At the recent ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles, Calif., ASCD Executive Director and CEO Dr. Gene R. Carter convened an international panel of education leaders from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Canada. Although their contexts differ, they share many of the same challenges as U.S. educators, and their global perspective provided a new lens for considering common themes in education. Here were some of the panel's responses.
I must begin this post by stating one fact; I am so very appreciative and do not take for granted the number of hours spent in Washington Montessori School on a daily basis by our volunteers and community partners. We partner with local businesses, agencies, city offices, and so many others. Some of our partners help provide food for our back-feeding program for the weekend (where students discreetly get to take home food to eat), clothes for our clothes closet, and healthy snacks for the school day. For example, West Market Street United Methodist Church helps us celebrate birthdays each month and provides supplies for students and staff throughout the school year as well as providing a week-long free summer enrichment camp for students.
Like most teenagers, Sir Ken Robinson had no idea what he wanted to be when he grew up.
"Life is a constant improvisation. How many of you, at the age of 15, accurately anticipated the life you've had?," he asked at his ASCD Annual Conference general session presentation last month.
"Your résumé conveys the myth that this was all planned. The last thing you want to do is convey the actual chaos you've been living through."
The path through your life appears as you take it, he explained, and finding your element implies tuning your ear to that inner voice that guides you along the journey. "It requires looking both beyond yourself and more deeply inside yourself to plot a course through your own talents and interests," Robinson noted.
In this video, Daniel Pink talks to the Patterson Foundation about the need to upgrade our approach to motivation in schools. He uses the metaphor of an outdated computer operating system to characterize motivational practices that rely on punishments and rewards to elicit desired behavior. Although "carrots and sticks" motivation works well when the outcomes are simple tasks, this is not a suitable operating system for the complex, creative thinking required of 21st century students. Pink recommends upgrading to "motivation 3.0," or an operating system predicated on the principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
ASCD continually seeks to provide solutions to the challenges that face educators of all levels. A recent ASCD SmartBrief ED Pulse poll asked readers what their schools and districts are doing to develop the technology skills students need to take the Common Core State Standards assessments.
Assessment is about more than numbers. It's about discerning where students are and planning accordingly. The March 2014 issue of Educational Leadership explores the many ways teachers can use assessments to help students learn. Articles in this issue look at how educators can use assessments thoughtfully to help students move forward.
In her "Perspectives" column, Editor-in-Chief Marge Scherer notes that it's not a revelation that teachers' daily assessment practices improve learning more than standardized tests. She writes
From building relationships to delivering a lesson that is challenging, engaging, and, sometimes, entertaining, teaching is very much a performance art that must be practiced on one's feet. Formative assessment presents another challenge—and requires sophisticated but quieter skills: observation, questioning, reflection. Teachers' daily ongoing practice puts the pieces together—and this practice has more potential to improve learning than all the high-stakes tests put together. It's no revelation, but something we have known all along.
ASCD's 2014 Legislative Agenda urges a shift from the overreliance on high-stakes testing in determining student achievement, educator effectiveness, and school quality to a broader, more meaningful vision of success that supports each student from early childhood through graduation. Recently released during ASCD's Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA), the agenda is developed by ASCD's Legislative Committee and establishes the association’s policy priorities.
Two years ago, prompted by a blog post that asked, "How many student assignments end up in the recycling bin within minutes of students seeing the grade?," I began thinking about the role of rewards and social interaction in education. The post's question hit close to home, and made me reflect deeply on my current practice. I decided to evaluate my 6th grade language arts and science courses through the lens of two questions: Beyond a letter grade, what motivation do my students have to do well? and, If the primary motivation is extrinsic, how can I make the project more intrinsically motivating? By the end of the school year, I had a three-pronged answer. I had to
Relinquish a certain level of control and place added responsibility on students.
Allow students to produce work for an authentic audience (meaning not just for me).
Give students autonomous opportunities to collaborate on their work.
Here are some of the practices I'm using to hit these three targets.
During the 1950s, the golden era of television allowed marketers to broadcast commercials to large audiences. While the big three networks had different programming, little differentiation existed in the marketing; all viewers were exposed to the same products via the same message. In 1994, I was an advertising major and I remember one of my professors claiming that this model was rapidly drawing to a close and would soon be replaced by narrowcasting. We were told that narrowcasting would allow marketers to target specific audiences with a tailored message that was unique to their interests and needs. The only obstacles that remained were data collection and management systems to better identify specific target audiences and subsequently, cost-effective delivery methods to reach them. Within three years, the Internet boom began to eradicate each of those obstacles and narrowcasting became the norm in business. Interestingly enough, the evolution of narrowcasting messages has not only been confined to marketing products, but has also played a large role in the outcomes of recent presidential elections. Today, the basic tenets of narrowcasting are being utilized in schools to make learning more personal.
We help students succeed by personalizing instruction to meet the needs of the learner. This may seem like a daunting task because it takes front-loading at the beginning of the year and ongoing progress-monitoring. Teachers can design activities and assessments that focus on personal interests, strengths, and academic standards. When teachers personalize instruction through various assessments, it is easy to find the "tools" that motivate students to be successful in the classroom.