The Power of You: Recap of the KDP Convo in Sunny Virginia

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For the past three days, I have attended workshops, receptions, and keynotes at the 2019 Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education’s Convocation in Norfolk, Virginia. Keynotes and panel sessions by David C. Berliner, H. Richard Milner IV, Angela Valenzuela, David Gillborn, Jacqueline Irvine, and Gary Orfield focused on culturally responsive teaching practices, diversity in the workplace, the issue of color-blindness, and the need for teachers to advocate for themselves in the profession. 

In addition to these sessions, I presented a Deep Dive session titled, “Inquiry-Based Teaching Practices That Lead to Deeper Learning.”  A description of the session I led is as follows:

Inquiry-based instruction builds community and raises the expectations of all students, as students take the lead on asking questions and seeking the answers. In this interactive session, participants engage in inquiry-based activities that promote student discussions, collaboration, and critical thinking. Highly effective teaching strategies and classroom application are discussed in pairs and small groups. Participants leave with several strategies to use immediately in their classrooms.

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John Helgeson, International Committee Chair; Leana Malinowski, Membership Committee Chair; Shannon Rice, Executive Council; Clinton Smith, Public Policy Chair

Even though I find the sessions and keynotes valuable, I find connecting with my colleagues from around the world even more valuable. I served on the Executive Council for KDP from 2016-2018, and I currently serve as Co-Chair of the International Committee and a Professional Network Liason. At this year’s convocation, I was able to reconnect with colleagues I consider friends as we discussed and shared our passions regarding the educational field.  I met new friends from Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya opening doors to new areas of the world and collaborative learning opportunities.  It was a great convo, and I’m sad to see it finish (but I’m also exhausted and ready for some much-needed sleep!).   

I encourage anyone interested in the educational field to check out kdp.org.  In addition to powerful articles found in the New Teacher Advocate, the KDP Record,  and The Educational Forum, The Educator Learning Network is available, which KDP describes as a “learning environment that offers a variety of research-based courses designed to support teachers in their career advancement and development of professional competencies.”

I plan on sharing more information and resources used in my presentation in future blog posts.

Wet with Knowledge: WAETAG Recap

I recently attended the Washington Association of Educators of the Talented and Gifted’s (WAETAG) annual conference. Attendees of the conference come from all around the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest. While it rained outside, my mind was showered with ideas and reflection inside and the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from my district, Washington State ELA Fellows, and previous attendees from other professional learning experiences.

I had the wonderful opportunity of presenting two sessions during the conference. On Friday, I presented, “Championing Deep Engagement Through Moving Discussions.” The following is a description of the session: Students experiencing high expectations, deep engagement, and strong instruction are more likely to be successful in school. Increasing the number of opportunities to be deeply engaged in classroom discussion activities extends the academic growth beyond that of a typical school year. In this interactive session, participants will engage in physical movement activities paired with explicit discussion strategies they can use to move students beyond compliance into deep engagement promoting critical thinking. I specifically focused on the following strategies and protocols: Think Trix, Causal Model, Questioning Roles, World Cafe, Gallery Walk, Pair-to-Square, and Four Corner Tap In. I have included some of these strategies and protocols in previous posts, and I hope to address them in future posts.

On Saturday, I presented, “Rolling Critical Thinking Past the ‘Static-Sphere.'” The following is a description of this session: Providing a foundation of critical thinking skills moves students from surface level to higher-order thinking narrowing opportunity gaps. Learning experiences are challenged and enriched when students question assumptions, reason through logic with supporting evidence, and seek out diversity of thought and collaboration amongst those with differing points of view. In this interactive session, participants will roll the critical thinking dice challenging their own assumptions and opening doors to practices that move the critical thinking needle. In this session, I the strategies and protocols I specifically focused included: Annotated Gallery Walk, Give One/Get One, Conver-Stations, Critical Thinking Cubes-Group, Critical Thinking Cubes-Individual, Quick Write, and Cognitive Rigor Matrix Cubes. Just like I mentioned before, I plan on addressing some of these topics in future posts.

The conference is a great conference to attend regardless if attendees have talented and gifted students in the classroom as any reflection on teaching practices is essential for teacher improvement and student success.

Reflecting Via Effect Size

I meet monthly with a group of job alike curriculum specialists/instructional specialists from neighboring school districts. I started the group as a way to network with others with a similar job position as mine with the hope of learning with and from each other to both empower and motivate us in the work we do. We meet once a month for two hours. The first hour is devoted to sharing our work and/or practices. For example, we might share an overview of a presentation we attended at a local or national conference, we might run through a workshop we plan to propose or present at a conference, or we might ask advice on a problem of practice we have identified. The second hour focused on a book study. Last year we read The Book in Question by Carol Jago. This year we are reading The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar. For each hour, we take turns presenting our learning or facilitating a new protocol for the book discussion. The collaborative and collegial nature of this group has proven to be powerful and motivational.

In September, we met for the first time this school year. During the first hour of our meeting, two of the members shared information from a session they attended over the summer focusing on John Hattie’s effect size. According to Visible Learning, “His research, Visible Learning, is the culmination of more than 25 years of examining and synthesizing more than 1,600 meta-analyses comprising more than 95,000 studies involving 300 million students around the world.” John Hattie has identified 250 factors that influence student achievement. A 2019 updated list of these factors can be found at https://www.visiblelearningmetax.com/. As a networking group, we reviewed the list of factors and reflected on the ones that we felt were most critical to our roles. We specifically focused on anything greater than a .40 effect size as anything greater than this effect size represents more than a typical year’s growth.

I have since taken this information and used it in workshops I have led for both middle school and high school teachers as a way to reflect on our practices and set goals for the year. After explaining what a significant effect size is, a simple protocol to use has participants move through the following steps:

1. Skim and scan units taught during the year as well as the purpose behind the units.

2. Skim and scan current teaching strategies or approaches.

3. Skim and scan the Visible Learning Matrix.

4. Write a goal for the year based on the information.

Throughout the process, time for discussion with partners and small groups helps to clarify and deepen the reflection process.

These practices both validate current work as well as encourage new direction for educating ourselves on effective teaching practices we want to improve on or add to our repertoire for the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers and colleagues have appreciated this resource as it is providing a focus for our collaborative work within our Professional Learning Communities, departments, and one-to-one coaching sessions. Similarly, it is providing a foundation for two action research projects I plan to collaborate on for the year.