Making My Thinking Visible…the MMM Goes Public!

So here goes…I am putting our Superior-Greenstone DSB Conditions for Learning into practice.  Moving the Monday Morning Memo (MMM), a communication tool that has been in place for the past six years, to an electronic format. Collectively the leadership team will reap the benefits; less clogging of our Inboxes and a format that can be easily revisited (so no more lost files!). Most importantly however, this is an opportunity to have the Thought of the Week become interactive…to have my thinking responded to and hopefully challenged, by others; thus allowing me to grow in my thinking (assessment for learning at its best).  This is modelling the learning that we know needs to define our education system at all levels of the organization. What conditions need to be in place for learning to occur? What conditions for learning will be met by the very nature of this interactive format?  Consider the success criteria for our SGDSB Conditions for Learning below (these were co-constructed by our Leadership Learning Team last year).

1.  Risk Taking:  I know I am taking risks when I engage in tasks with the desire/intention to further my learning, seeing errors as opportunities and taking initiative to investigate new topics and ideas.      Learning to use the blog is just the beginning of my risk; taking the risk of sharing my thinking is truly the result of working with an amazing group of people in a culture of learning.  This is the culture of our district, a culture where there is the free exchange of ideas, the recognition and acceptance of the fact that learners are all at different places in their journey, and the notion that our work is truly about research-based instructional strategies and approaches, targets for success and the measurement of impact on learners.  This assessment for learning approach is one whereby judgement is suspended (until absolutely necessary) and feedback according to the target is used to guide and scaffold learning. It is a powerful approach which results in the development of a culture of learning for all – with risk taking recognized as a critically important feature.

2.  Collaboration:  I know I am collaborating if I work interdependently, engage others, actively listen, constructively contribute, respectfully challenge ideas, and share knowledge to build on others’ thinking to arrive at a desired goal.  The MMM is shifting from a communication tool to a learning tool, whereby others will be asked and encouraged to construct thinking together. Blogging is social networking; thus its interactive nature where others share their thinking in response to a post ensures that it is collaborative.  I challenge my colleagues to help me to learn by reflecting on my Thought of the Week and posting a response!  Remember that we distinguish collaboration from cooperation…this isn’t about compliance.  It is about engagement in learning.  I wonder what Thought of the Week topics will result from our online collaboration?

3.  Relationship Building: I know I am building relationships if I engage in communication (active listening and responding) to build trust and respect and provide others with the opportunity to share and reflect.  Wow.  As I reflect on this criteria for success, I am aware that, to date, my listening has been done in real time.  This blog is giving me the opportunity to listen at all times; to “throw” my thinking out there, and to see what comes back (hopefully!!).  What a powerful way to learn and to ultimately, build relationships based upon mutual understanding.

4.  Responsive Instruction:  I know I am providing responsive instruction if I am collecting a continuum of data (to show progression) towards an identified goal and my responses are reflective of the learner’s strengths/needs.  This blog is one aspect of my Problem of Practice Theory of Action…more to come on this in the very near future!

This blog is about continuous growth and improvement; it is about ongoing learning.  I remember a quote, “Education is conversation. Conversation creates change” (Karl Fisch www.thefischbowl.blogspot.com). By ensuring that the conditions for learning are in place, I am hopeful that our team will actively engage in this learning dialogue.  Perhaps the impact will be felt in the classroom as leaders practice and apply some of what they learn when working with other learners who they influence…and then return to this environment to share that learning.

Until next week…thinking about making connections explicit!

16 responses

  1. I am very impressed! Once again you are walking the talk and in so doing modelling the qualities of an instructional leader!

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  2. What I am finding most beneficial is the work that has been done to link out strategic plan, board improvement plan, school learning and finally linking to our own learning. The four conditions for learning force us to examine current practice and push us in areas of deficit for the learner (regardless of who the learner is – student, teacher, administrator). It is also clear that there needs to be a common understanding of what these conditions mean and how to ensure they are clearly articulated and transparent for the learner. These co-constructed conditions allow for use to identify our strengths and to identify an area of focus to move our learners. The work that we have done to date is creating a web of supports- strength based ; positive school climate; open to learning stance; growth mind-set, grit. As we know that that we have this learning it will be about what we do with this information. I look forward to hearing what others are pursuing to enhance student achievement for their student!

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    1. I was wondering today how the conditions for learning success criteria might become enhanced as we put them into practice and continue to learn. I know that we need to revisit them regularly as we learn to apply them, as we engage in giving feedback and in self-assessment – just as we would do in the classroom environment with criteria. Will be very interesting to engage in a comparison by the end of the year – where we began and where we are now. I appreciate your comments about “what we will do with this information”; it is the truth – as Katz says, “learning is a permanent change in thinking and behaviour” (2011) – this change doesn’t come about unless we put the theory into practice, reflect and measure impact…it is this process that helps us to learn and to make permanent changes. I think that the more time we have to focus and practice, the deeper our learning will be!

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  3. Love, Love, Love it!! 😉 So excited to be able to see how the MMMs will now come alive. Also love how you linked you blogging to the conditions for learning. I think that so much of what we do is connected to the conditions for learning and the more we explicitly model those connections the more they will come alive as well. Hats off to you for beginning this journey, and I look forward to following it!

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  4. Our school learning has taken us to focus on -responsive instruction. So if you look at the success criteria for responsive instruction I am thinking that we need to look at the considerations in terms of the planning piece. In my initial reading of “How to design Questions and Tasks to assess student thinking” (Brookhart, 2014) is in relation to responsive instruction and assessment of higher order thinking. We haven’t really looked at what kind of instruction -higher order thinking. Part of this process is to dig deeper into what has been identified so that ultimately we are seeing improved student achievement. I love the definition the Brookhart (2014) uses from Alexander and her colleagues (2011): Higher -order thinking is the mental engagement with ideas, objects, and situations in an analogically, elaborative, inductive, deductive, and otherwise transformational manner that is indicative of an orientation toward knowing as a complex, effort full, generative, evidence-seeking and reflective enterprise(p53). She talks about the 2 big ideas – one that higher order thinking happens when students engage with what they know and how they transform it (p2) and big idea 2 is the conception of knowledge as an enterprise that is”complex, effort full, generative, evidence-seeking and reflective.”(p2) (Brookhart, 2014). So we will see what evolves as we look at the success criteria to show success in the learning goal(s).

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  5. Nicki! Congrats! You made the leap of faith and we will all be better off for it! You are modelling the very thing that we ask our students and our colleagues to do every day-take a risk! We have had many conversations about the personal risks in blogging, but not only will we benefit from your knowledge and experiences, but so will many others. Your learning community will grow and become diverse and this will enhance all of our practices as well. No one wants to learn in an echo chamber! You have certainly met that conditions of learning that we refer to in our practice, but I know that this new form of MMM is more than meeting the success criteria as outlined. You continue to lead and inspire, Nickie!

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  6. I really like the blog Nikki, it’s more personal, I can hear you thinking! and I want to be the first to say Nice Bike. As Heidi already stated I appreciate how everything is linked and how we can make connections between all of our work. I can see how our SIP will guide our learning this year and am looking forward to having some staff input in the plan this year as my teachers are now ready to support the work in it’s development.

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  7. Although all four conditions are vital; I will be focusing more “responsive instruction” because it fits nicely in with my Problem of Practice. To show the evidence of progression requires formative assessment to be at the fore front of all teaching in the classroom and directs discussions based on student need and the evidence the students give us.

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    1. Was thinking about your work last year and how you have narrowed your focus for this year. The new learning about formative assessment is vital to your work as it will lead you and your team into so a wealth of information about what “responsive instruction” truly looks like. I wonder if, after engaging in more learning, your focus within formative assessment might grow even narrower?

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  8. I have been concentrating on the conditions for learning and at our school council meeting last night I asked the school council members to collaborate on our school improvement plan. I explained our Board Vision and asked them to brain storm and come up with a learning goal / theory of action around parent engagement. They are thinking about an IF- Then statement that will tie into our family nights. A suggestion was made about hooking the parents with a game night or lunch gathering and then bring them into the classroom for some purposeful explanation about a key learning in the classroom and then return to the game activity for the final part of the evening. This is a full district support visit for our school and they will provide feedback to the team at this time.

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    1. The movement from parental “involvement” to parental “engagement” – and the manner in which you are shifting this thinking must be empowering for parents. I think about some of the recent work that defines parental engagement and the notion that when principals share their leadership with parents, engagement in schooling increases significantly, which then positively impacts student achievement. I know that your parents will continue to be involved in the activities that make your school a welcoming and inclusive environment (such as the whole school dinners and the fun nights), but the notion that they now have a voice in the School Learning Plan and will have a theory of action is incredibly powerful. I am excited to have conversations with your team when we visit in January! This is a powerful shift in leadership practice!

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    2. Angela, I think that this sounds brilliant! It really allows to parents to have an active role in framing the school experience that their children will have. I’ll be interested to hear how this develops.

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  9. After spending a lot of time in the Kindergarten room this week I have had a lot of reflection as a parent of a child starting JK as well as an administrator of two schools. I have a text to text connection with our conditions for learning and a very short article that I read recently. The below article weaves together how our conditions for learning can be met in an authentic and natural environment and that our earliest learners are more than capable and most likely great role models.

    How can we all keep the kindergarten spirit?

    by Amber Teamann • September 7, 2014 • 0 Comments
    Last week as I was walking through classrooms, I came across this kinder kid who was working feverishly on the carpet on a project. As I smiled and walked around the room, he waved me over and asked if I wanted to see his invention. “See this? I made it up, because I needed something that could go real fast. I didn’t have it, so I made it up. ” In addition to just being adorable, I was impressed with his creativity and that matter of fact attitude. It doesn’t occur to a kindergartener that you shouldn’t just make up what you need.
    Personality is encouraged. Scribbling is encouraged. Sharing is talked about daily.
    Expectations for all are high. The ability to have FUN while working each day is natural. Forgiveness is second nature. Independence is being forged each and every day.
    No one questions mistakes in kindergarten…they are expected, encouraged, and even enjoyed. There are new discoveries every day. The most basic of discoveries blow their mind.
    They’re not too cool for anything. They love their teachers. Teachers are hugged and called mom, more than once. Kinder teachers present life lessons as smoothly as they do math, all with the patience of Jobe.
    The natural chaos of “learning” is anticipated….and enjoyed.
    What if every classroom was like a kindergarten classrooms?

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    1. Recently I have been reminded of the saying. “everything I need to learn, I learned in Kindergarten”. Your post resonated – in math we are speaking about problem solving and perseverance, the notion of natural curiosity and wondering, the idea that we learn by “playing” and experiencing new things (I was just with the SNB math folks and we played with cubes – I learned a great deal about my spatial reasoning!). We have been speaking about experiential learning – the notion of learning being grounded in an experience, followed by reflection on the learning and application of to a new context – and of how Kindergarten, and some of our other classrooms, are truly grounded in this. An early years educator shared that inquiry learning in her classroom is most effective when the group shares a common experience – in essence levels the playing field for all – by building similar background knowledge. I agree Will – our conditions for learning are exemplified by the early years – by the educators who have been shifting their practice to embrace play based learning – and who understand that everyone learns by experimenting, by doing, by exploring, by “playing”!

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  10. I love the idea of the blog and the opportunity for all of us to be able to make our learning visible. As lifelong learners it’s important that we have a platform to explore and express our ideas with our colleagues. Having a forum where we can share and receive feedback is a cornerstone for effective distance learning. I am looking forward to be able to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience that our admin team has to offer.

    Everyone have a great week,

    Chris

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  11. Earlier this week I met with the board office staff to discuss the concept of building connections. As important it is to build a safe inclusive learning environment for our students I think that it equally important for the mental health and well being of our employees to feel a sense of belonging. A positive working environment lends itself well to fulfilling our core strategic priorities of student achievement and well-being, building relationships and positive stewardship of resources.

    It starts with Why. We have a very clear purpose “We inspire our students to succeed and make a difference”. If each and every employee understands “why” they come to work they will arrive with a mindset open to learning and motivated to do the work that needs to be done to put the “why” into action. It is our common purpose that creates that sense of belonging, forms relationships, builds trust and a willingness to collaborate, take risks and be more innovative in our thinking. It unites us as a district around a common set of beliefs.

    Your role as the leader in your school is not to come up with all the great ideas. Your role is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen. It is the teacher in the classroom, the secretary in the front office or the custodian, who are best qualified to find new ways of doing things…If staff are told to come to work and just do their job, that’s all they will do. If they are constantly reminded WHY we are here and told to always look for ways to bring that cause to life while performing their job, however, then they will do more than their job.

    Dave

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