More and more, I’m enjoying being wrong, for it’s through mistakes that the learning happens. I definitely felt this way this week. On Tuesday afternoon, I went to an inservice about success criteria, learning goals, and descriptive feedback. This was a networking session with another school, and the focus for the session matched up to our school self-assessment focus as well.
I have to admit that before I went to the session, I had some reservations.
1) I’m not a meeting person. I never have been. I take minutes at all staff meetings to keep myself focused, and I was concerned that this would be a whole afternoon of lecturing. This wasn’t what I wanted.
2) I have been out at a number of inservices recently, and as we get closer and closer to the end of the year, I feel the pressure more and more. I know that there’s still a lot to do, and I really wanted to be in the classroom teaching and working with the students.
When I saw the agenda for the afternoon though, I was feeling better about the inservice, and once it got started, I was glad that I was there. The afternoon session was run by Susan Pasian and Kristi Keery-Bishop, two program consultants from the Board that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from many times before.
I loved how the inservice was a practical one. It wasn’t about theory. Susan and Kristi gave us some great samples of learning goals and success criteria, and how they could be adapted across the grade levels. The a-ha moment for me though was when they showed how you take the learning goal to develop the success criteria, and how this success criteria can then match up to the anchor charts and checklists in the classroom. We’ve heard before how success criteria, anchor charts, and checklists are not the same thing, but seeing the development of each, helped me see how they differ.
I was actually sitting beside one of my grade team partners, and at the exact same time, we turned to each other, said we need a “learning goal,” and modified the success criteria right there. All of a sudden, it made sense. And then to make things even better, Susan and Kristi circulated around the room during our work time, in addition to our wonderful LIPT (Literacy Improvement Project Teacher), Lesley Reed. They all helped us tweak our learning goal and TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathway). When we left the inservice, we all felt as though we knew more and could really do something great with this upcoming TLCP.
So yes, we need to explain to our students that what we thought was success criteria, was actually a combination of success criteria and a checklist. That’s okay though. I think that telling students that we were wrong, and showing them how we’ve improved, helps them accept their mistakes as well and figure out ways to get better.
At the inservice, Susan and Kristi showed this fantastic descriptive feedback video featuring Dylan William:
After this video, the teachers at the inservice spoke about their reflections. One thing that came up at the different tables was that some students don’t do well with feedback. They see it as criticism. They don’t necessarily want to hear about their next steps. This got me thinking, as I have the opposite experience in my classroom. My students want to hear about what they did well, but they ask for their next steps. They are even giving themselves and others some good next steps to further their learning and help them improve.
This got me thinking about why this might be the case. I think that we need to create a culture in our classrooms where students know that all of us can always do better. I talk to my students about my own next steps, and I think that there’s value in them knowing that even teachers can improve.
I’m so glad that I was wrong, and that this was such a valuable afternoon of learning. Even though I learned a lot, I know that the learning isn’t over. In William’s video, he speaks about the good job and great work comments that I know I use far too frequently. I get excited, and these words just escape. I’m aware of this though, and I do hope to improve. I did so in math, so I can do so in language as well.
I also know that my success criteria and learning goals will need to continue to be tweaked throughout the school year. I need to use this same process in more subject areas. I need to continue to model for the students to use this success criteria as they offer descriptive feedback to each other, and I need to continue to do so, as I offer descriptive feedback to them.
Our school self-assessment is at the end of May, and I just hope that in the next five weeks, I continue to improve and my students do as well. I was wrong, and I’m sure that I will be wrong many times more, but if I learn from my mistakes and get better as a result, isn’t this what really counts? I think so!
Thank you, Susan and Kristi, for reminding me of this and helping me make a positive change in the classroom and for my students!
Thanks Aviva for another thought-provoking post. I only wish that more educators (including and especially more administrators) would be open and honest when they make mistakes. Students and staff will respect you more if you are truthful about errors, for whatever reasons. I know I had to eat some humble pie this week, not because of how I constructed my success criteria, but because I shouted pretty loudly at a student. I explained why I did (scared, upset, angry) and apologized for doing it. The experience also made me rethink item placement in the library. Mistakes are part of learning.
Thanks for your comment, Diana! I love how you shared your experience too. We all make mistakes, but being willing to admit them (the hard part) really does allow the learning to take place (or at least that’s what I’m finding).
Loved the honest reflection in this reflection!
I wonder about the line our “student self assessment is at the end of May.”
I infer that means your TLCP is ending at the end of May and you want to see improvement by that point. However, I think student self assessment begins the moment they walk through the classroom door I the morning, they need to be self regulating and cross checking criteria throughout the whole day. Remember, student self assessment shouldn’t be an event, it should be a way of learning.
Thanks for the comment, Angie! I should have clarified more in my post. It’s actually a “school self-assessment” that’s happening at the end of May. This is a walk through by a number of different superintendents and principals in the Board. The team spends 15 minutes in each classroom and talks to students about what we as a school identified as our goal — which happens to be learning goals, success criteria, and descriptive feedback.
In terms of student self-reflection, I completely agree with you, and in fact, have my students reflecting on their own work constantly. I think that this is so important and will not only help them this year, but will help them in the years to come!
As a school, I am amazed how our understanding of the LGs and SC criteria has grown since we made it a laser like focus a year ago. Working together has made the biggest difference. The learning together has made it easier to identify where we needed to make changes. I had a wonderful moment last week when a teacher came and asked me to reflect with him on what he had created for his next TLCP. To me it said that we had built the trust needed to work together (admin and teacher) to support everyone’s learning. I love learning along with staff and ultimately seeing the impacts it has on kids in the classroom. That’s what it’s all about!
Thanks for the comment, Susan! I absolutely agree with you about the benefit of working together. I love the story that you shared as well. What a great way for a teacher and administrator to collaborate to best meet the needs of students. Awesome!!