Sunday, November 10, 2013

Constructive Classroom Conversations * Stanford

As I mentioned Friday, I'm taking a MOOC with teachers from my district. And it is MASSIVE...over 7,000 people I think.  Anyway, I'm trying to make headway into the next assignment before the school week gets started, and since Laurel commented on the lack of professional development in her district and how helpful it is to have bloggers share their experiences, I thought I'd start a post with info/my take-aways and understandings from this class.

Our first task, besides filling out our profile and making sure we were attached to a team, was to watch a series of videos, do some required reading, and then record a classroom conversation between students. When we entered it online, we had to provide the context information as well as score the conversation using a rubric the teachers of the class had us use.

After that, we had to go on to the course online and peer-review five of Assignment #1s from a variety of other people taking the class.  I got that done Friday night, and it was a pretty cool task. Interesting to see what teachers chose to use, how they scored the conversations, what the dynamics were, and how they reflected on what would make the conversation stronger.  

I'm having a hard time with the required readings today; my brain hurts...maybe it's the gray weather in Minneapolis right now, maybe it's the effect of daylight savings from a few weeks ago, maybe it's my allergies, or our three kids, one of which is crawling all over me right now trying to get the money on my desk from a snow blower we sold on Craig's List this morning....

Anyway, now as Thomas is using my hair as horse reigns (ouccccchhhhhh!) and saying, "Mommy! Money! Mommy! Money!" I am attempting to watch a video on classroom conversations as formative assessment. There is an interview with formative assessment Margaret Heritage, and here are my notes as I watch:

What is formative assessment: a way for teachers and students to figure out where students are in relation to the objectives of the learning, how are they doing DURING-learning, not just at the end. How is their learning developing while it's in the process of developing. Serves as a feedback loop to close the gap (see below) between where students are and where teachers want them to be.

How do students externalize thinking? Patrick Griffin--scholar Australia, students externalizing their thinking by what they say, do, think, and write. 

What role do teachers have in student conversations?  The observation of this becomes super important in gathering evidence of student thinking. Listen closely to what students are saying and how they are saying it. Structure our lessons so kids have the opportunity to engage in substantive conversations so we can gauge how they are learning.

What should we listen for when observing conversations?  Then we can also listen to the type of language kids are using to express their ideas. Are they turn-taking, are they listening attentively, can they build on ideas? Are they building those skills that enable them to learn from and with each other?

What is "the gap"? Royce Sadler used this term.  The gap between where the students are and where we want them to be over a short span of time with respect to both content and language. (akin to the zone of proximal development.)

How do formative assessments work in this gap? They work within the gap so you can work to close the gap with the kids and achieve the end goal. In terms of conversation skills, where are they at and where do I want them to be?

What do teachers who successfully implement formative assessment do? PLAN AHEAD!  Be planful and thoughtful about the language you use as a teacher and the language you want students to use in the classroom.

What do I need to ask an answer when preparing for student conversations? What conversation skills should my students focus on? What rich opportunities can I set up with the students' learning gap in mind? What might the development of these skills look like on the journey to getting them to where I want them to be? What are the steps along the way for students to learn what we are covering? What might I listen for to hear evidence of learning?

What decisions do I need to make during and after student conversations, particularly if these observations are on the fly? We are pretty good at observing and assessing student conversation, but sometimes it is troublesome to figure out what to do with the information we gather. Do we focus on the language they are using or on the content? On both? What conversation skills are relevant to the content and context of what we are doing? Where does the conversation fall in terms of the road map of their learning? Consider that all student conversations, planned or not, fall somewhere in context and aren't conversations in isolation.

What are the dimensions and purposes of feedback? Listening to conversations is a way to get feedback on language and content. Can use it to adjust instruction, intervene, give feedback to the student. 

How can students be involved in their own formative assessment? We want kids to be aware of their own learning; they are supported in becoming more metacognitive with feedback. "It's not formative assessment unless you have student involvement."  Self monitoring, understanding what the goals are, what the indicators of success will be, monitoring their learning, developing the skills so they know what to do if they get stuck on something, how to give and receive feedback. Students are much more engaged on reflection of their own learning. Students should always understand the goals and objectives of the conversation.

Here's a short interview with Margaret on You Tube, and her book is here. :)

Happy teaching!  Michelle

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