A friend recently got me thinking about articulating my beliefs regarding teaching & learning. While I may add and edit later, my quick jots are below. I find that I am driven by my beliefs. Hopefully, you share one or two of them yourself!
All students can learn at high levels.
The historical approach to school improvement is to build teacher capacity first, and then expect student performance to increase. This of course works, but only to a certain level. For all students to succeed, you must first be focused on student learning. To do that, we must be crystal clear on what students should learn and what that progression of learning looks like for each topic within a course.
Students Deserve Equal Educational Opportunities
The only way to accomplish this is to have a clearly defined curriculum. How would kindergarten be different if all students entering had the same high-level preparation? What about the other 12 grade levels?
In the absence of learning, teaching does not exist.
This is not to say that high-quality instruction didn’t take place. This only emphasizes that to teach is to change. Of course, students play an important role in the learning process, but that doesn’t mean that the teacher should ever shirk his/her responsibility to help students grow to their potential academically. If a student hasn’t learned, it just means that they have not learned yet. If a teacher hasn’t figured out how to reach that student, it just means they have not figured out how to do that yet.
Professional Learning Communities are vital to extremely high levels of student learning.
A system where teams of teachers focus on student learning based on a clearly defined learning progression, provides the impetus to discover new instructional avenues that meet the needs of the “not yet” proficient student. It also helps to provide an avenue to purposefully look at students who are ready to be enriched.
A grade should reflect student learning.
Traditional grading is at least a mildly ambiguous system. In most instances, the criteria for a grade varies from class to class. We all know that an A in one teacher’s class is not always equal to that same grade in another teacher’s class. I like reporting A-F, but to have a high degree of integrity, we must back our reporting with a strong correlation to our corporate vision of student learning.
Homework is an important part of learning.
My friends at CGMSC helped me to cement this belief. I believe that homework should only be assigned when teachers are confident that all students have enough knowledge to work on their own with limited support from the teacher. A good way to measure the quality of homework is to see a strong correlation between homework success and success on tests and quizzes. Oh, I absolutely hate work/homework that is designed to be “busy work”.