When I am discussing backwards planning and stressing that students cause student learning outcomes through the execution of student learning production behaviors, I reinforce that we need to assess if they know and have mastery of those behaviors. If not, we need to teach, model, and coach those behaviors on our way to mastery of content standards and other desired learning outcomes. As teachers are now digging into teaching new students, it is a good time for coaching conferences to explore the question, “Do students know the ‘what and how’ of the necessary learning productions behaviors?“
Dave Stuart provided reinforcement for teaching the ‘how to learn’ skills in his blog titled But Have You Taught Them How? he shared that the older students get, the easier it is for teachers to fall prey to assumptions about how to teach them.
- They’re in ninth grade — so surely I need not teach them to take notes, right?
- They’re in seventh grade — so surely I need not teach them how to greet a peer during Think-Pair-Share, right?
- They’re Juniors — so surely I need not teach them how to study for assessments, right?
I recall sharing an example in a workshop of a kindergarten teacher having students early in the year working in pairs on the floor, rolling a die, and practicing sight words on a worksheet. As we conferenced after the activity, she shared that less of her focus was on the sight words and more on learning to roll the die so that it didn’t go three groups over and cause an interruption or go under the cabinet and need to be fished out with a yardstick. When you observe her students, weeks later, being able to work without guidance as she instructs a small group, you realize she taught them the learning productions behaviors. A high school teacher in that workshop spoke up that he needed to consider that kindergarten teacher’s example. He identified that he jumped into teaching without history without examining with students how to learn history.
Another strong example is found in Jackie Acree Walsh’s work around teaching students how to use think time that teachers provide when they pause during questioning. She shares questions that students can be provided with as they learn to extend their thinking. For example:
- after the teacher poses a question and pauses, consider, What do I think the question is asking? and What connections can I make to what I think I know?
- after a student responds and the teacher pauses, they can consider, Do I want to change my response? Do I want to add other information/evidence?
- after a student responds, and the teacher pauses the rest of the class can consider, Why do I agree or disagree with the speaker? What questions do I have about what the responder said?
(See ASCD blog for more sample questions)
In a recent blog, Liza Garonzik described teaching students In-REAL-Time Notes. “Three times during a discussion, students stop for a self-facilitated ‘In-REAL-Time Notes’ break. Their job is to identify one idea that has been raised that has changed or challenged their thinking (might as well reinforce the idea that we engage in discussion to expand our minds – not cuddle in an echo chamber – while we were at it). Students write down their classmates’ names, summarize their idea, and explain how it ‘changed or challenged their thinking.’ They then have the option to re-open conversation using these notes as a jumping off point.” A great way for students to learn listening during discussion in a way that impacts their learning.
The question, “What learning production behaviors do students need to possess or learn?” might be a valuable addition to teachers’ PLC process. As they work backwards from a learning outcome to an assessment for mastery, to learning production behaviors, they should consider how to assess if the needed learning behaviors are in place and if not, how they can be developed. Then, teaching actions can be created.