Further thoughts on my action plan

Detail from growing success.
Detail from growing success.

I have had many conversations about my action plan with teachers and administrators from my school and from other schools (former colleagues, friends, and participants I met at an AP conference a couple of weeks ago). Particularly interesting to me were the three group discussions I conducted during prep periods with colleagues fortunate enough to find themselves sharing a prep period with me. There were 6-8 participants in each of the meetings. We discussed the tools that different people are currently using and what they liked and didn’t like about the tools.

An important question which was raised in every group was regarding the purpose of this tracking. Of course it is necessary to consider the purpose as that can inform the choice of tools used.  The main purpose I am focused on is that of our professional obligations as per growing success. Thus, the evidence should be something that could be shown to an inspector. We also discussed other uses of having such evidence. Some teachers mentioned that they had been asked about the learning skills on report cards — of course we are all able to explain why we chose to give a student “good” or “needs improvement” with regard to Initiative, Responsibility etc (see attached Learning skills for ministry guidelines). Evidence of their child’s attendance at extra help or participation in discussions would further inform such a conversation. Also, as the ministry notes, marks should not be determined solely through a calculation of results on products, if we are to allow conversations and observations to inform final grades then some evidence could be required in justifying marks to students, parents, administration, and possibly universities. A further consideration involves students with accommodations and psych ed reports — tracking observations and conversations helps to demonstrate that we are serving these students’ needs and also provide useful feedback to parents and others involved in working with these students.

I tried to get an idea of what this kind of tracking looks like for different teachers and the following observations / conclusions informed my further investigations:

  • what worked very well for one teacher or one subject was not useful or desirable for another: this should not come as a surprise. Our subjects, our teaching styles, and our own learning preferences vary vastly. Trying to find one or two prescribed methods of tracking observations and conversations will lead to frustration and also reduce to validity of the results.
  • we are already doing a lot of this: it quickly became clear that everybody has been collecting some evidence of observations and conversations. When we got to talking, I think some teachers were surprised to realize how much evidence they already had.
  • we will not be able to track every observation and conversation: nor is it desirable to track every observation or conversation. One thing that came out of our inspection and something that parents always comment on at parent teacher conferences, is that we REALLY know our kids. If you talked to any member of our faculty about any one of their students, it would quickly become obvious that they pay close attention to that student’s work habits, understanding, and learning well beyond their performance on products. Teachers mentioned that on a duty day, they may have ten to fifteen meaningful “check-ins” with students, helping them to devise a plan to completing a large project or tackling a difficult concept. It is just not feasible to suggest that we would then diligently track each conversation. One or two of the conversations may lead to a follow-up email to the student, parent, and/or mentor but most will not.
  • it is not about tallying or evaluating observations and conversations: in a discussion around tracking attendance at extra help, we talked about seeking extra help as part of determination of the Initiative learning skill. Clearly there will be some students who have their questions answered in class and do not attend extra help sessions because they don’t need to. This is not a lack of initiative. We want to ensure that students understand that tracking observations and conversations isn’t about evaluating observations and conversations.
  • involving students in the tracking of observations and conversations could provide meaningful feedback on their own learning and could reduce the burden on the teacher

After all of these conversations, I decided to add the following considerations to my action plan:

  • I would focus on providing a wide variety of options for tracking thus allowing teachers to find those tools that fit their subject and style. I would also acknowledge, that they may try one thing and discover it is not working for them, at which point they should feel free to try something else.
  • I would explore how to track observations and conversations using programs and tools that we are already using for other purposes such as using discussion boards and journals in Blackboard and tracking extra help attendance using Outlook calendars.
  •  regarding programs and tools, not currently used by everyone, I would focus on free tools thus reducing the pressure to conform to a single product because of licensing fees.
  • Feedback from the Ministry regarding the validity or acceptability of proposed methods of tracking is important to the faculty.

The results of my action plan to follow. 🙂



2 thoughts on “Further thoughts on my action plan

  1. I really like how you’ve grounded this in both Growing Success and in what fits at your school. I like your conclusions, and think you are very much on the right track. One of the things that I’ve been trying to promote at my school is the use of things like understoodit.com or socrative – these have the ability to have results Emailed to teachers and then archived as evidence for later.

    I look forward to more on Saturday!

  2. Thank you for the comment Garth. I will certainly not be finished this journey by Saturday. 🙂 I have found all sorts of useful tools and am excited to continue exploring them over the next few months (and beyond). In August I will share this work with my staff in a formal way but until then, I will continue to talk to people and try new things. I have not had a look at Socrative yet. Thanks for the idea. 🙂

    I hope that by the end, the findings will be applicable to other CIS schools and other teachers in general. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *