Mars Rover

I find the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity fascinating. As I was watching this video, I couldn’t help but wonder if we are teaching our students, all students, to become the complex problem solvers of future generations. Somehow, I don’t think a focus on standardized tests is going to cut it. How are you, the educators in your school or district, preparing students for complex problems such as landing a rover on Mars? What will the complex problems be of the future?

Engagement

I’m starting to think more about engagement and what we do best as teachers to engage our students in learning. Engagement is a slippery slope. What looks like engagement to me may be passive compliance to you. This distinction became much clearer to me as I attended two days of professional development in the new Pennsylvania Teacher Effectiveness model based on Danielson’s Framework for Teaching. As a part of the training we viewed several recorded lessons to provide us participants with practice in gathering evidence in the domains pertaining to classroom environment (Domain 2) and instruction (Domain 3). There were many interesting discussions around component 3C (engaging students in learning). I left thinking that teachers (including myself) have a limited repertoire of strategies that really invite all learners to engage with content. Hence, we have lots of instructional practice relying heavily on a passive lecture format. (Personal connection: this was revealed in survey data from my district’s teaching and learning initiative – TL2014. It’s an issue I’d really like to address.)

This morning I was preparing for a presentation later this month and decided to go to the bookshelf and pull off The Interactive Lecture. The ideas in the model of the interactive lecture are nothing more than strategies to engage learners when content is delivered through a teacher-led lecture or presentation.

I started thinking: While we want to see more project-based and challenge-based learning, many of our teachers are still grounded in the lecture (as evidenced by that survey data). Could the interactive lecture strategies be a way to meet teachers where they are, and increase student engagement while building a tool kit of engagement strategies? Lectures have been stigmatized. A lecture that effectively engages students is fine as long as it is used when appropriate to focus on content delivery. Using the lecture format all the time is still not a good practice.

What do you think about the interactive lecture? Is it effective in increasing student engagement during lectures? Are there other strategies you have used with teachers to increase students engagement in the lecture format, especially teachers that prefer the lecture format but may not be effective?

Building Relationships

This short video reminded me of the importance of building relationships at the start of a school year. This is particularly applicable to me as I start work in a new role. We can be so goal driven that we focus on getting the job done at the cost of building relationships. Building relationships at the start pays greater dividends in the end. We live in a society that is so goal driven and so focused on the items on the check list. It’s time to slow down and remember we are working with people – our adult colleagues and our children.