Showing posts from December, 2017

Moving From Teacher-Centered to Learner-Centered Classrooms

I hit a wall of frustration last week when I was doing some walk-through classroom observations in my school. Fellow principals can probably relate with what I am about to say. I spent a little under an hour in one classroom hallway, and in that time I made it into six different classrooms. In five out of the six classroom visits, I saw the exact same thing: The teacher was lecturing from the front of the room, and students were seated at their desks taking notes.
My frustration stems from the fact that in my school, we have spent quite a great deal of time trying to develop a foster student-centered classrooms that can better engage students by empowering them to take ownership for their own learning. Through these efforts we have not outlawed lecture, but we have tried very hard to minimize its role and use in the classroom. Perhaps what I saw was an anomaly, but I am not convinced. Clearly we still have a ways to go if we are to truly leave the teacher-centered classroom model where…

Grading on What Students LEARN, Not What They EARN

Ask most traditional high school teachers how they handle a student who doesn’t submit an assignment and their answer most likely will be this: The student receives a grade of a zero for that assignment. Ask that same teacher to explain to you what their justification for that practice is, and I’ll bet you will get an answer like this: The zero will lower the student’s overall grade, thus motivating them to try harder the next time. The zeros serves as a punishment for not doing the work in the first place. School leaders, I’m going to be blunt with you. If these answers seem acceptable to you, I am here to tell you as a fellow school leader that you need to rethink what the purpose of grading is. Grading does not exist to punish students. Low grades such as zeros will not motivate students. The true purpose of grading is this: Grading is about what students LEARN, not what they EARN.
On this topic, last month Deborah Yaffe of District Administrationwrote a compelling article to school…

Competency-Based Education: Lessons Learned After a Decade of Transformation

It has been nearly a decade since Sanborn Regional School District in New Hampshire made the decision to shift to a competency-based system of learning. Having served as the high school principal during this transformation, I learned a great deal about what worked for us and what we would avoid if we had it to do over again. Competency-based learning is sometimes referred to as mastery learning, proficiency-based learning, and even, to a lesser degree, standards-based learning. To be clear, we need a common understanding of what this model means for schools. Chris Sturgis (2015), provides context for this by identifying five tenets for competency based learning in schools today. Students advance upon demonstrated mastery.Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.Learning…