Friday, November 1, 2013

Does Charlotte Danielson's Framework Represent the Lexus Version of Teaching?

How To Start Earning Frequent Flyer Miles 

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               Seriously, how much attention are we giving the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching? More than once I have heard Level  4, or the "Distinguished" category, is a place you visit but no teacher lives there all the time. Okay, I get that. As I immersed my thinking in student-driven learning, authentic questioning by students, I puddle jumped over to student motivation and instructional models (effective teaching practices). Whew! Busy week for me.
My second question and the topic for this week, If Charlotte Danielson's framework represents the Lexus version of classroom teaching what can we do to move our teaching into Level 4--even part of the time?

               Almost randomly I selected components from each of the teaching domains so I might better understand the instructional goals. Let me share:

DOMAIN 1 - Planning and Preparation
  • Activities permit student choice
  • Learning experiences connect to other disciplines
  • A variety of appropriately challenging resources that are differentiated for the class
  • Lesson plans differentiate for individual student needs
DOMAIN 2 - The Classroom Environment
  • Students indicate through their questions and comments a desire to understand the content
  • Students assist their classmates in understanding the content
  • Students take initiative in improving the quality of their work
  • With minimal teacher prompting, students ensure that their time is used productively
DOMAIN 3 - Instruction
  • If asked, students are able to explain what they are learning and where it fits into the bigger context
  • Students suggest other strategies they might use in approaching a challenge
  • Lesson activities require high-level student thinking and metacognitive explanantions
  • Students have an opportunity for reflection and closure on the lesson to consolidate their understanding
  • Students initiate higher-order questions
DOMAIN 4 - Professional Responsibilities
  • Students contribute to and maintain records indicating completed and outstanding assignments
  • Students contribute to and maintain data files indicating their own progress in learning
               Wow! This really helped. Immediately the shade on my thinking was lifted and I realized the importance of creating student-centered learning environments (even as vacation get aways or time shares).
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                If we were to consider a more student-centered philosophy in our classrooms are we armed and ready for student-centered learning? Do we have models to follow? Do we have all the tools? In many cases, this was not how we were taught and we have no/limited role models. 
I DO-WE DO-YOU DO has been referred to as the optimal learning theory. I certainly did when I taught Effective Teaching for my education classes. It makes so much sense. When our lessons bite the dust we can place blame on a lack of scaffolding and think I should have modeled more, or maybe I put them into group independent situations way too early. All very legitimate reasoning and so neat and tidy. Pretty much our lessons march to this sequence:

Review --- Teach --- Model --- Practice

                If we are dreaming of vacations in "Distinguished" based upon Charlotte Danielson's Framework this model is simply not going to cut it. Orderly and manageable but lacking in passion and curiosity. Teachers are so busy frontloading and scaffolding we are not allowing our students to grapple with any ideas and concepts. In fact, grappling seems to be the antithesis of this teaching model. Let's switch models for a minute and take a peek at another ...the Inquiry model.

               Inquiry is defined as “a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge—seeking information by questioning. The process of inquiring begins with gathering information and data through applying the human senses—seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling.” Quoted from Thirteen Ed Online  If time, check this website out for a crash course. Very good.

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               I just finished reading Succeeding with Inquiry in Science and Math Classrooms (ASCD, 2013) by Jeff Marshall and also participated in a lesson he taught via a webinar this past Tuesday. His instructional model was guided inquiry.  It was not open inquiry because the beginning question(s) came from the teacher rather than the students. I will try to capture his lesson with as much detail and integrity as possible. Here is his instructional sequence:
Engage --- Explore --- Explain --- Extend

Engage- The goal for this phase is to spark students’ thinking and begins with a question. Students reflect and answer the question(s). In his webinar, Marshall displayed 20 photographs for students to classify and sort into one of three categories: as living, non-living, or not able to determine.  His book is filled with many math and science lessons. I noticed that many of these lessons used an  anticipation guide instead of pictures. For the anticipation guide, students would read a short series of questions about a particular concept or topic. Using their current understanding students would determine which questions were true and which were false.

Explore-  In this phase students "muck around" and grapple with their thinking. They explain and must be able to justify their thinking within small groups. During this time the teacher is closely monitoring the students measuring their background knowledge and misconceptions. In his book Marshall warns, “The goal is not for the students to come up with a complete or perfect list. Rather students need to use critical thinking to come up with a solid list that they can defend.”

Explain- During this next phase the small groups share out information to the whole group. Teacher guides and moderates. The teacher can then provide additional examples to check for understanding. As a further check for understanding, students would then provide a written explanation in their learning notebook to a particular prompt the teacher provides. In this case, the prompt was for students to explain why each characteristic is critical for an object to be considered "living". Notice this is not the blanket summary we often use, "Students, write down and explain what you learned."  The teacher is asking for much deeper processing and a more precise and detailed answer.

Extend- The final phase appears to be a check for understanding to see if students can take the information they have learned to apply and transfer it to something different. For this particular lesson, the students classified additional pictures using the criteria they developed. NOTE: The correctness of the actual answer was not as valued as the secret sauce: How were students able to defend their selections. 

               As a result of watching Jeff Marshall's lesson, I have been pondering all the different ways we might apply this sequence to our teaching, particularly Language Arts. This is where I will be spending my thinking time. I have new books to read and "who knows the places we'll go."

               In addition, I plan on plunging head first into Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts. The books are arriving in the mail. Saturday Morning Coffee is facilitating an online book study and I know many of us can hardly wait to begin this next week. In the meantime, check out my Pinterest boards: Anchor Charts, Close Reading, Teaching Inferences, Main Ideas and Details, Inquiry Learning, Project-Based Learning,  Text ComplexityResearch Projects  Charlotte Danielson, and Interactive Journals to name a few :)

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               Thinking just a little bit more about the Danielson Framework, I've adapted a quick guide to help keep your eyes focused on the target as you aim closer to that coveted "Distinguished" vacation spot. The perfect spot where learning is optimal and you create more powerful learning for your students. The chart was adapted from CoreStand.


             Be intentional with your lessons and student groupings—base on
             students' interests, strengths, and needs.

             Ask yourself who is the driving force in the classroom? You or your
             students—seek the latter.

             Use formative assessment as your GPS for instructional decision

             Create B-D-A time for students to reflect on their learning
             (Before-During-After) the lesson.

             Get those interactive journals out. Students' reasoning needs to be
             supported and cited with evidence from texts.
             Carpe Diem! Also, seize teachable moments and remain flexible.
             Reflect on your students' learning AND your daily teaching. Daily.


5 Keys To Student Engagement Article
How Far Should Student Centered Learning go? Article
Looking at the differences between project-based learning and inquiry
Edutopia's Project Based Learning Guide--everything you would want to know
Why Inquiry Learning is Worth the Trouble
Video clips of Inquiry lessons going on in the classroom

 “The future depends on what you do today.”
Mahatma Gandhi

As  always I hope you have found something to use or ponder. The fall colors are brilliant and the Razorbacks are playing in Fayetteville.  Life is good. Happy Saturday.

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  1. Hi Cathe,
    I really enjoyed this post. Lots to ponder here! We are learning about the new evaluation system this year and it has a lot of teachers and administrators freaked out. It can be overwhelming. Fortunately I have been teaching for awhile so I am on a "Focused Evaluation" meaning I only have to show evidence for one of the domains and not all of them. It is a very time consuming process for teachers who are already feeling slammed. Your post helps to simplify it a bit.

  2. Hi, I really appreciate your comments. Teacher evaluation plus many districts have just begun to implement CCSS at the same time is overwhelming isn't it. I know administrators are in the same position as teachers with this new system. Their plates are full as well. It will be interesting to see where all of this goes. I will always bet on teachers. They are the most resilient, hardest-working people on the planet. Thank you again for your comment and also inviting me to share a group board on Pinterest. Really appreciate it. Good Luck!! Cathe