contribution to my growth as a leader. I have chosen to share my portfolio as part of my blog.

This entry is from the module entitled Leading in a Group where we looked at how adults learn, the importance of having difficult conversations to give people real feedback, mentorship (the NTIP program), considering cross-curricular lesson planning and coming up with staff meeting agenda.

In this assignment we were asked to collaborate to develop a dialogue around a courageous conversation. My partner and I chose to make a dialogue between a teacher (who had not made necessary changes to assessment practices and was still relying on quizzes and tests) and an instructional coach. Creating this dialogue forces us to think about ways to have a courageous conversation in a way that made the teacher's experience valuable while finding out what they needed so that we could gauge how to move forward. We tried to phrase things in a way that asked for the teacher's input instead of making assumptions about what they needed to move forward in their practice.

I chose this assignment for my portfolio because I believe that having difficult conversations - confronting uncomfortable things - is the skill that needs the greatest improvement. It is something I have often avoided throughout my life, but I am working on it and felt that this portion of the course helped me to reflect on it in a more concrete way.

Our readings/videos suggested these steps for having courageous conversations (for giving feedback to an employee in a business):
1. Prepare them
2. Get to the point
3. Link to business
4. Agree on action
and I felt that in starting this dialogue that we knew:
1. The teacher was prepared because of past conversations with department members/head and knew they were meeting with the instructional coach and why
2. To get to the point quickly
3. To relate the work to the teachers own goals and ideas and give choice
4. To come up with a plan for follow through

Here is the conversation we developed:

Issue or Problem:
Some possible ideas could include - despite multiple conversations a teacher is not making progress in terms of assessment practices (relying on quiz & test data and department/course team discussions have resulted in little change)

Roles: Teacher & Instructional Coach (dialogue is making the assumption that department head made connection between T and IC)


IC: Hi T, my name is IC, I don’t think we have formally met yet.
T: Hello. It is nice to meet you. We can work in here.

IC: So my understanding is that your department head has put us in touch. Can you tell me a little bit about what you would like to work on?

T: Well, department head seems to feel that I need to review how I give tests in my classes, I guess I’m not supposed to be giving so many tests. The problem is that I am never sure with other assignment types how I know they’re not just copying from each other or sharing the workload.

IC: Ok great, that’s a very helpful starting point. Maybe we can start by taking a look at your course outline so that you can walk me through your units of study and the assessments you’ve planned

T: Sure, well, you can see here that we have 6 units throughout the year and each has a mid point quiz and an end of unit test.  You can also see that the year end exam is the culminating task so it is worth 30% of the overall mark.

IC: OK, are you aware of what the course team is currently doing? Or are you on this course alone?

T: This semester I am the only teacher on this course.

IC: You mentioned that you are concerned about students copying. Is there a type of assessment you have in mind that you would like to try to work through?

T: Well I know that I should be doing some problem-based stuff.

IC: How do you feel about collecting triangulated data?
T: I am willing to try something new but am not really sure what you mean by triangulated data?

IC: Triangulated data means that you’re looking for 3 opportunities to assess student knowledge and understanding and that you’re gathering this data through three different lenses - products, observations and conversation. You are probably doing all of them already but not necessarily making use of them as evidence for individual students.

T: Can they be Assessment for and as learning as well as a summative Assessment of Learning?

IC: Absolutely. Providing students with a formative opportunity to work with the new knowledge allows them the opportunity to test their learning and also helps you to adjust your teaching plans to address areas in which students may be challenged. For example, if you were to use a problem based scenario such as a case study, you can give students the opportunity to work through a case study in class in small groups before they tackle a summative Assessment of Learning case study.  While they are working on the formative case study, you can observe and ask questions as they work through the case study and can jot down some observational notes on how they are using the concepts and skills from the unit. You might also use a quiz as a AoL check in before the AoL case study to check on their knowledge of the key concepts they will need to apply in the case study.

T: OK, so I would take observations of individual students so that I would know what  they know individually? How do you get to every student and how do you actually track the evidence you have seen?

IC: Great question. There is not necessarily one right answer, but I would recommend starting with a learning goal and developing success criteria. That way the students will know what you are looking for and you will have a manageable way to look at the work the students are doing. You could target specific students if you are unsure about getting through the whole class, but every student needs to get the opportunity for feedback. Would you like to try planning something like this?

T: Sure. I think I have some case studies from a colleague who taught this last semester. Do I have to give every group the same case study or can they get different ones?

IC: They can definitely be different ones - as long as you think that you can assess the same learning goal for each one.

T: Ok, that seems manageable.  I would still like to use a quiz to get some reliable individual data on each student too. Is that too much?

IC: If you think a quiz is important, you might like to consider is what is on the quiz that’s different from the formative group work but that they might need in order to complete the Assessment of Learning task.  If a student performs poorly on the quiz but then reviews and works to learn the concepts and is able to apply them successfully on the Assessment of Learning case study, you can acknowledge their progress on the AoL Case Study.  

T: So when I determine their overall grade for the unit, do I average the quiz and AoL case study?

IC: You will continue to use the practice of most recent and consistent. The great thing about triangulating your results is that you are able to acknowledge the student’s overall learning. For example, If a student misses the mark on one part of the AoL case study but you have evidence from your observations and quiz results that they do understand a particular concept, you can acknowledge that in terms of the overall mark.

T: So I need to decide on a learning goal and success criteria, identify some case studies that will allow for those expectations to be met and then will need some kind of tracking mechanism to record my observations/conversations.

IC: Sounds like a great start. I can share some sample tracking sheets with you if you like and would be happy to work through those steps with you - or if you would like to have some time to work individually and then to do some feedback via email I can make that work too.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Portfolio: Classroom Leadership: Top 10 List

I am taking the Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ. Our culminating task involves creating a leadership portfolio by choosing items from each module of the course to share and reflecting on its contribution to my growth as a leader. I have chosen to share my portfolio as part of my blog.

This entry is from the module entitled Classroom Leadership where we looked at how experiential learning/community connections, school climate (safe and accepting schools policy), being a technology leader, empowering students to become leaders and how teacher leadership begins in the classroom with lesson planning.

One of the assignments was to create a top 10 list of ways you can encourage students to take on leadership roles. I liked that this assignment forced me to think about leadership in a different way - how I can be a leader in my classroom and co-curriculars in a way that will empower others to develop leadership skills? This forced me to think more about how my decisions can impact things beyond curriculum content and put the context of myself as a leader back into the classroom (which is really where I envision myself staying for awhile - and it is instructional leadership that interests me the most).

When creating my list I tried to think about the things that I do every day in my classroom as well as ways that you can empower student leadership outside of the classroom. I also considered the article I had used when researching qualities/skills that made an effective leader and used that to make sure my list was relevant.

My top 10 list ended up as:

  1. Provide opportunities for collaboration and rotate roles in the group (promotes communication skills, commitment, and will help students to learn to take different approaches to tasks with different personalities)
  2. Use vertical non-permanent surfaces with a rule that the student with the idea cannot be the student with the marker (promotes communication skills, risk-taking, honesty, delegation and approach)
  3. Give senior students on sports teams a chance to plan and run practices (promotes delegation, communication confidence, commitment, positive attitude, creativity, intuition and inspiration)
  4. Empower student executives of clubs to run the club (be hands-off) (promotes honesty, delegation, communication, confidence, commitment, positive attitude, and creativity)
  5. Give feedback about student communication skills (promotes self-awareness)
  6. Explicitly teach students to reflect/self-assess (promotes honesty, confidence, intuition and commitment)
  7. Give opportunity to give peer feedback (promotes communication, honestly, positive attitude, intuition and approach)
  8. Give opportunities for social advocacy (promotes delegation, commitment, positive attitude, creativity, and inspiration)
  9. Create a culture of risk-taking in your classroom - growth mindset, model risk-taking (promotes honesty, confidence, positive attitude, and intuition)
  10. Celebrate successes to build confidence (promotes positive attitude and intuition)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Portfolio: Leading with a Plan: Are Leaders Born or Made?

I am taking the Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ. Our culminating task involves creating a leadership portfolio by choosing items from each module of the course to share and reflecting on its contribution to my growth as a leader. I have chosen to share my portfolio as part of my blog.

This entry is from the module entitled Leading with a Plan where we looked at the importance of planning, learning preference and multiple intelligences, how to use data to inform classroom practice, leadership development opportunities, and debating whether a leader is born or made.

The assignment that I felt was most beneficial to me was our debate on whether a leader is born or made. For this assignment we had to do some research and form an argument for one of the sides of the debate. This forced me to think about leadership in a different light by having me reflect on what kind of environment a person needs to become an effective leader. I realized that it was because other people recognized what they believed were "natural" leadership skills and gave me opportunities to use them. I have never been one to decide for myself that I wanted to pursue particular opportunities - but I have obviously taken advantage of ones that were given to me. I plan to continue with the philosophy that I should seek to make myself a more effective educator, and if long the way I find suggestions to pursue other things then I will consider them. I just want to be the best me I can be.

Here is the argument that I formed for leaders being made, not born:

According to Forbes’ Tanya Prive, there are 10 qualities that make a great leader: Honesty, delegation, communication, confidence, commitment, positive attitude, creativity, intuition, inspiration, and approach.

While you may argue that honesty and positive attitude are more innate qualities I believe that they are actually developed over time as you are raised through your experiences. If you grow up with honest, positive role models than you are likely to take on those characteristics.

The ability to delegate, communicate, be creative, rely on your intuition and to take different approaches with different people are definitely things that are learned over time. These are things that usually require intentional practice and awareness/reflection to improve. Some people may seem to be better natural communicators, but we can learn to be better at it by practicing. Others may naturally tend toward a controlling manner, but can learn to rely on others (and therefore delegate work) as they become better at reading situations/people and balancing their own life. Relying on intuition comes with experiencing a variety of situations throughout a persons personal and professional life and can be enhanced by focusing on observational skills.

Confidence can be developed over time by mentor leaders. This requires you to be given opportunities in situations with other leaders who can help you recognize your strengths and who will give you opportunities to practice leading.

Finally, the ability to inspire comes from thoughtful planning – who will help you? What will be the focus? How does the investment help them? – and using your energy productively. My sister is a head coach of a college sports team and also a team captain for team Canada. She will also be the first person to admit that she is an introvert. Personality tests reveal fascinating things about her natural tendencies compared to her beliefs – when she is coaching or with Team Canada she goes to bed exhausted every night because she has learned to be an effective leader. Leadership did not come naturally to her.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Portfolio: Theoretical Foundations: Standards & Ethics Plan

I am taking the Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ. Our culminating task involves creating a leadership portfolio by choosing items from each module of the course to share and reflecting on its contribution to my growth as a leader. I have chosen to share my portfolio as part of my blog.

This entry is from the module entitled Theoretical Foundations where we looked at the importance of a first impression, theories of leadership, the OCT standards, transformational leadership, and the Teacher Leadership and Learning Program.

I am including my plan for leading staff through professional learning around the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) Standards and Ethical Standards. I think the ideal audience for a plan like this would be an NTIP group (new teachers and their mentors) but could also be used for a school wide professional learning.

I feel that this assignment was the one that I benefited from the most because it forced me to think about how to make a seemingly dry topic into meaningful, relevant learning. These standards are what we agree to adhere to when we apply to be an Ontario Certified Teacher and the standards and ethics are the roots we should never forget as teachers.

I found that reviewing the standards and ethics also reminded me of Ontario's assessment policy document, Growing Success.

Here is the plan that I came up with:

Standards Plan (35 minutes)


(15 + 5 minutes)
Give an envelope with the 5 standards and their descriptions (separated). Groups have to pair the titles and descriptions. Clarify the standards for any groups that need it. Then groups choose from one of the following options:

“Most Important to Least Important” protocol – try to prioritize the 5 principles from  most to least important. Share your thinking and try to agree on the order. Is it possible to rank them?
“Name it, Explain it” protocol – give each principle a ONE word name explain why you think it is the best choice.
Groups work together to brainstorm ways that they use/show the standards in their daily practices (both in and out of the classroom).

(10 + 5 minutes)
Staff reflection (supply a graphic organizer for anyone who would like) to analyze personal practices as ways that they think they best exemplify each standard and one area of their practice they could work on to better exemplify each standard.
Staff anonymously share one best and one are of improvement via a padlet ( for whole group debrief.

Ethical Dilemma Plan (25 minutes)

(This plan could be used at the same professional learning session or at a future session)
Group (5 minutes)
Review the Ethical Standards via OCT website as a whole group.
Time to discuss points that are not clear.
Individual & Group

(5 + 5 + 10 minutes)
Case studies – give each group an ethical dilemma (dilemmas collected from known education stories) – 1 copy per person. Have staff use the “3-2-1” protocol (identify 3 things you think are key to the situation, 2 things you want more information about, and 1 suggested solution you have).

Present the following as a resource for ethical dilemmas:
1.      Refer to the Ethical Standards at to help determine which option fits within the standards
2.      Bounce ideas off of a colleague with reference to the Ethical Standards
3.      Consult your department head
4.      Discuss with your union Branch President
5.      Consult with your principal or vice-principal
Group discussion about solutions – can you agree on a solution? Which resources would you choose to use? Which would you skip? Why?

Links to Daily School Routines
The following will be released as a resource after the above activities are complete for staff reference.

Description and Links to Daily School Routines
Commitment to Students and Student Learning
Members are dedicated in their care and commitment to students. They treat students equitably and with respect and are sensitive to factors that influence individual student learning. Members facilitate the development of students as contributing citizens of Canadian society.
-        Differentiated learning and assessment practices
-        Recognition of the needs of different backgrounds (cultural, sexual orientation, etc)
-        Student supervision
-        Seating plans that attend to needs to students with IEPs or social needs
-        Teaching character and embedding relevant Canadian and world issues into lessons where possible
Professional Knowledge
Members strive to be current in their professional knowledge and recognize its relationship to practice. They understand and reflect on student development, learning theory, pedagogy, curriculum, ethics, educational research and related policies and legislation to inform professional judgment in practice.
-        Exploring new strategies, ideas and techniques (pedagogy, assessment practice, etc) through reading and/or professional networks
-        Use student data, research, Growing Success, and related board assessment policy documents to guide and support decisions
-        Reflect on personal practice when new ideas are presented
Professional Practice
Members apply professional knowledge and experience to promote student learning. They use appropriate pedagogy, assessment and evaluation, resources and technology in planning for and responding to the needs of individual students and learning communities. Members refine their professional practice through ongoing inquiry, dialogue and reflection.
-         Trying new strategies, ideas and techniques in the classroom
-         Using student assessment data to plan future use of new techniques and/or make adjustments
-         Using student assessment data to plan/reflect on lessons going forward
-         Collaborate with course teams, department and other professional networks to make decisions, develop curriculum, and reflect on practices
Leadership in Learning Communities
Members promote and participate in the creation of collaborative, safe and supportive learning communities. They recognize their shared responsibilities and their leadership roles in order to facilitate student success. Members maintain and uphold the principles of the ethical standards in these learning communities.
-         Arrange classrooms/learning environments to promote collaboration, safe spaces, and effective learning
-         Promote learning and learning skills as primary focus (not grades)
-         Be an example learner by sharing learning, trying new things, etc
-         Deprivatize practice by sharing with colleagues and/or online
Ongoing Professional Learning
Members recognize that a commitment to ongoing professional learning is integral to effective practice and to student learning. Professional practice and self-directed learning are informed by experience, research, collaboration and knowledge.
-        Participate in collaborative inquiries or do personal action research
-        Attend workshops, lunch and learn opportunities, courses etc
-        Read  blogs, books, tweets or other professional dialogues
-        Reflect on own practices to identify personal areas of learning