E + V – C = Success

Improve

We all know that schools are very busy places. There are peaks and valleys (not many of these) throughout the year. Report card writing time is when teachers feel that pressure the most. This makes me think about mathematics. The things that we add and keep adding to what teachers already do. This results in tiredness and feeling uninspired to do what we are here to do well – teach. To be the best we can be we need to have the capacity to think clearly and have the energy to drive those ideas forward. We are so good at filling up our heads with ‘stuff’ therefore, have little space to invite creativity and diversity into our ideas to do things differently from before! At the moment I am finding that I am doing things that I have previously done, so that I can try and keep afloat. This is not good enough, but it helps me get through it. So how can we reverse and do the opposite? How can we look at ways of subtracting instead of adding?

Let’s play around with a formula I heard yesterday from visiting Professor Phil Abrami from Concordia University.

COST (What is the cost of what we are doing? Time, Resources)

Expectancy of Success (What do we expect as an outcome of our success?)

Value (What is the impact and value in the process and product of what we are doing?)

Capture

Then we need to divide (really check) that by how we ‘monitor‘ all those things that we are doing.

How do we monitor what we do? Do you do the eyeball test? Most teachers do this. Taking a moment to look around the room to check that students are interested. Are teachers/students engaged in what they are doing? Do I have their attention? So how can we use ‘Evidenced based practice’ as a way to measure that what we are doing or have done is worth it? How can we prove that the above formula is yielding the results (success) we are looking for in a way that subtracts instead of being an ‘add on?’ We have all heard those two words many times. Do we ever really stop and evaluate the things we implement or improve what we deem as not working? Most places I’ve worked in just do the same thing year in and year out, because this is what has always happened.

This formula is a new one to me. I am not sure how it works in practice and in the real world of teaching and learning. If it makes me think more consciously about subtracting the things that burden me and overload me, then I’ll take it. How can we lift the quality of teaching and learning by doing the things we should do and get away from the things we must do? Yes, I got the order right. The ‘must’ in this context are the things that are pushed down on teachers from those in Administration, who can sometimes have a myopic view, forgetting what it was like for them when they were teachers.

Does anyone use this formula or another one that works for them to rethink and prioritize?

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6 comments

  1. gcdisthinkingoutloud

    Sam, your post reflects the thinking I have on a regular basis. For example, each time I sit to write reports I ask myself, ‘Who am I writing these for and how is this improving student learning”. In this example, I spend a minimum of 50 hours writing reports each semester. During this period, my teaching suffers as I do not have the time or the energy to plan and facilitate teaching as I should be and as the student deserve. Parents then spend a few minutes reading a document that in many cases means very little to them.

    Hours spent writing reports – quality student learning time lost = I believe we can do it better.

    Lets consider an alternative: If teachers had a one hour meeting (maybe a bit excessive, but lets use one hour for this example) with each family (3 way conference style), this would equal 24 hours in total. This time could be spread out over a couple of weeks and would add up to less than half the time spent writing reports. Just imagine what could be achieved with each child and their parents during this time, the effect it could have on student learning.

    Hours spent conferencing with students and families + quality learning time increased = we have done it better

    Just one example of how we use time badly……..thinking out loud.

    • concentricthinking

      I totally agree with you! Instead of a report card we could video a student-led conference and analyze student work. Imagine that….. A student going to their new school and handing over a CD to spark a conversation about the type of learner they are. The MYP and DP needs to be more like the PYP. Report cards would be a great start to examine the high cost on teacher time and the price students pay as a result. Then we could start looking at other aspects in what we do. Planning meeting, professional development, so on and so forth. Would love to know a school bold enough to take a stand like this and educate parents in the process. I like your equation too, Glenn! Chad

  2. Rukiya Cochu (@rukiyacochu)

    Professor Phil Abrami’s (Concordia University) brief talk was indeed powerful in getting us to think about redirecting focus to strengthen what really matters; student learning! I met with parents yesterday to discuss assessments and reporting, and really, all they want to know is ‘how’s my child doing? What kind of support shall I offer to strengthen areas that need to develop?…’ Glenn, your idea of an hour a family (I don’t think it’s excessive at all!) to discuss the child’s learning is very neat. It naturally makes a lot of sense. Food for thought!
    Chad, can you imagine how much deeper the learning would be for us and our students if our school would settle for the class blogs as evidence of learning, and not needing to depend on reports?

    • concentricthinking

      Yes, dead right…. get back to what people really want to know. You nailed it – “How is my child doing?” Personal blogs is Evidence based learning. They can be accessed anywhere in the world. I know a lot of teachers who interview for a job they will show their class blogs, so that the perspective employer can get a better picture of who they are as a teacher. Why not, have that for students too? Much more powerful and authentic. Much more real world. Blogs are dated, can show who a learner is in many different ways and they are timeless. This tells a real story about a person, their idiosyncrasies (that a report card camouflages) and real developments that child has experienced.

  3. sherrattsam

    All of this depends on the purpose of reports, and the sources of the assessment data used. It seems we have two types of report: (1) the “narrative” in which teachers have the chance to share what they know about who the child is and (2) a series of skill evaluations using one form of grading or another. In many schools, including mine, we are going through a phase of confusion as we try to figure out which type of reporting we are doing. Editing the reports this year has revealed a wide variety of styles, from long, poetic descriptions of who the student is and will become, to brief statements of ability – all within the same report format!

    Personally, I love to tell parents all about their children from my perspective… and loathe handing over lists of grades. But, I could do that in a conversation – so, Glenn, your idea would do just fine (though 20-30 minutes would do me fine). Others, however, prefer to share lists of skill-based grades. But, a gradebook and reporting function could provide that very quickly and easily.

    So, the question remains. Why do we report and what information do we value in our schools? We tend to try and cover both areas and end up doing way too much input for very little output.

    Thanks for the formula, Chad! I will attempt, with my limited mathematical brain, to put it to good use!

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