In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve looks at shifting the focus away from what teachers are doing in the classroom and putting it on what the students are doing.
Watch the play and practice video here.
Read Steve’s Hybrid Rotation Learner Behaviors blog here.
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Steve [Intro] (00:14): Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley ponders out loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening,
Steve (00:41): Keeping our focus on student learning production behaviors. Those of you who have worked with me personally or read my blogs or follow my podcast for any length of time know that one of the biggest changes in my personal practice with educators happened about 20 years ago when I made the switch from having a focus on what teachers are doing in the classroom to what students are doing in the classroom. Early in my career, a lot of my work was in teacher training and coaching and during that work I would go into classrooms and watch what teachers did. I studied what the teacher was doing. I tried to figure out what the teacher should or could do differently and then share that information with the teacher that I was coaching. Today what I’m in a classroom, I pay a much smaller amount of attention to the teacher.
Steve (01:51): The reality is I almost don’t care what the teacher’s doing, if the students are doing what they need to do to cause the desired learning outcomes. If the students aren’t doing what they need to do, I don’t care that the teacher is following the district plan. Scrap the plan. The plan isn’t working with these kids and how do we know the plan isn’t working is because the students are not engaged in a behavior that’s going to produce the learning outcome. We have to make sure that teachers don’t hang their hat on doing the plan or working the instructional plan presented in the district curriculum. We need to know that student learning production behaviors are what will produce the learning outcomes. The Leander school district in Texas builds their district vision around seven student learning behaviors. As you listen to these behaviors, consider the subset of learning production behaviors that each of these requires and how this system would go about teaching the students the necessary learning production behaviors.
Steve (03:25): So here’s Leanders seven student learning behaviors. One, students articulate the learning target and find meaning in their learning. Two, students assess their progress towards achieving and the current learning objective. Three, students utilize classroom processes created for intervention and or for challenge for students understand and use a variety of learning strategies and tools to help them learn. Five, students are interacting and engaged in their learning. Six, students said clear learning goals and track their progress on those goals. Seven, students produce evidence of their learning aligned with the learning targets. While working with several schools where I’m preparing teachers to do peer observations in their colleague’s classrooms with a focus on student learning production behaviors, I was asked to provide a compelling why. A reason for the staff to understand as to why the system would invest in having teachers practice peer observations around student behaviors.
Steve (05:08): To that request, I wrote this, “the key to student learning of deep academic content as well as critical life skills is found in what students do and experience. Teachers can be the designers, encouragers and coaches of experiences that empower student learners. Studying student learner production behaviors and student work and performances drives continuous teacher learning. School leaders need to build strategies and capacities for the ongoing study of learning through observation and peer coaching.” That statement represents my backwards planning process. Beginning with highlighting the desired student learning outcome or outcomes that are being sought and then planning backwards to identify the student production behaviors and then the teacher actions. I searched for a long time to identify that label, “student learning production behaviors.” I knew that students produce learning, but when I asked teachers about critical student behaviors, I tended to get management behaviors, classroom management behaviors, not talking or texting. Doing the assignment, taking notes.
Steve (06:44): It’s not that those things aren’t important, but I needed to be able to explore what students did that caused the learning, which is much more than just appropriate classroom behavior. The performing arts instructors and sports coaches are helpful in explaining production behaviors. They’re very clear to them. They can’t teach a student to play a musical instrument. They can teach a student how to learn. If a student doesn’t do the work, the learning will not happen. I can’t teach you how to play lacrosse, but I can teach you how to learn. The student has to do the work. They have to engage in the learning production behaviors that will lead to learning the skills. This is an ongoing point that I think is critical to be stressed with students as well as with teachers and parents. I found a great video clip on YouTube – Stash by Fish. Learn how to practice and play part one.
Steve (08:01): I’ve linked it in the lead into to the, to this podcast. I would encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it. The instructor does a great job of explaining to the observer that he is not teaching you how to play the piece of music. He’s teaching you how to learn. And he illustrates by dissecting the process that he goes through to unlock and learn a piece of music. It might be a great clip to share with your staff to reinforce this element and I believe in some ways staff might want to share it with students to understand that my teacher is not teaching me the content. My teacher is teaching me how to learn the content. I believe a process for teachers to make this change is to switch the planning question that they ask themselves. Rather than thinking, how will I teach this?
Steve (09:11): A teacher wants to ponder, how can students best learn this? That approach should take us into deeper and more differentiated learning strategies. If students aren’t learning with the current task I’ve generated, how else might they learn? If students are at different entry points regarding previous learning and experiences, how do I select the most appropriate learning production behaviors for different students? A teacher might provide a writing prompt and after a few seconds, send some students off to begin writing. She might then working with the rest of the class, generate some questions about the topic that would spark ideas for responding to the prompt. And now she sends a few more students off to write independently. With the remaining students. The teacher might brainstorm a list of vocabulary that were pertinent to the topic and at this point have all but one of the students begin writing.
Steve (10:23): With that last student, the teacher may work one on one to get an opening sentence on the paper. In this process, the teacher is designing to have students practicing the most important learning production behaviors for them. I find too often that teachers recognize some students’ need for additional scaffolding, which means those students need a different learner production behavior. But the teacher often does the scaffolding activity with the entire class. And in doing that, the teacher is actually preventing some students from engaging in the most important learning production behaviors for them. Sometime back, I was working with a school system that had implemented what they called a “hybrid rotation learning model.” In this situation in most classrooms, teachers had three different activities going on simultaneously. Some students were involved in a direct instruction activity with the teacher. Some were working collaboratively on a activity or task that the teacher had provided.
Steve (11:42): And a third group was working on some kind of a independent task. As I observed the learners in their classrooms, I realized that students needed to change their student learning production behaviors each time that they moved from one station to the next. After some study, I prepared a blog where I look to at least get a starter list of what the learning production behaviors were for a generalized station. Knowing that the behaviors needed to be more specified to relate directly to the task that the teacher had at a particular center. As an example, here are some of the student learning production behaviors I listed for the direct instruction center. So these were what students should do when they were at the direct instruction station. One, focus on what the teacher is saying. Ask yourself what’s most important. Consider taking notes on those items. Two, continually volunteer to answer questions the teacher ask.
Steve (13:11): This gets you feedback that reinforces or corrects your understanding. Three, answer all the questions the instructor asked to yourself and compare your answer to ones that other students are given. Again, this gets you more feedback. Check your understanding with a question or a statement to the teacher as example you might ask, “is it important that the lines are even” or you might make a statement to the teacher, “so Congress can override the president’s veto?” When you don’t understand, ask the teacher a question that can guide you. “Where do I find that on the map?” If too confused to ask a question, tell the teacher that you’re not understanding. And lastly, complete all the practice examples that the teacher provides. When your answer is wrong, try again or seek help. Then ask, “what did I learn from the mistake that I made?” You can get the list of behaviors for the collaborative and independent stations by searching my blog hybrid rotation learner behaviors.
Steve (14:33): I’ll also have the link added to the lead into the podcast. I just found this comment on the hybrid rotation learner behaviors blog from John Netsler. “I really appreciate your articulating these needed learner behaviors within these categories of learning activities. After your virtual PD session to our school ISG Jubail in Saudi Arabia, you mentioned this blog post. I was motivated to take about five minutes prior to an independent learning activity to brainstorm with my 8 through 11th grade students what independent learning looks like and sounds like. With another group, I identified what collaborative learning looks like and sounds like. My plan is to make three simple large posters to hang up and refer to so that my students better understand what my expectations are during particular learning activities. Thank you very much for this. By teaching and reinforcing specifically what these expected learning behaviors ideally should be and should entail, I’m confident that the result will be improved learning and thus improved student achievement.
Steve (16:00): I found another great example of providing students the opportunity to learn the necessary learning production behaviors in an article posted by Aimée Skidmore who is a teacher at the Collège du Lémann school in Switzerland. Aimée wrote, I’d been struggling for a while with a group of grade 10 students to get full participation in class discussions. My colleagues told me that it’s just the nature of the beast and that it was normal for 15 to 16 year olds. Not satisfied with that answer, I thought that if I worked harder to make sure I had all the ingredients necessary for a good lesson or unit, I would meet with success. Aimée described that after finding engaging content for her students and sharing her own professional enthusiasm and excitement for that content and establishing a positive classroom climate, she still wasn’t getting the student engaged conversation that she desired.
Steve (17:21): In her search, Aimée found a strategy called ongoing conversations from Jeff Frieden. The strategy, which is a rather simple method, required students to move around the room, meeting in pairs and listening to their colleagues’ response to and recording a summary of their colleagues’ response. Aimée provided the students with the class roster and with questions that she had developed. She told them that they needed to speak with five different students with five different questions and record their colleagues thinking. Here’s Aimée’s response to working with the strategy. “What I observed was magic students were circulating, debating, chatting, and arguing about the facts of the case. Moreover, they were listening to each other actively listening because they knew that they had to record what was being discussed. They had a goal, something to do. I was able to formatively assess content just by walking around.” (I’ll provide Aimée’s LinkedIn contact below if you’d like to follow up and and read her whole piece.)
Steve (18:57): When I read it, I responded back that she had captured a great example of students needing clarity on what the student learning production behaviors are. Her activity moving students away from sitting in a group of four trying to have the conversation, to students standing one-on-one with a colleague providing the question and then giving the requirement of having to summarize the response that they got from their colleague had students practice active listening. This is an example where students gain those discussion skills which can then be built upon in other class discussion activities. I believe that the focus on student learning production behaviors requires us as instructional leaders to develop and coach teachers in what I would call a dual role. First, teachers need to be expert implementers of best practice. Teachers need to know what research identifies as the best practices, most likely to generate the necessary student production behaviors.
Steve (20:25): For example, how does feedback on student writing promote students’ actions that strengthen their writing performance? In addition, teachers need to be innovators of enhanced student learning. When best practices, best practice strategies are not impacting particular students, the teacher can create an approach that initiates the needed student learning production behaviors. For example, a student who isn’t engaged in rewriting using the feedback that the teacher provided, the teacher might generate for this student, an opportunity to publish the student’s opinion piece. That opportunity to publish can create motivation for student engagement that is needed in order to get the student practicing the critical student learning production behavior. As an administrator or instructional coach, what are you learning? What are you discovering as you observe students engaged in the learning process or not engaged in the learning process? How are you sharing your observations with teachers that motivates teachers in that dual role? One, to make sure that they’ve learned all that they can about best practice, but two, to become an experimenter, an innovator, to develop the strategies needed to engage each and every one of their learners in that appropriate student learning production behavior. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro] (22:25): 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.
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