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.

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