Thursday, September 24, 2015

Understanding by Design, Feedback and Empathy


What does Understanding by Design, Feedback, and Empathy have to do with each other? Well, they are three core principles that Grant Wiggins believes in and Jay McTighe talked about in his blog post, "Three Lessons for Teachers from Grant Wiggins."
Lesson #1 is to always keep the end in mind. This goes back to discussing Understanding by Design - which is not just backwards design, but really focuses on having specific goals that have appropriate assessments and instruction. This really ties in well with our discussions on Standards Based Grading and Assessment for Learning. Making sure students know the goals are and how to achieve mastery is a huge part of helping them keep the end in mind, as well.
Lesson #2 is that feedback is key to successful learning and performance. If students know what the goals are and how to achieve mastery, the next thing they need to know is where they are at and how to move forward. This is why feedback is vital in the process of learning. McTighe also points out that teachers need to receive feedback (or formative assessement information) in order to know where to guide students. This could even be quick things like exit slips, polls, or a thumbs up/thumbs down activity to gauge learning.

Lesson #3 is to have empathy for your students. I feel that this is one of the most important things to consider, and actually what all of our actions stem from. If we can understand that our students are novices, and realize how we felt when we were a novice at something, it is easier to have empathy for students and create a learning environment that supports them. Some school districts in Illinois are having new staff members shadow a student for a day (after a teacher tried it and Wiggins wrote about it here). When you realize what students go through sitting in classes all day and listening, it makes engagement a lot more important in designing lessons.

Members of EGLLT discussing the article during Monday's meeting.

If you thought about a workshop, conference or meeting you have attended - what would you have done differently to make it more engaging?

I thought about this recently and decided that the meetings and conferences I enjoy are the ones that have specific goals. I know what I'm going to learn, the different parts we are going through, and can follow along the path with the presenter/organizer. I also know exactly how to assess if I've learned what I need to, or that I have accomplished specific goals set out for the meeting (Lesson #1). I realized that I like to know how I'm doing and if I'm not on the right track, how to get back where I need to be. It's so frustrating to have someone look at your work and say, "You kind of got it - you're almost there," and then just walk away (Lesson #2). All of this helps me realize that this is exactly what my students are going through and what they need to be successful (Lesson #3).

We will miss you, Grant Wiggins, and appreciate all the wisdom you have left behind.

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