Steve explains how the process of planning backwards leads to student learning production behaviors and desired student outcomes.
View the accompanying video for this episode here.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the teacher edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with teachers in and out of their classroom settings. I have a great respect for the complexity of teaching and I know that all great teachers are continuous learners. I invite you to join me as I explore my thoughts and insights on a variety of topics, connected to teaching and learning. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 00:33 Planning for learning is the most critical element in effective teaching. The teacher needs to be able to identify the critical student learning production behaviors. What we mean by that is, what is it that students will do or experience that is most likely to generate our desired learning outcome. We can approach this with a backwards planning process. One that begins with identifying what those learner outcomes are that we wish to reach. They might be your standards, or it might be called goals. In some cases, this focus is on your academic desired outcomes. Those could be things like a student mastering long division or a student meeting the standards for a writing assessment that’s being done by the district or the state department. In addition, the learning outcomes can be some of those life skills that many districts and schools and teachers are focused on developing today. Things such as collaboration skills or time management skills or critical thinking skills. When I know the desired outcome that I’m working to achieve, and I’ve had the opportunity to assess my students’ readiness for learning those particular skills. I’m now ready to identify what the critical learning production behaviors are that will lead to a student success.
Steve: 02:33 It was athletic coaches and performing arts teachers that provided me the best support in understanding the statement, “students cause student achievement.” You see, I recognize that I can’t teach a student how to play the trumpet. I can teach the student how to learn. If the student doesn’t engage in the learning behaviors, then the outcome of a student being able to perform a piece of music isn’t going to happen. I can’t teach a student soccer skills. I can teach them how to learn soccer skills. And I believe the same is true whether we’re looking at mathematics or history or English. Teachers identify the learning production behaviors and engage students in the task that will cause the student to carry out those behaviors. And that’s what’s going to lead to the student’s achievement. I’m currently studying German on Duolingo and the app, Duolingo, provides me with the learning production behaviors.
Steve: 03:59 The app isn’t teaching me German, it’s providing me the activities, which if I engage in those learning tasks, that’s what will produce my learning outcome. Interesting – Duolingo does a pretty good job of motivating and encouraging me to keep going in those learning production behaviors. My favorite example is that what I get three or four wrong in a row, up comes a message that says, “making mistakes is a terrific way to learn.” It wants me to get re-engaged and keep going in those critical learning production behaviors. During the recent quarantine and students being at home, I began a podcast for parents that focused on parents seeing themselves as learning coaches. Too often, I thought parents were beginning to think they needed to be the teacher. And I suggest that the teacher was in place providing
the learning activity for the student. The parent’s role was not to teach the content. It was to keep the student engaged in that learning production behavior.
Steve: 05:18 Here are a couple of examples. If my desired outcome behavior was for students to develop a increased vocabulary, then on the right are my production behaviors. So if students spent time hearing their teacher use those new vocabulary words, if activities cause students to engage in conversations where they had to use that vocabulary, if students were reading material that had that new vocabulary in, and ultimately, if students were writing for purpose, where they had to use that vocabulary, it’s very likely that the increase in vocabulary would show up. So the increase in vocabulary is my desired outcome. My production behaviors are the things the students do prior to that increase in vocabulary showing up. Now, here’s an example that might be more along the lines of a life skill. If I wanted my students to develop a clear understanding of fixed and growth mindsets, that would be my outcome behavior.
Steve: 06:40 My production behaviors might have students researching and finding podcasts and videos about growth mindset and then working in collaborative groups to form a definition of growth and fixed mindset from the information that they had gathered. Then I’d asked students to go searching for articles that disagreed with schools focusing on growth mindset. You see, I think that that critical thinking that would occur in seeing similarities and differences in what they’re reading would be important. And then lastly, students interviewing adults about times that adults have had a growth mindset or had a fixed mindset, that application would be a next step. So all those things on the right, engaging the students, would lead to my outcome. So whether I’m working with students in my classroom or working with students virtually, I need to get that same set of learner production behaviors. And that often becomes our challenge.
Steve: 07:58 So my goal as a teacher is to have the greatest number of my students spending the greatest amount of their time engaged in the most appropriate learning production behaviors. So beginning with my desired learning outcome in mind, and assessing my students for their readiness to learn, do they have the skills necessary? Do they have the previous knowledge necessary to engage in learning this skill? Or do I need to provide some scaffolding to support the students in that learning process? Or do I have some students who are accelerated, who have already learned this skill or will learn it rather quickly? With that information in mind, I’m ready to identify which students should be engaged in which student learning production behaviors. Knowing the learning production behaviors, I now will begin to make choices of accomplishing those behaviors through a direct instruction model, engaging the students in some collaborative activity or creating an independent task.
Steve: 09:20 And now my options are, when can we be working in person with students to make that happen? When would we be approaching it hybrid, or when would we be in an online option? Some of those choices are going to be mandated by the situations I’m working in. At other times as a teacher, I actually can have all of those options available to me, which is why some teachers are discovering online options now that they were forced to begin to use to engage students in the necessary learning production behaviors that are highly effective. And upon returning to having students in classrooms, some teachers will keep some of those online options as the best way to engage students in the desired learning outcome behaviors. So knowing the student learning production behaviors that you need to generate will set the stage for your instructional designs and teaching decisions.
Steve [Outro]: 10:41 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.