Posted by: darcymullin | May 9, 2011

On the Road to Inquiry – Part 4


Over the last couple of months I have been telling the story of our school as we move toward the inquiry process.  If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 please do.

This post will explain where we are now and it is the final chapter of this journey.  I am moving to another school in September, so another journey begins.  I will be sad to leave such a great school and I am really proud of the work the teachers have done, but change is how we grow.

In part two I mentioned a couple of “tweaks” we were going to make to help students.  It turns out the term “tweaks” was a bit of an understatement.  They changes were not huge cultural shifts, but  the “tweaks” are having a profound impact on students.

Our big realization was that we could help students connect to the school the same way we can connect them to the curriculum – by using descriptive feedback as a scaffold.

The first “tweak” had to do with kids we feel are not connecting at school.  We realized that John Hattie’s work on descriptive feedback could help us help the kids understand their struggles.  Here’s what we did:

  1. We created a behaviour goal for each student that was/is struggling
  2. We then broke down the goal into specific criteria
  3. We informed the students and parents of the goal and criteria
  4. We all (parents, teachers and the student themselves) gave feedback based on the specific criteria

The results were astounding.  Once kids knew what they were working on, the criteria for success and we all worked together the kids were successful.  They easily made changes that allowed them to be more successful and connected to school.  The more I work with students, the more steadfast my belief that all kids want to succeed.  Some just do not have the tools at their immediate disposal.  Our job is to fill their tool-kits.

The second change we made was how we looked at our unit planning and ultimately our instruction.  I have to credit my good friend Tom Schimmer (@tomschimmer) for providing the guidance and template for our work.  We are just starting this new process and most people decided to start in Math. Teachers began breaking down the BC Learning Outcomes into kid friendly language.  The next step was to break them down further into the different types of targets (knowledge, reasoning, skill, product).  The outcome and targets are the basis of our descriptive feedback cycle.  Some samples of these documents.

Kindergarten Number Outcomes

Grade 2 Geometry

Grade 3 Fractions

Grade 4 Measurement

Grade 5 Measurement

These documents have become tools for our teachers and students.  So many people “suck at math”, but we are finding that’s just not true.  Our kids are realizing that they don’t suck at equivalent fractions, when it gets broken down for them they realize they get fractions, but they don’t understand multiples.  Once they know where they are “stuck” they can get the instruction they need.  Once they know where they are going and the route to get there, success almost always follows.

We are not using this methodology in all subject areas or even across the whole school, but in most classes our teachers are working and learning and building their own tool-kits.  They are seeing the value and are empowered by the results they are seeing.  I am so proud of the work and the efforts of the group.

I will be excited to see watch (from a distance) as this initiative goes to scale.   As always comments are always appreciated

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