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In Depth: Moving Forward

Thursday, August 7, 2014 -- Scott Sterling

We spent the last month going through some of the hottest pedagogical trends taking hold in classrooms today: flipped learning, project-based learning, BYOD, and standards-based grading. The goal was to give you ideas on ways you can shake up your practice a little as we move into a new school year.

But if you have decided to implement one or more of these ideas, how do you go about actually moving forward? Let’s have a look.

Preschool week                                               

You want to spend preschool week as you normally would: setting up your room, organizing your information, and reconnecting with your colleagues. But devote a little time to writing a few new lesson plans (more on that later) and setting up sample gradebooks to reflect the changes in your approach.

Also, poll your colleagues and see if anyone has been using (or is interested in trying) the new system and pick their brain. As you go through the year, you’ll be moving slowly with your new toolbox. But the trial will fail if you don’t prepare the nuts-and-bolts beforehand.

The first couple of weeks of school

The first few weeks of school are critically important in terms of building relationships and introducing students to your ways of work, but they tend to be light in terms of actual content. That makes those weeks the perfect opportunity to practice the new style.

Design light, getting-to-know-you style lessons in your new way. That will give you and the students some practice before real content needs to be mastered. If there are some bumps in the road, you really haven’t affected your curriculum or pacing guide.

Moving forward

Although there might not be anything fundamental about the strategies you are implementing, it’s important not to forget the essentials of teaching as you move forward in this reformation.

First, formative assessment becomes more important than ever. Under your old ways of work, you developed a sense of where the students are and could run on autopilot. With the new methods, you’re flying a bit blind. Formative assessment needs to be ongoing and used to inform upcoming instruction.

Not only do you need to take the pulse of the learning in the room, but you also need to find out about the climate of the room more often. What do the students think of the new strategies? From their perspective, are there ways to improve? Although this might be your own personal project, you are working together with 25-150 young coworkers.

Finally, when things get tough, don’t abandon the new system. Struggles happen in every school year, and the ones you experience this year might not be related to your new system. Don’t assign an arbitrary time limit to the project (“If it’s not working well by the end of the semester, I’m going back…”). Revise, don’t revert. None of these ideas were one-size-fits-all. You will have to tailor them to your needs.