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ATA Middle Years Council Conference Jim Parsons, University of Alberta

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1 ATA Middle Years Council Conference Jim Parsons, University of Alberta
What Do We Know about Good Teaching? Practical Ideas about Teacher Professional Learning ATA Middle Years Council Conference Banff, Alberta April 11, 2014 Jim Parsons, University of Alberta

2 Three Key Questions: Have you had a moment when you came to understand teaching more clearly? Who has had an important positive impact on your life as a teacher? If you were to look back at your “teaching career,” what advice would you give others?

3 The Impact of Teachers Maslow: every human meeting has an impact.
Teachers have hundreds of daily meetings. Children are watching. Actions are remembered.

4 Do you remember me? I was Sheri Stearman and went by the nickname Pony in 7th grade at Moore High School, room 241. I think you were my teacher! the best teacher I have ever had!!! You made such a difference in my life. I often recall the funny things you did and your teaching methods.

5 Do you remember me? Anyway, I'm a music and fashion photographer living in the northeast of England going by the name jazzy lemon! Mr. Parsons I hope this is you! I wrote a lovely story once about the person who most influenced my life and had it published in the paper. It was you! I wish I still had the article.

6 Do you remember me? Anyway, no one has made as much of an impression or a difference in my life, and I'm sure the lives of everyone who was in that class. I was having a rough time of it at home, and everything in my life was in such an upheaval, you were the one rock I could count on. You made learning a blast! They should write about you like To Sir With Love, cos he changed those kids lives and meant so much to them, and that's how much you mean to me!!

7 Do you remember me? Anyway, … the context?
Point: Even when we believe we are messing up, someone is there watching!

8 The Good Teaching Key: Lives are precious.

9 Where am I coming from? Sources for this talk:
Teaching Experience (Finishing Year 44) Research Experience AISI Director – since 1999 MES Director for five years Instructional Leadership ( ) Parsons, J., & Beauchamp, L. (2012) From Knowledge to Action: Shaping the Future of Curriculum Development in Alberta. Edmonton: Government of Alberta. Teacher Professional Learning and Teacher Efficacy ( )

10 Research Insight Research Learning One: Improving Student Achievement starts with your own engagement as teachers. The correct learning focus? Teacher Engagement = Student Engagement = Student Learning = Student Achievement A focus on student achievement simply doesn’t work. Priority One: Teacher engagement

11 Research Insight Research Learning Two: Good teaching focuses more on the process than the content of learning. My research suggests that effective teachers focus on process and pedagogy - not exclusively on content. Content is crucial, but is best learned as students take charge of learning. We must trust students to learn! Inquiry and project-based learning help students develop engaged agency. Inquiry allows choice, challenge, support, scaffolding, and relevant problems to investigate. I call these ways of learning “conversational pedagogies.”

12 What this Means So Far 1) There are remarkable similarities in what works for teachers and what works for students. 2) Engagement is the key to learning. 3) Although we (systemically) need to track learning progress, to center on tracking is wrong-minded and a roadblock to learning. 4) Learning works best – for both teachers and learners – when we “Trust Learning will Occur.” 5) Learners (humans) are remarkably diverse. This diversity is a huge benefit, and not a problem.

13 Research Insight Research Learning Three: Good teaching is motivated by three aspects: Community, Agency, and Service [When you engage research data – it talks to you.] Build classroom cultures that support community, agency, and service. Community means working together. Agency means believing you can make a difference. Service means doing “good things” for others.

14 Research Insight Research Learning Three: Community, Agency, and Service All my research together suggests, “Teaching is about relationships.” Good teaching is relationship building.

15 Research Insight Research Learning Four: Good teaching is enhanced when teachers become Action Researchers Action research is a form of investigation used by teachers to solve problems and improve professional practices in their own schools. Any problem – curriculum, pedagogy, behavior – any problem!

16 Research Insight Research Learning Four: Good teaching is enhanced when teachers do Action Research Action research identifies challenges; makes informed decisions; tries ideas and solutions; gathers data; meets to discuss what you see; talks about what works and what doesn’t, and seeks positive change? Action research is always collaborative.

17 Research Insight Research Learning Five: Good teaching is enhanced by teacher collaboration In my current research on teacher professional learning and teacher efficacy, 80% of teachers named their best professional learning “collaboration with colleagues.” In my previous research of highly effective elementary schools, teachers worked together to explain ideas, solve problems, plan new actions. Collaboration promoted engagement, shared expertise, built capacity, and worked together to solve problems.

18 Research Insight Research Learning Five: Teacher collaboration:
Creates safe places to talk; Takes active interest in other’s experiences; Brings teachers closer together; Erodes cynicism; Focuses on student learning; and, Holds us accountable.

19 Research Insight Research Learning Six: Good teaching engages teachers fully in the school. Classrooms are too small and too lonely! Good teaching shares leadership to solve real, site-based issues and build agency. Good school leadership shares ownership, creates space, and builds community. Teachers become “school” teachers in addition to “classroom” teachers.

20 Research Insight Good teaching engages differences.
Research Learning Seven: Good teaching celebrates diversity. Good teaching engages differences. Collaborative efficacy. People have different skills. Encourage others (teachers and students) to be “at home” with their own abilities. Provide opportunities to use diverse skills in classrooms. [differentiated instruction and assignments].

21 Research Insight Research Learning Eight: Good teaching builds culture. Good teaching considers the cultures teachers could build in schools and how these cultures should be built.  School change is cultural change. How will we live together?

22 Summarizing So Far 1) When teachers work together, really really good things happen. Teacher collaboration will positively impact the culture of a school. 2) Teachers’ work should expand past their individual classrooms to schools. 3) Engaging in collaborative change increases agency (the belief one can make a difference) and dispels cynicism and ennui (boredom, world-weariness, tedium, dissatisfaction).

23 Nine Key Questions 1) In what ways can my teaching become more engaged? 2) How can I become a more “conversational” teacher? 3) How can I trust more? What would trust look like? 4) What treasures of diversity exist within my teaching? 5) What good work is right in front of me? 6) How might I better build community? 7) How might I better build relationships? 8) What positive changes should we make together at our school? How can we, as teachers, better work together? 9) What do we want our school culture to become?

24 My Personal Learning Rules to Myself:
I have learned in 44 years of teaching. These are “My reminders to me, and have been learned in my storied-living with others.” Question: What would your own “Rules to Self” be?

25 Rules to Self Rule One: My vocational call is to build a vision of success in a student’s head that is so strong nothing can erode it. There are only two ways to motivate students: encouragement and punishment. I will encourage. I will demand that students work hard, learn, and succeed. [I now know that success changes self-perceptions and starts an upward spiral of hard work and greater achievement.]

26 Rules to Self Rule Two: I will accept who I am, and build from there.
All my great teachers have been different. Who was your best teacher? [Good teachers are as diverse as good students.] Aside: Contact that teacher and say Thanks!

27 Rules to Self Rule Three: If I have the greater insight, I have the greater responsibility. Teachers work in situations where they have greater insight than most of those they work with. We are usually the oldest person in the room and, often, the most mature. I won’t trade the year for the minute. I will make big picture decisions and remember my job is not self-protection but student-protection.

28 Rules to Self Rule Four: Good teaching has fun. When I have a choice between having fun and not having fun, I choose fun. Teachers can be so earnest. “Don’t smile until Christmas!” is horrific, wrong, and crippling. Not all choices are frosted with eternal consequences – or, maybe they are. Human relationships are the cornerstone of my teaching. I will enjoy the gift of people.

29 Rule to Self Rule Five: I will always have a lesson plan completely ready, because something better might not happen. The best days of my teaching are accidents. I will be diligent about preparation, but aware of the possibilities of something better happening. Then I will fly.

30 Rule to Self Rule Six: I will practice good time management: wherever I am, I will be there 100%. I will have hundreds of conversations with students – often just when I want them least. In a second, what we talk about will be forgotten, but how I engage the student will not be.

31 Rule to Self Rule Seven: I will seek perfection, but accept mistakes. If I hang my head, I will hunt for money. Mistakes are not horrible. (Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed – focuses on Carol Dweck’s work.) But wallowing in mistakes is a waste. If I keep my eyes open and find a $20, I will pick it up. My funks will never be permanent, and I will never take them out on my students. I will never consider a grudge. Sullen teachers don’t last, but good relationships allow forgiveness.

32 Rule to Self If I see sunshine, I will soak it up!
Rule Eight: “It don't take a whole day to recognize sunshine.” from the Hip Hop album Like Water For Chocolate ["The Light" was the Grammy-nominated second single off Common's 2000 album Like Water for Chocolate.] If I see sunshine, I will soak it up! “The Light” by Common, (2000)

33 Final Rule to Self I will remember that teaching is about others. I have chosen to be second. Living that choice daily can be difficult, but it is the ultimate nobility of teaching. My life as a teacher will be full of people. People mystify and amaze me. People hurt and heal me. I am a teacher because I have the gift of loving other people’s children, and I want to help! Jim Parsons

34 Child psychologist Erik Erikson
Erik Erikson notes three stages of life that are relevant to teachers: (1) the crisis of young adulthood, (2) the crisis of adult, and (3) the crisis of senescence. The first choice is between intimacy and isolation. Those who choose intimacy live longer. The second choice is between generativity and self-absorption. Those who choose generativity discover psychological wholeness. Last is the choice between integrity and despair. Those who choose integrity reach the end of life satisfied and happy. Humans choose to become relational and interactive or closed and self-protective. Isolation brings loneliness. Teachers are prone to loneliness. Giving one’s life to helping children helps teachers discover their own lives. Those who travel through these stages reach the end of life satisfied that they have lived in a meaningful way. A selfish life produces despair – realizing you did not nurture relationships and focused on yourself.

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