Give yourself some Grace
As I mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, I think I am currently in the process of pushing myself away from more traditional methods to new pedagogies that promote deep learning. Being in COETAIL has definitely helped push me along the Continuum of New Pedagogies Effectiveness.
What I’ve come to realize through all the work and reflecting I’ve done throughout each course is that I need to give myself some grace. At times, I feel overwhelmed by the work I still need to do in order to make the shift towards deep learning. I want to redesign all of my units so they foster deep learning experiences, but this is not an easy task. Instead, I try to remind myself that this will happen over time. Right now, I can focus on one unit at a time. Eventually, I’ll get to where I want to be on the right side of the continuum.
Assessing Deep Learning
Because deep learning tasks move beyond the textbook, standardized tests don’t always work when assessing students. However, there are many authentic ways to assess students.
Chapter 5 of A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning gives examples of authentic assessments that allow students to demonstrate new knowledge in a more impactful, authentic way.
Examples of Authentic Assessments
-Student-created rubrics with sections for content knowledge that needs to mastered as well as areas that include the 6c’s such as creativity and collaboration.
-Teachers can use mini-assessments throughout the learning to see if the concepts are mastered, for example in math.
-Students can give oral presentations to teachers or a panel to demonstrate their learning (the panel can ask students questions to push their thinking)
-Public exhibitions to display student work
Ultimately, our goal as facilitators of learning is to get students to move beyond reproducing existing content knowledge to developing new knowledge, “through the integration of prior knowledge with ideas, information and concepts, into a wholly new product, concept, solution or content.” Furthermore, we want our students to go beyond creating new knowledge to doing something with it – to use that new knowledge to make an impact on the world.
This year our elementary school has a designated S.T.E.M. teacher (also a COETAIL Alumni) that works closely with the teachers to create learning opportunities that promote deep learning. During a recent Science unit on Earth’s Changes, students investigated the causes and effects of erosion and deposition. Then we were able to extend students’ learning by working with the S.T.E.M. teacher to create an opportunity for students to problem-solve some possible solutions.
Students used the Design Thinking process to investigate possible ways to reduce the destruction caused by landslides. The central region of Vietnam was hit particularly hard this year by heavy rain and tropical storms. These storms caused flooding, landslides, and death. We were able to make this investigation more realistic by having students research what had happened here in the country we are living in. Then students came up with possible solutions and tried them out using stream tables.
To take this unit all the way to the right of the continuum shown above, students would need to actually go out in the real world and try out their solutions. Perhaps, even meet with experts who plan for these types of natural disasters to share their ideas and to learn more. They could even fundraise to rebuild a home in a way that they have researched or tested that would sustain a substantial amount of rain. I think this is the piece I am currently missing in my practice; taking learning to the next level.
It’s a Process
When I think about the next level, doing real things in the world, it can honestly be a bit intimidating. I wonder when I will ever have time to plan for this type of teaching; especially being in a new grade level on a team of two. But then I remind myself that it doesn’t all need to happen at once. I can start off small with one unit at a time. Then I can build upon that. Perhaps next year, I can take the Science Unit I described above and add the next step of real-world application. It is important is to have a desire to change. Then to start taking small steps in the right direction. This describes my journey right now. The desire is there and I am taking small steps. I’ll keep going!