Yesterday, I got to go to a session presented by dedicated fellow professionals here in Coweta County, the purpose of which was to nudge our teachers one more step into getting ready for the GPS.
First, let me say that the information was spot on, very important stuff, and that our presenters were sharp and prepared.
Second, let me say why I think it was not enough.
The purpose of the session was simply to introduce the vocabulary of the new curriculum: performance standard, essential question, enduring understandings, task, elements, etc., etc., etc. This all fell squarely into our View #1 of learning, taxon memory, in which the brain is confronted with what appears to be random, non-contextualized information, and it very appropriately resists learning it.
So here we had a very large room of dedicated teachers, most of whom I wager have been dreaming of a curriculum like the one we’re getting, and yet most of whom I’d wager again left that room still without the basic vocabulary of that new curriculum. Again, not the fault of our presenters.
What would I do differently, if my wand still worked?
- Smaller groups. Plenty of discussion and sharing. It’s too easy for 100 people to abdicate responsibility for the information when there are 150 people in the room.
- Examples of implementation at every step. Sure, there’s ELA2R1, but what will it look like when I have to do it with students?
- Recognition of concerns, rooting out of misconceptions, confirming understanding, you know, the very things we’re supposed to do with students
Sure, easy enough for me to say, but my wand doesn’t work and there’s not enough funding or staffing to do it this way. Ah well.
And I will say this: Backwards design begins at home. Yo, State Department of Education, before we can design instruction that will fulfill these standards, before we can do our performance task, we have to know what the assessment is going to be! I can have all kinds of evidence of understanding on the part of our third graders about the travails of Frederick Douglass and the dynamics of slavery, but what is the CRCT going to ask about?