Learning and Teaching at Gilson College

Learning for living, Character for life, Hope for the Future

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‘Making Time for Feedback’ by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

More on formative assessment and feedback from ASCD’s September 2012 edition of Educational Leadership journal:

‘Feedback for Learning’

Douglas and Nancy write:

‘Teachers don’t need to mark every mistake a student makes. Here re some smart ways to save time and give great feedback.

Ask any teacher what he or she needs more of, and it’s a good bet that time will top the list. Anything that promises to recoup a little bit of our workday time is sure to be a best seller.

One overlooked time-saver is in how we use feedback. Teachers know that feedback is important for teaching and learning. Unfortunately, most secondary teachers have far too many students to make it realistic to provide individual, face-to-face feedback, so they rely on written feedback to do the heavy lifting. In an attempt to provide students with information about their performance regularly, they grade papers until the wee hours, writing carefully constructed comments in the margin.

Too often, this type of feedback transfers the responsibility for learning back to students, who have little understanding of what they need to do next…’ READ ON…

Two videos are also attached to the article:

1. EL editor-in-chief Marge Scherer’s interview with Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey.

2. Algebra teacher Ben Teichman from Health Sciences High in San Diego answers Nancy Frey‘s questions about feedback

Source: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Making-Time-for-Feedback.aspx#interview

Related articles:

‘Feedback for Learning: Seven Keys to Effective Feedback’, Grant Wiggins in Educational Leadership (gilsoncollegelandt.wordpress.com)
Seven Keys to Effective Feedback (annmic.wordpress.com)


‘Feedback for Learning: Seven Keys to Effective Feedback’, Grant Wiggins in Educational Leadership

From ASCD, Educational Leadership Journal: September 2012 | Volume 70 | Number 1  Feedback for Learning Pages 10-16

In his article ‘Feedback for Learning: Seven Keys to Effective Feedback’, Grant Wiggins writes:

‘…Advice, evaluation, grades—none of these provide the descriptive information that students need to reach their goals. What is true feedback—and how can it improve learning?

Who would dispute the idea that feedback is a good thing? Both common sense and research make it clear: Formative assessment, consisting of lots of feedback and opportunities to use that feedback, enhances performance and achievement.

Yet even John Hattie (2008), whose decades of research revealed that feedback was among the most powerful influences on achievement, acknowledges that he has “struggled to understand the concept” (p. 173). And many writings on the subject don’t even attempt to define the term. To improve formative assessment practices among both teachers and assessment designers, we need to look more closely at just what feedback is—and isn’t…’

What Is Feedback, Anyway?…’ Read on for the full article:

Educational Leadership: Feedback for Learning: Seven Keys to Effective Feedback

Then, on his blog ‘Granted, but…‘, Wiggins writes more on this subject and includes some tangible steps to providing and developing effective feedback, that  teachers might use with their students, as well as links for his final draft for the EL article and a PowerPoint, which provide fuller thinking on the topic. Find that ‘On Feedback’ blog post here.

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‘Ten Roles For Teacher Leaders’ by Cindy Harrison and Joellen Killion, ASCD

Every teacher is a leader – in their classroom and in their school.

This principles of teacher-leadership outlined in Cindy Harrison’s and Joellen Killon’s article published in Educational Leadership in September 2007, Volume 65, No 1, ‘Teachers as Leaders’ continue to hold true and are worth thoughtful consideration by every educator.

Cindy and Joellen write:

‘The ways teachers can lead are as varied as teachers themselves.

Teacher leaders assume a wide range of roles to support school and student success. Whether these roles are assigned formally or shared informally, they build the entire school’s capacity to improve. Because teachers can lead in a variety of ways, many teachers can serve as leaders among their peers.So what are some of the leadership options available to teachers? The following 10 roles are a sampling of the many ways teachers can contribute to their schools’ success…

Roles for All

Teachers exhibit leadership in multiple, sometimes overlapping, ways. Some leadership roles are formal with designated responsibilities. Other more informal roles emerge as teachers interact with their peers. The variety of roles ensures that teachers can find ways to lead that fit their talents and interests. Regardless of the roles they assume, teacher leaders shape the culture of their schools, improve student learning, and influence practice among their peers.’

The roles they outline are:

1. Resource Provider, 2. Instructional Specialist, 3. Curriculum Specialist, 4. Classroom Supporter, 5. Learning Facilitator, 6. Mentor, 7. School Leader, 8. Data Coach, 9. Catalyst for Change, 10. Learner

Read the full article and more about the roles here :

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‘The importance of leadership in high-performing schools’ – Curriculum Leadership Journal


The monthly edition of Education Services Australia’s electronic Curriculum Leadership Journal landed in my inbox today. The lead article is this thought provoking one: ‘The importance of leadership in high-performing schools’. The article was first published in  ISQ Briefings Volume 16 Number 6, July 2012.

We know from John Hattie‘s syntheses of meta-analyses related to student achievement, published in ‘Visible Learning’ 2008, that students bring to their learning 50% of that which has an impact on their achievement. Teacher have the next biggest impact on student achievement – 30% impact.

This article investigates some research about the impact of school leadership on student outcomes, suggesting that evidence indicates ‘…that school leadership has an impact on student outcomes second only to the influence of teachers in the classroom…’

As leaders in our schools, how do we stack up?

‘There is a growing body of evidence that school leadership has an impact on student outcomes second only to the influence of teachers in the classroom (Hattie, 2003; Leithwood et al, 2006; Tooley, 2009; Day et al, 2009; New Leaders for New Schools, 2009; Day et al, 2010; Barber et al, 2010).

A recent RAND Corporation report found that nearly 60% of a school’s impact on student achievement is attributable to leadership and teacher effectiveness, with principals accounting for 25% of a school’s total impact on achievement. Furthermore the report found that, while effective teachers have a profound effect on student outcomes, this effect soon fades when the student moves on to another teacher, unless the new teacher is equally effective (New Leaders for New Schools, 2009). In order for students to have high-quality learning every year, whole schools must be high functioning, and this means they must be led by effective principals (ibid)…’ Read on…



Teacher Appraisal and Professional Learning go hand-in-hand

56:365 working AITSL

I am following the blog ‘Thinking is Hard Work’. (The title of the blog appealed to me and  I have been interested to read the authors posts!)

The author is Colleen Sharen. She is a Management and Organizational Studies Professor at Brescia University College at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.

In the light of ASV’s journey towards implementation of teacher standards-based appraisal, (and for that matter leadership appraisal) measured against the AITSL National Teacher and Principal Professional Standards, Colleen’s  recent post ‘The Above Average Effect’ is an interesting one.

ASV is just beginning to trial its new appraisal process, which will be fully implemented in the coming years. This new direction is moving us away from a sometimes-used, tick-the-box, teacher-self-appraisal system that was usually ratified, or not, after an annual conversation with the principal.

The process being trialled now is a goals-and-evidence-based appraisal system where the principal, sometimes in conjunction with his or her leadership team, will use regular conversations with staff members to monitor and coach them as they progress towards achieving standards relevant to their experience level. Accordingly principals as well as most of our deputies and heads of school have received regular consultant-led professional learning in unpacking the standards and how to appraise using the standards.

Despite the new direction however, and because teachers will set personal goals and gather evidence of their achievement, standards-based appraisal still brings with it a measure of teacher self-assessment of, as well as reflection on, their own progress towards goal attainment.

Consequently, with some level of self-assessment being part of our process it is my opinion that (while Colleen writes about performance self-assessment and appraisal in industry) the principles and information from the studies she references about the ‘Above average effect’ will apply to some extent in our emerging context.

Colleen writes:

‘Performance evaluations and regular feedback are a part of corporate life.  They are designed with the assumption that if people receive feedback, that their performance will improve. But does performance improve? It depends.

‘People tend to evaluate themselves as above average. Consistently researchers have found across professions, tasks, skills, industries, that we rank ourselves as better than average, creating what is sometimes called the Lake Wobegon effect, where everyone is above average. Of course, this isn’t mathematically possible. But is this tendency to rate oneself more highly than our peers consistent across all people?…

‘…The research shows that people who are least competent, that is those in the bottom 25% in a particular task or skill, are most likely to over-rate their skills…

‘…So how can you improve people’s understanding of their own ability? Paradoxically, you do this by making them more competent…

‘…The good news is that with training, which leads to improved competence, most people can more accurately self-assess their performance.  And of course, you get the benefit of improved competence…The solution isn’t feedback. The solution is developing competence…’  Read full post.

Further, the main implication for ASV education that I took away from my reading of Colleen’s post is that while appraisal (for us, against professional standards) is welcome and very necessary, we must be sure we continue to assist our teachers to develop competence and excellence by providing them with quality professional learning.

How are we doing so far? Those in our schools company realise already that our schools leaders have, over a number of years now, been refining their programs and processes for developing whole-school professional learning that engages their teachers in development around at least one data-identified school goal – often more. The level to which teachers have implemented this professional learning in their classroom practice has been a matter for each individual school to gauge. Most schools have used student achievement data and some, classroom observation.

To assist with this professional learning direction, the appraisal process expects teachers to review relevant teacher standards and include a whole-school goal in their individual teacher appraisal plan along with two personal goals for improvement. As well they are now expected to gather and provide evidence of achievement of their goals and their progress towards meeting the related professional standards. From this data, principals and leadership team members should be able to more easily see whether teachers are developing competence, moving towards excellence, and achieving implementation of initiatives related to their goals. The required regular professional conversations will also reinforce leadership’s understanding of teacher progress.

As well, I’m sure that rolling out a standards-based appraisal process, along with expectation that teachers include personal goals as well as school goals, all assisted by provision of professional learning, will demonstrate that teachers can continue to develop competence, indeed excellence in their ability self-assess their accomplishments and decide where they need to move to next.

Of course ultimately all of this will be of  great benefit to our students and the wider school community! That is our main goal!

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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Textbooks, or No Textbooks? Your thoughts!

picture of an e-learning classroom

21st-Century Students Need Books, Not Textbooks

An Opinion Piece by Colette Marie Bennett,

‘Colette is the English department chair at Regional School District #6 in Connecticut. She has spent 21 years teaching grades 6-12. She blogs about increasing classroom libraries and issues in education at Used Books in Class and tweets at @Teachcmb56.’

In her article Colette refers to new textbooks that are being published aligned to the recently introduced US Common Core State Standards. Considering that the  first four learning areas of the new Australian Curriculum are already being implemented in some states and are imminent in others, should we not also be looking at whether or not textbooks will or should continue to have a prominent place or indeed any place at all in 21st century teaching and learning in our country?

What is your opinion?

Colette writes:

‘My mailbox is stuffed with brochures showing glossy pictures of the brand new literature textbooks available for grades 7-12 in English/language arts. This generation of new anthologies will incorporate the same old materials newly packaged with activities aligned to the ELA Common Core State Standards. Many of the big names in education have contributed to the development of these textbook materials and offer expert advice in implementing objectives. The textbooks are stuffed with literary pieces, discussion questions, suggested topics for essays, and so many supplemental activities that no one teacher could teach all of the material contained in a single school year. However, if these textbooks are waiting for my endorsement, they’ll be waiting forever…

‘The literary pieces in these textbooks have not changed over multiple editions; most of the titles are in the public domain. They came with cartons of supplementary materials; however, at my school we not use these worksheets or canned quizzes. These materials are aligned to outdated educational standards and are not a resource for teachers interested in developing 21st-century skills. These issues highlight a central problem with textbooks: standards change, assessments change, and teaching methods change. The textbooks cannot keep up…

‘The reality today is that the materials in textbooks need only take up digital space. Most stories, poems, essays, plays, and novels currently offered in these textbooks can be found online and linked on teacher websites or class wikis…

‘Today’s new textbook anthologies are already outdated. They do not support a 21st-century classroom, they are expensive, and they stifle teacher development. But the most serious charge against any textbook, new or old, is that it does not foster a student’s love of reading. School districts should let the tradition of the textbook waste away and instead feed a student a book.’ Read the entire Opinion Piece here…


Professional Learning – Teachers need as much differentiation as students

Over a number of years now teachers in most schools in our system have been fortunate to have had access to whole-school-focussed professional learning opportunities. For us a number of these opportunities have been partially funded through application to programs such as the Australian Government Quality Teacher Program, Smarter Schools National Partnerships Program and Targeted Funding Program. These have been supervised by colleagues from Independent Schools Victoria. For several schools this year an aspect of ICT professional learning has been included in these programs.

However, one of the challenges for our system and school leaders when developing and leading the whole-school professional learning programs (which are based on each schools’ data-identified teaching and learning needs), has been knowing how to be sure this learning is also differentiated according to teachers’ needs and takes into account teachers’ experience levels.

In order to move students from where they are to where teachers want them to be – effectively working to close the gap in their achievement levels – we expect our teachers to differentiate teaching and learning according to their students’ needs – and rightly so! It follows then that leaders for the same reasons, must also differentiate teachers’ learning.

Mark Gleeson in his post, quoted and linked here, writes about how to work with teachers to develop the skills required for integrating ICT and 21st century learning skills in their classroom programs and practice. He pleads for leaders, rather than merely providing ICT and expecting it all to ‘happen’, to consider more seriously the provision and scaffolding of teacher ICT professional learning so teachers may develop their knowledge and skills collaboratively and at their own pace.

While we must take notice of Gleeson’s concerns, I feel we can also benefit from applying to our whole-school teacher professional learning programs the general principles Mark outlines! His ideas for ICT are worth serious consideration for all professional learning situations.

Gleeson writes:

As teachers, we have come to learn over the years that we should never expect our students to fully understand a new idea without some form of structured support framework, or scaffolding as the current buzzword defines it. If we want them to solve a problem, we tend to provide them with a range of strategies and tools to assist them. Before writing a persuasive text, teachers present a text framework and spend time developing the language structures and features required. It’s common sense thinking that we need to help learners when exposing them to new experiences.

The same, of course, should be the case in supporting learning for our fellow teachers. From Literacy Co-ordinators to Mathematics Leaders, Education consultants to teacher mentors, it is accepted practice to take a methodical, measured approach to develop teacher capacity in any given curriculum area. With one glaring exception. For reasons that have no grounding in common sense or educational practicality, Technology is just thrown at us and expected to magically stick to us and develop. What actually happens is that it slides right off, repelled by the totally justified and expected reluctance of older teachers who trained as teachers before computers evolved beyond command lines or inexperienced teachers who are still getting their heads around making their challenging students stay in their seats. The lack of a systematic framework for developing teacher capacity and competency in teaching with technology is a massive black hole in Education today. We bandy around the term 21st Century learners every day at school but where is the plan for ensuring 21st century teaching and learning is taking place?

At the moment , I am reading the book, “Leading for Instructional Improvement – How Successful Leaders Develop Teaching and Learning Expertise” by Stephen Fink and Anneke Markholt. Chapter Eight begins by focusing on the idea of Reciprocal Accountability.

“Reciprocal Accountability simply means that if we are going to hold you accountable for something, we have an equal and commensurate responsibility to ensure you know how to do what we are expecting you to do (Elmore’ 2000; Resnick and Glennan, 2002). Practically speaking, this important concept means that accountability must go hand in hand with organizational capacity building with a specific focus on ensuring that teachers and leaders have the expertise necessary to ensure high achievement for all students. ” ( pg 221-2). It goes on to say that “teachers must know deeply each of their students as individual learners, differentiating their instruction accordingly so that each student meets the expected standard regardless of the student’s starting place……..the concept of reciprocal accountability provides the same useful lens to examine the relationship between teachers and principals…..Although principals don’t take the relationship between teachers and students for granted, they often fail to recognize the similar reciprocal nature of their roles with their own teachers.” ( pg 222)…

For me [Gleeson] it comes down to these points.

  1. PLTs [Professional Learning Team Meetings] dedicated to Technology integration into our teaching practices
  2. A constant focus on Technology throughout lesson and unit planning
  3. A restructuring of the role of ICT Leaders/teachers in schools
  4. A greater focus on Technology in Teacher Training programs
  5. A commitment to Technology Professional Development courses on an equal footing with Literacy and Numeracy Projects.

…Read more…