Saturday, April 12, 2014

No, it's not a therapist, it's a "teacher-researcher"

"Can you let me in to what's going on? Into your thinking?"
No, this isn't a therapist talking; it's a "teacher-researcher." As the opening paragraphs of a recent article in Edweek (Teachers May Need to Deepen Assessment Practices for Common Core) explain:
For Olivia Lozano and Gabriela Cardenas, team teachers at the UCLA Lab School in Los Angeles, understanding what each of their students know and can do at any point in time is so integral to their practice that they call themselves "teacher researchers."
Over the 10 years they've worked together, the two have put formative assessment at the center of their instructional routines. Each day during workshop time, they pull students aside one-on-one or in small groups to ask open-ended questions about the lesson at hand and to gain insight into each 1st and 2nd graders' thinking.
And as one of these teacher-researchers tells us:
"I have a conferencing binder where I'm taking copious notes on each individual student. I analyze their work and see where they're at."
Known as formative assessment, this process potentially improves student learning, so long as:

1. It doesn't consume too much instructional time.
2. It is used *only* to inform and tailor instruction, and not to determine report card grades.

(As I've argued earlier, report cards should be based on what students can do on their own at the end of a given unit, not on their works-in-progress or their thought processes. Report cards should measure a student's degree of ultimate mastery of instructed material, not how they got there or vague things like the "depth" of their thinking, or how "critical" or "exploratory" of "creative" that thinking was.)

Transforming teachers into so-called "teacher-researchers" risks unwarranted intrusions into student's thought processes. Some intrusions--forcing students to share personal reflections that they might rather keep private--violate privacy and provoke anxiety. Other intrusions--making students who can do math automatically and nonverbally in their heads (which should be the ultimate goal!) fake their way through verbal "translations"--make things tedious, decelerate learning, and disadvantage kids with language delays.

The opening quote falls mostly into the latter category. Here's its context:
The common standards are asking students to do that and more. They are aimed at "building childrens' [sic] capacity to think, and analyze, and communicate, and reason," said Margaret Heritage, the assistant director for professional development at the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing at UCLA. "We need to know if [students are] grappling with complex ideas," said Heritage, who mentored Lozano and Cadenas. "Where are they? Is the idea beginning to consolidate? What do I need to do to go deeper and really help them get this?"
All of that may be tough to measure with quick-answer questions or exit slips. Instead, to get a full picture of student understanding, teachers need to ask open-ended questions and push students to explore ideas aloud, the UCLA educators say. "When [students are] solving problems mathematically, they say, 'I did it in my head,'" said Cardenas. "And you ask, 'Can you let me in to what's going on? Into your thinking?'" 
With the common standards, "classrooms will look different," said Heritage. "We'll need a lot more talking, more focus, more discourse, more depth."
Cardenas and Lozano spend conference time asking guiding questions and posing strategies to help lead students toward an answer—and to get them talking about their thinking. "You're developing their metacognition skills, helping them think about 'What kind of a learner am I? What's going to help me learn better?'," Lozano explained. "It helps to give them a voice."
...
[Nancy] Frey of San Diego State University tells teachers that, when listening closely to students, "The question you have to ask yourself is not whether the answer is correct or incorrect, but rather what is it likely that that student knows and doesn't know in this moment in time that would lead him to that response?"
...
Rather than asking multiple-choice questions or scanning quickly for right and wrong, teachers will need to be attuned to what students are saying during those discussion and debate sessions. "If you're walking around with a clipboard or notebook as kids are working through application, you're hearing, are they using mathematical thinking? Are they attending to precision? How well are they using the mathematical practices?" said Pecsi.
Notice how all of this is being justified by the supposedly pedagogically neutral Common Core Standards.

These Standards, apparently, justify thought-process intrusions not just by teachers, but also by peers:
Another technique for potentially deepening assessment practices—and complying with the new standards' focus on collaboration and communication—is to have students assess each other.
Amanda Pecsi, director of curriculum at the Washington, D.C.-based Center City Public Charter Schools, pointed out that one of the mathematical practices required by the common standards is to "construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others." She said this may lead to teachers using more peer review during their lessons.
...as well as a shift of responsibility from teachers to students:
"Ideally we want to be moving into a place where students are doing that heavy lifting and their formative assessment is how they evaluate someone else and how they talk about it."
..as well as a tremendous inefficiency in math instruction that risks leaving American students even further behind than they already are with respect to the developed world:
In light of the math common standards' emphasis on performance tasks and constructing arguments,... Pecsi said teachers will need to begin using more inquiry-based problem-solving. That might entail "20 minutes of students digging deep into one problem and debating," she said. "Ideally that could be an entire lesson eventually."
..as well as an expansion of the Educational Testing Industrial Complex, in which ever more money flows from impoverished school districts to the testing companies whose consultants comprised the majority of the authors of the Common Core State Standards:
Meanwhile, the two main common-core assessment groups—the aforementioned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium—are planning to support teachers with formative assessment.
Smarter Balanced is putting out a "digital library," which Chrys Mursky, the group's director of professional learning, emphasized is "not a test bank of items" but a group of digital resources aimed at helping teachers build their own formative assessments. The library will be available by the time the Smarter Balanced assessments are ready to use, but only for teachers in states that purchase the full suite of tests.
PARCC plans to have adaptive, online "non-summative" tests for students available to all teachers in PARCC states. However, Bob Bickerton, co-chair of the PARCC non-summative working group, said the consortium is still currently looking for a vendor for some of the formative tools, so those will not be available until the 2015-16 school year.
 ...all of it, of course, for the sake of those "teacher-researchers" and, ultimately, the guinea pigs populating their laboratories--um, classrooms.


3 comments:

Niels Henrik Abel said...

If these birdbrains were in charge of teaching children how to walk, they'd insist that as long as the child could not articulate the details of walking - balance, kinetic motion, physiological processes undergone by the muscles, and so on - and think "deeply" or "creatively" about all this, the child wouldn't truly be "walking," despite a demonstrated ability to move across the room on his own two feet under his own power.

Since the masterminds insist on "deep, creative" thinking and over-the-top explanations to basic ideas, let's turn the tables on them: deny them all driver's licenses until/unless they can explain the physics of driving and the mechanics of the internal combustion engine. By their own standard, if they can't do that, then they don't truly know how to drive.

Some of the dumbest people I've met are/were ed majors. This just provides more anecdotal evidence supporting that observation ~

Anonymous said...

These classrooms would have been torture for me, and for one of my kids. The other two would have put up with it (I think) but would not have learned much.

Auntie Ann said...

I am certain that the one-on-one, teacher-student time would be put to much better use if the teachers used it to go over the mistakes in the child's work and teaching them--or guiding them towards, if you prefer--the right way to do it. Actually tutoring, not prying.

--

As I've said in the past, the peer-review process relies on several facts not in evidence:

1) "Peers" are actual peers, and not unequals from different ends of the social hierarchy.

2) The "peers" are not in actuality bully and victim.

3) The "peers" both value their education equally, with the recipient of the advice ready to hear it, and the giver ready to give it.

4) That high-status, or arrogant, or self-obsessed "peers" are interested in hearing some no-nothing brat tell them what they should do to make their work better.

5) That the "peer" reviewer has at least an equal grasp of what the heck is supposed to be going on.

6) That the "peer" receiving the advice gives a crap about the assignment in the first place.