Responsive Instruction is one of Our Conditions for Learning that has received tremendous attention; it is evident in most of our School Learning Plans and is part of regular improvement conversations. As such, it is a Condition that many people are beginning to understand in a deeper way. Recall below, the success criteria for Responsive Instruction, as well as the Things to Consider:
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.
Things to Consider
- Learner’s basic needs are met
- Need to know the learner (educator)
- Clear Goals linked to the curriculum
Self – Assessment is embedded into learning/task
Multiple opportunities for feedback
Checking and Developing a Common Understanding
Multiple Entry Points
Gradual Release of Responsibility
Activation of prior learning
Different Opportunities using various learning styles
Challenges learners at different levels
Learner “see” themselves reflected in the learning
Seeing a purpose – meaningful, real-world connections
What is being learned is developmentally appropriate
Planning is foundation to an assessment for learning culture (need for content knowledge)
Learners need to be accepted at the level where they are at
Developmentally appropriate goals
Opportunities to share and reflect
We need to be careful that we aren’t distracted by the notion that “learner’s basic needs are being met (which is our first Thing to Consider); while we know that students need to have basic needs met in order to engage in any type of learning, I would argue that this isn’t what we are discussing in this Condition for Learning – we cannot forget that we are speaking about responsive instruction.
This week, I would like to suggest that we review this initial thinking in light of the work of Mary Cay Ricci (2013) from Chapter 3 in Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools. In this chapter, entitled “Why is a Differentiated, Responsive Classroom Important to A Growth Mindset Culture?” Ricci (2013) states, “The mindset of a teacher contributes greatly to his or her responsiveness to the needs of students. If an educator views a child through a deficit lens, then that child will not be given opportunities to grow unless she is in a responsive classroom” (pg. 31). She defines the deficit lens as that which is impacted by our deep rooted beliefs about intelligence and how it is developed or what factors impact its development. “I would argue that it is not possible to plan and facilitate an effective, differentiated, responsive classroom if an educator does not really possess the belief that intelligence can develop” (pg. 32). This statement supports our Board Learning Plan SMART goal around the continuous growth in our efficacy towards learning – that possessing and acting with a growth mindset is critical to the success of our students.
Note that Ricci uses the term “differentiated” alongside the term “responsive”. As I read this, I began to truly make the connection between several of our “things to consider” for responsive instruction (multiple entry points, scaffolding, different opportunities using various learning styles, challenges learners at different levels, learners need to be accepted at the level at which they are at …although I am not sure that I completely understand this consideration as all students can learn…) and Ricci’s statement that “Differentiation is responsive instruction…differentiation is the way a teacher responds to student’s need” (pg 32). As a district, the concept of differentiated instruction was looked at deeply at least 7 years ago which makes me wonder where we are in our understanding.
Recently an educator wondered out loud how they can possibly meet the needs of every learner in their classroom – it is feeling like a mountain to climb in terms of planning for each student! Sound familiar? Ricci suggests that this is possible with the use of responsive instruction structures including diagnostic assessments, accessing background knowledge and flexible groupings; each of which are contained within our Things to Consider. She also discusses the nature of formative assessment, curriculum compacting, management, and summative assessments. Contained in this chapter is a Teacher Checklist for Planning Differentiated, Responsive Instruction on page 54. As you can see from this brief description, much of this chapter connects to the work that many of you are engaged in…your copy of the book is currently waiting for you in my office!
This chapter taught me that we are on the right track to achieving a culture of responsive instruction with our focus on assessment for and as learning. As we continue to develop our understanding of how to promote and act with a growth mindset within our responsive instruction (tools, tasks, conversations, assessments, etc), a greater impact will be achieved – which will ensure that our students truly see learning as a process that they can be successful in. After reading this chapter, I am wondering about the following responsive instructional practices in terms of how I see them promoting a growth mindset in our learners:
- How we structure learning so that we engage in effective diagnostic assessments (after we have activated some background knowledge according to Ricci)?
- When does differentiation occur? (throughout the formative process as well as the summative)
- Do we optimize time and engagement in learning through the use of “anchor activities” – ongoing tasks that students can engage in to enrich their knowledge and understanding of the current topics being studied to allow the teacher to work with groups of students (pg.44)
- Is formative assessment seen as a “reflective tool for a teacher” (pg 47) that helps to determine their next instructional steps for small groups of students?
- Are all summative assessment grades based upon the mastery of learning that was tailored for the specific student?
What are your thoughts?
Until next week…