Thursday, September 19, 2013

For RIGOROUS learning, begin by thinking about what STUDENTS WILL BE ABLE TO DO

If we plan with the end in mind....
in the end, we want students to use knowledge skillfully. 

(We also want students to use knowledge to explain their understanding of conceptual ideas. For this post, I'm going to focus on how students use knowledge to successfully show what they are able to do with that knowledge).

If we begin by considering what students should be able to do, we are carefully considering how students are going to use their knowledge.  We have the end in students will use their knowledge.
First, consider these real life examples where we keep the end in mind:

If we purchase a hammer, we don't decide how to use the hammer after the purchase.  We purchase the hammer knowing exactly how it is going to be used in a particular project.  We need the hammer for a particular purpose before we purchase the hammer. My goal is to use tools effectively to construct something.

When I'm on the internet reading information about nutrition and diet needs, I'm doing it because I know that I want to start eating healthier and smarter.  My goal defines what I'm going to learn. My goal is to analyze foods to develop a plan for healthier eating.

If Halloween is around the corner, we don't grab bags of candy from the store and then decide how to use them.  We grab the bags of candy knowing that they're needed for Halloween traditions. My goal is to offer the best candy possible to gain the admiration of neighborhood kids.

In gardening, we have a sense of what things we want to grow and the function those plants will have in our cooking after they develop and ripen.  It doesn't make sense to grow something without knowing how it will potentially be used.  My goal is to arrange items in a garden so they grow successfully and meet my needs as a cook.

If I'm a college student who needs a job, I know that my goal is to locate the critical attributes of a resume so I can write an effective resume.  I don't learn critical attributes for a resume and then suddenly decide it would be a fabulous time to write a resume.  My purpose for knowing information is established in advance.
When a teachers uses desired results for learning, they might begin with what students should know.  Why wouldn't we?  That's what we've always done! Tony Robbins stated, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."  Maybe it's time to change our approach to thinking about instruction.  What if we start with what students should be able to do?  After all, the rigor of learning partially lives in what students should be able to do...THE SKILLS of the practitioner!  Here, you'll see some sample statements for what students will be able to do.  Think of this as a potential starting place for your planning. 

As students progress through the grades, what they are asked to do builds in complexity.  Teachers will notice this, which means that the teacher should consider some significants questions as part of the planning process.  Planning for HOW students will show what they are able TO DO means that the teacher is automatically shifting his/her thinking to ASSESSMENT of what students will be able TO DO. Check out the questions on the right to inform what this thinking might look like?  Notice how teachers intentionally invite students to transfer and apply thinking strategies (traditionally taught in reading) and writing to learn (modeled and intentionally taught to writers).

Last, go back and see what students should know.  You may notice that the things students should know are simply the supports for what students should be able to do.  The things students should know are players in the game...they're actors in the play....they're pieces in the puzzle...droplets in the wave)(you catch my drift).

It's a slight paradigm shift in thinking but it might be a very important shift that will allow you to focus on the rigor that we want to bring into our classrooms!

What are your thoughts?

How does this approach to thinking challenge your thinking?

What do you understand now that you didn't understand before?

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