The Motivation Equation

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 2.11.26 PMThe upcoming new ibook by Kathleen Cushman, “The Motivation Equation,” stands to expand on her pioneering work in leveraging students’ voices in shaping learning environments, pedagogical practices, and transforming how we talk about learning. And thank goodness.

Often missing from our education discourse is, ironically, the most important element of our education system: the learners.

In this newest endeavor (you can read an early release of the book for a limited time here), Kathleen seeks to provide information on “designing lessons that set minds free.” QED’s Chief Education Officer, Kim Carter, had this to say after reading the book:

Motivation is the holy grail of learning. Who doesn’t believe if learners are motivated, they have a much greater likelihood of successful learning?  From the Introduction’s explanation that “motivation is not something you have at the start” to its Appendices packed with additional resources, The Motivation Equation is brilliant on so many levels.  Let me name four:

  1. Kathleen’s synthesis of the essential mind, brain and education science related to motivation into 8 steps or conditions is mind-bogglingly clear.
  2. More importantly, the 8 steps are readily accessible and practical.
  3. The Motivation Equation is rich with student voices – offering a “unique ‘trialogue’ among students, teachers, and learning scientists” – which anchor the steps and the research in familiar realities.
  4. The Motivation Equation is the best (ever) use of the e-book medium that I have seen to date. Unerring integration of sound and video clips, call-out boxes for brief bios and research notes, links to additional resources, survey templates, and protocols for engaging learners in exploring their own motivation represent a treasure trove of value-added resources.

Still need convincing to check it out? Visit WKCD‘s new website, How Youth Learn, for research highlights and videos of student voices.

How Youth Learn: Ned’s GR8 8

This video needs no introduction. Just watch it and then file it under — “When Student Voices Align With Research From the Science of Learning.”

Year at Mission Hill, Chapter 10: The Freedom to Teach

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This chapter opens with the voices of alumni, looking back on their experiences as students of Mission Hill and distilling the wisdom they gained from it. A short collection of the alumni voices below:

I learned how to be a critical thinker. I learned how to play off my strengths. . .

I had teachers who were here to care for me, to make sure I was able to take of myself and to learn.

When you feel respected and you respect them, it is so much harder to not try and to just think that something is not important . . .

. . . constantly putting myself in somebody else’s shoes. Questioning things.

Deborah Meier, founder of Mission Hill, shares her perspective on issues shaping education today,

I think what we are facing in America today and around the world is not a crisis of education, but a crisis of faith, respect for democracy, which rests on having respect for the judgement of ordinary people.

In response to this, Mission Hill gives respect to the process, not just the product — discourse, listening, communicating, and providing students and teachers an authentic and empowered voice in the school.

Challenging this actualization of their mission in action? Race to the Top and the race to test, test, test students. This process limits the flexibility of teachers to attend and respond to the nuanced needs, interests, strengths of the individual students.

Again, Deborah Meier,

The whole point of an education is to help you learn to exercise judgement, and you can’t do that if the expert adults in your school are not allowed to exercise theirs.

Year at Mission Hill Chapter 8: The World of Work

missionhillThis chapter, “The World of Work,” offers a look at applying a school-wide theme through integrated projects. Teachers organize opportunities for authentic experiences based on the ideas and recommendations of the kids in an effort to allow students to “see their ideas actualized.” This practice for building student agency works because it helps them develop confidence in the value of their own ideas.

Designing and implementing such learning experiences also changes the relationship of the educator with her/his own work. Rather than simply attending to the scope and sequence of a curriculum, she/he must first and foremost attend to the needs, interests, and passions of the students. By finding ways of connecting those with activities and experiences that build the learners’ skills and understandings about the world, the “work” of the educator is more dynamic, responsive, and professional.

(Make sure you see the final product of the project the older students are working on!)

5 Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching

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Maryellen Weimer (whose bio includes: Penn State Professor Emeritus of Teaching and Learning and Editor-in-chief of Teaching Professor) addresses the wide spread use of the term “learner-centered” in her post, “Five Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching” on The Teaching Professor Blog at Faculty Focus. At the heart of her concern is this: “With widespread use comes a certain definitional looseness.”

To help tighten up the definition, she offers five clarifying characteristics, quoted below with a single descriptor pulled from her explanations. For more fully fleshed out descriptions, visit her original post, or better yet, check out her book, “Learner-Centered Teaching.”

1. Learner-centered teaching engages students in the hard, messy work of learning.

On any given day, in most classes teachers are working much harder than students.

2. Learner-centered teaching includes explicit skill instruction.

Learner-centered teachers teach students how to think, solve problems, evaluate evidence, analyze arguments, generate hypotheses—all those learning skills essential to mastering material in the discipline.

3. Learner-centered teaching encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it. 

They challenge student assumptions about learning and encourage them to accept responsibility for decisions they make about learning; like how they study for exams, when they do assigned reading, whether they revise their writing or check their answers.

4. Learner-centered teaching motivates students by giving them some control over learning processes.

Learner-centered teachers search out ethically responsible ways to share power with students.

5. Learner-centered teaching encourages collaboration.

Learner-centered teachers work to develop structures that promote shared commitments to learning.

It is pretty easy to see how these core characteristics can apply to any age learner — be they kindergarteners or faculty in a school system. If we want our educators to be learning models for students, we would do well to employ some of these characteristics at all levels of learning.

Photo Credit: © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc

The Importance of Student Voice

The following is a guest post by Mark R. Boyer, Assistant Superintendent for Learning, Singapore American School

Student Voice

I was recently approached by a high school student who asked, “In order for student voices to be heard, should student evaluations of teachers be mandatory and used in the teacher’s performance review? Furthermore, is there a way to make sure that student feedback is fair and valid?”

If we truly believe in the value of students to be co-designers in learning and empowered in their learning, shouldn’t we also value their important feedback? If we do value student feedback, then how can we make this meaningful and constructive?

Many schools in the U.S. and internationally are addressing this “controversial issue” with no consensus on a particular approach to pursue. Some schools advocate for student feedback as a “weighted component” on teacher evaluation with other components, some schools provide opportunity for student feedback that is exclusively reviewed by the teacher, and some schools provide opportunity for the teacher to verbally reflect on “themes” within student feedback with one’s supervisor. Many schools simply ignore student feedback as too complicated and untrustworthy.

The most significant recent research on teacher evaluation was initiated in 2009 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and resulted in a 2011 report known as Measures of Effective Teaching (MET). One of the five variables valued by the MET report was “student perceptions of the classroom instructional environment” in which a field-tested instrument (i.e., Tripod Survey) was used.  A finding of the MET report was that there is a significant interdependent relationship among student achievement, classroom observations and feedback by supervisors, and student feedback.

The challenge in all of this, however, is to be clear about the purpose of teacher evaluation so as to guide appropriate selection of tools and processes, and to also understand that contextual needs in one system may be very different for another system. Finally, quality implementation of the right tools and processes is everything. Anything less than quality implementation can have confusing and damaging results.

The downside of ineffective implementation of student feedback can lead to the following:

* students may not appreciate demanding teachers until years later, and may provide premature responses

* students may not be “trained” in how to provide constructive feedback, whereupon responses can be personally and professionally hurtful

* teachers may feel that popularity is most important, and consequently adjust teaching to “win” students

* students may use their own grades to determine how they view their teachers, and perhaps not always take personal responsibility

* a culture of evaluation and judgment may become more prevalent than a culture of mutual respect, trust, and support

Having said this, the quality of the student-teacher relationship is essential to quality teaching and learning. I believe quality feedback is key to growth and improved performance, whether the feedback is as a student, teacher, or administrator. Rather than a “weighted” component on teacher evaluation, I would suggest the following approach for student feedback:

Allow all students throughout the school to provide anonymous survey responses using a few standard questions for their teachers (with appropriate accommodations for elementary students) and perhaps a few questions of particular interest to the teacher, which then becomes a conversation between the teacher and supervisor. This conversation would not be about specific comments, but rather about any predominant themes:

    • What pleased you most from your students’ responses?
    • What surprised you?
    • Are there any changes or adjustments you intend to make as a result of this feedback?

The supervisor’s evaluation of this component is then based on the teacher’s reflective ability to respond to “themes” within student feedback, and the supervisor can also serve as a prompt for any areas deserving further consideration. When effectively implemented, this approach would ensure that student feedback is purposefully heard and valued and that the professional relationship of the teacher and supervisor has further information for reflection and consideration.

In line with the MET report, I think some kind of triangulation of qualitative and quantitative data that utilizes student feedback (with teacher reflection), teacher and/or Professional Learning Community evidence of student learning and growth (with teacher reflection), and supervisor feedback from classroom observations (with teacher reflection) would help to provide a balanced and multi-dimensional approach for more intentionally and comprehensively understanding teaching and learning. There’s certainly considerable development needed in each of these areas, but can be worthy if the focus is on creating a learning-focused school in a trusting and mutually supportive environment where everyone is vested in each other’s growth and success.

Education is a lifelong calling, and it is value-added when there are meaningful processes to help all of us as educators to grow, to build on our relationships, and to continuously reflect and act on ways to improve the quality of learning and opportunities for all students.

Image: Dell’s Official Photo Page CC

The Student Quest: Choose 2 Matter

margaret mead quoteIf you ever have a chance to meet Angela Maier, you’ll know who she is immediately.While probably not the tallest person in the room, in a hall of 5,000 she may well be the most energetic. A former teacher turned consultant, author of two books, including “Classroom Habitudes” and now Chief Instigator, Angela has amassed a global, passionate network at the intersection of her enthusiasm, belief in each and every person, and unsinkable optimism.

Beginning with a TEDx Des Moines Talk, she launched her #YouMatter campaign, an effort to instill in others the simple idea that, well, they matter. Through her partnership with the International Dot Day, which ended up bringing together over 800,000 students from around the world, she recognized the demand for providing young people a way to turn their ideas for making the world a better place into a reality.

The Choose 2 Matter movement is an answer to that demand. As described on the Choose2Matter website . . .

CHOOSE2MATTER – a crowd sourced, social good community where world changers can create their own “Dream Team” to pursue solutions to global problems.

With her signature enthusiasm and network-ability, Angela has brought together a team of partners and visionaries to launch the “Quest 2 Matter,” which the Choose 2 Matter website describes as . . .

The Quest2Matter is a catalyst that challenges students:

To accept that they matter;

To tell others that they also matter;

To take action to change our world.

Students are encouraged to submit their quests — either ones they are currently embarking on or have previously engaged in — that seek to change something that “breaks their hearts.” The submission process is simple (and more thoroughly stated here):

  1. Students choose a quest that matters to them. 
  2. They register at one of Choose 2 Matters’ partners’ sites. 
  3. Students tell their story in a media of their choosing. 
  4. Students upload their story.
  5. Or, students can share their story via email or via another other social media site. 

Students have until May 31, 2013 to submit their quest if they want a chance to be recognized / highlighted at the 2013 Bammy Awards. However, Quests are on-going and the team is already hard at work to find new ways of honoring future submissions.

This is an important effort that seeks to simultaneously raise the volume on student voice, student impact, and how people view the current and future capacity of all students. Additionally, it communicates to students that not only do they matter and that their vision and action are valued, but also that they have power now to enact positive change in the world. No need to wait until they are in their college or career. The future they want for tomorrow begins with their effort today. Nice work, Angela. We at QED support you.

Want to be more involved in the Choose 2 Matter movement? You can “like” them on facebook, follow them on twitter, or contact the team via their website.

Image: RubberBoots And Elf Shoes

A Year at Mission Hill, Chapter 2: Beginning the Year

Chapter 2 of A Year at Mission Hill takes us to the start of the year, or as many educators see it, the laying of the foundation. While educators recognize the importance of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, many see the first days of school as tone setters. In this, the educators at Mission Hill work to build community amongst themselves as learners before the students ever arrive.

By the time the students populate the walls and rooms, teachers are ready to engage the whole child and to work, first and foremost, toward the well-being of each and every student. They talk about providing opportunities for students’ voice to be an authentic and vital piece of the learning experience. They aim for transparency with the kids as an intentional pathway toward helping the students construct understanding.

Take a look at the second chapter below and see how they invest in students early to capture and employ student ownership.

Image: ScreenShot on StartEmpathy’s page from Sam Chaltain’s Prezi

“To This Day” Project (Amazing Video)

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 8.59.15 AMShane Koyczan — spoken word poet, writer, and performer — was the first Canadian to win the National Poetry Slam in 2000. That success portended the recent virality of “To This Day,” an emotional and passionate exploration of bullying, victimhood, and the ongoing struggle to heal wounds so as to not be defined by them.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.02.46 AMOne of the many beautiful things about the “To This Day Project” is that it is animated by a collection of artists who created 20-second segments to accompany the poem. The result is a mosaic of visually moving interpretations of Shane’s narration. Collectively, the artistic collaboration of poet and animators create an art form that is powerful, instructive, and deeply moving. And inspiring.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.10.11 AMAs a metaphor for education, it speaks to both the need to cultivate authentic opportunities for students to leverage their strengths and share their unique voices as well as the urgency of ensuring that each and every student is — and feels — safe and valued in our learning communities.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.03.47 AMWatch below. It will move and transform you.

Want to know more?

On the To This Day Project website they write,

To This Day Project is a project based on a spoken word poem written by Shane Koyczan called “To This Day”, to further explore the profound and lasting impact that bullying can have on an individual.

Schools and families are in desperate need of proper tools to confront this problem. We can give them a starting point… A message that will have a far reaching and long lasting effect in confronting bullying.

Animators and motion artists brought their unique styles to 20 second segments that will thread into one fluid voice.

This collaborative volunteer effort will demonstrate what a community of caring individuals are capable of when they come together.

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Images: ScreenShots from the “To This Day” Video

 

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