Not too long ago, our district devoted an entire day to thinking about how to fold higher order thinking skills or HOTS into our practice. It was a great day led by two excellent facilitators from ESSDACK. I was in the high school group led by Marci Shearon. In the course of the day, Marci challenged us to think about our practice and consider carefully how we could really use HOTS with students. HOTS need not be impossibly difficult, but they do need to be about depth and complexity. In fact, when the Common Core Standards talk about HOTS, they normally use the term "Depth of Knowledge." As we discussed the concept, one of the most useful tools Marci gave us was
I really like this tool because it corrects a problem I have always had with Bloom's Taxonomy. When we worked with students, it seemed as if many of us half-understood the taxonomy and THOUGHT we were challenging students to think deeply by simply asking them to create a product. Truth is, slopping together a collage that isn't even a very good collage (with or without technology), is not higher order thinking. If students have to defend their work or use the collage to analyze some concept or other, that is another story, but I rarely saw the collage used in that way. To further complicate matters, excellent instruction can occur anywhere on this matrix. Conversely, poor instruction can occur anywhere on this matrix. However, I think everybody can agree that excellent instruction paired with HOTS is a pretty unbeatable combination.
So, after we spent the day discussing HOTS earlier in the year, our high school faculty had a couple of hours available to devote to professional development. One of my pet peeves is studying something and then dropping it without ever following up. What we did, then, was ask each of the teachers to bring a question, a lesson, or an activity that they had used recently with students using HOTS. We had the matrix in front of us, and I drew teacher names out of a bag and they talked, then we looked at where the activity or question fell on the matrix. It was very nonjudgmental, and I have to say, I am proud to work with the people in my building because they shared some awesome things.
Our art teacher has students analyze paintings, writing about how they react to an artwork and then defending their reaction by analyzing how the artist uses the principles of artistic design.
Our biology teacher has students develop presentations over the use of Delphastus to control whitefly populations in our greenhouse.
One of our english teachers is using STAR WARS to teach about the elements of story telling--taking something students understand and using it to move them into deeper concepts that they would ordinarily have trouble comprehending. Ultimately, they will be writing their own movie reviews and publishing them.
One of our math teachers had students think about proportion by leading them to think about what it might be like to be a foot tall and then asking them if they would notice if the universe shrank to half its size overnight. They had to write an answer, support it, and then discuss.
We talked about Socratic circles, attributive tags, weather prediction, effective questioning, Spanish HOTS, and many other Higher Order Thinking Skills teachers in our school are helping students to develop. Everyone was included, and I hope everybody learned as much as I did.
NOTE: On the Monday after this was written, my principal told me that our curriculum director had received one parental complaint about the frustration her child was experiencing in classes at the high school. Challenging students to think results in a certain amount of student frustration. If your school is serious about HOTS and depth of knowledge, you will experience a little blowback. Expect it.
Close to fifty school librarians attended this workshop and Kristin tried to make us think about the impact of what we do on our schools. If I analyze the tasks I do and discover that they take time and effort but have little impact on student learning, then I need to rethink what I am doing. "Sculpt your program. Whittle away that which is not impactful."
One of the most efficient ways to influence the learning climate in our schools is through meaningful professional development. Now, I have just begun to get really serious about professional development in the last year or two, so I know from experience that this is no bed of roses. Teachers LOVE to complain about professional development. In fact, I hear three complaints the most: 1. We need more professional development. 2. We need better professional development. 3. We have to suffer through too much professional development. Sometimes, I hear all three comments from the same person, though usually not on the same day. Much too frequently, teachers behave in exactly the same ways their most annoying students do, and it didn't take long before I decided that teaching teachers was no different in any significant way from teaching adolescents. Embrace that idea, and you will be happier, but do not give up, because librarians influencing and conducting professional development is a great idea worth pursuing.
1. As much as we like to hammer our principals, they are more overworked than anybody in the school, and they are running interference for you with disgruntled parents and students constantly. They are more than happy to have some help with professional development. Don't be shy about volunteering and then running with it. Communicate but try to avoid being too needy. If you do a halfway decent job, they will be the last to complain.
2. You are the glue that ties technology to curriculum to teachers. You can be, anyway. If you are involved with the technology and curriculum committees that make the biggest impact in your district, you will know what the strategic plan is and what the high priority goals and objectives are. Conducting the right professional development can help you build good relationships with your technology and curriculum leaders. Working with these people is considerably more effective than demanding things from them.
3. If you have a Building Leadership Team (BLT), be on it. This team is the glue that connects curriculum to teachers to administration to counseling to sped. The more people involved with professional development, the more meaningful it will be. If your teachers are just like your students in a pd setting, and they ARE, then you need to give thought to how you can engage them in their own learning. One of the best ways to do that is to involve them in professional development planning, delivery, and evaluation. The BLT is a built in structure that can help you do just that. One example of this is what happened in our school this spring. We have an unusual number of high needs students entering high school this fall. Our spring professional development was pretty much planned. We were going to report on MTSS reading and math scores, begin a segment on The Motivation Breakthrough by James Lavoie, study four Teach Like a Champion instructional techniques, and spend the afternoon exploring Google Apps. About a week and a half before the pd time, one of the sped teachers emailed everybody with some tips about working with autistic students, so the BLT replaced the motivation piece of our pd with a presentation by our school psychologist and counselor about working effectively with autistic students. The counselor and the psychologist were thrilled to be involved, the teachers had a chance to prepare for some of the students they would have in the fall, and our pd became responsive to specific need as well as engaging and relevant.
Kristin mentioned two specific ways to develop solid professional development: concierge pd and exploratorium. Concierge pd is one-on-one consultation that works just as a hotel concierge does. The teacher works with you to achieve her classroom goals. You take the pressure off by helping her gather resources, discussing ideas for effective instruction and crafting solid content based on standards with meaningful student outcomes. Most of the time, my teachers don't really want me to teach, but sometimes I do teach lessons if they need me to. In my experience, concierge pd is often serendipitous and your stronger, more confident teachers are the most likely to take advantage of it. Exploratorium has its roots in inquiry based science instruction as near as I can tell. It involves teachers setting their own goals within the framework of district goals and objectives and then having the time to explore. For example, teachers are all over the map with their technology expertise. A one-size-fits-all approach to technology instruction is woefully inadequate, yet teachers really need the time to explore the tech that would be most useful for them on a daily basis. Exploratorium is most effective when teachers report what they have learned at the end of the pd time. It is often impractical to ask for a finished product since they usually don't have time in one session to finish anything. Teachers must also have the freedom to honestly report on what did not work or on what was not effective for them.
Due to the emphasis on school improvement, most districts are devoting more time to professional development than ever. As a librarian, you can build influence, impact instruction in your school, strengthen relationships, and learn more than you ever thought you could by your involvement in professional development. (Martha House)
There has never been a better time to be a WebJunction Kansas member! As of July 1st, unlimited access to WebJunction’s online self-paced courses is available to WebJunction Kansas (WJKS) members (affiliates). What does this mean? As a WJKS member you can enroll in as many courses as you like free of charge. The course catalog has been streamlined (354 courses) and is ready and waiting for you. Just login and go to the courses tab to get started. [Note: You will not be able to see the course catalog unless you are logged in.]
Full details of this change and others at WJKS are available on SLK News.