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Edclicking

By Dr. Harry Tennant

Edclicking

by Harry Tennant
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Entries from September 2012
Posts 1 - 2 of 2

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cycles within cycles

How often does a teacher repeat what she does? A course of lesson plans is repeated once a year. The process of preparing to teach a day's lesson occurs daily. The behaviors involved in managing the activities in the classroom occur on a minute by minute basis. What is the relative importance of each of these? If a teacher's teaching is to improve, which timescale is most important to focus on?

All of the timescales are necessary for effective teaching. The shortest timescales probably have the greatest effect because they are repeated most often. They also have the benefit of becoming habits, executed without conscious attention, because they are repeated so often.

Ultimately, the longest timescales are the most meaningful. If a course is taught expertly on a minute by minute and day by day basis, but the course covers practical applications of astrology or phlogiston theory, the entire course is still a total waste of time.

What separates the best teachers from the worst? Typically, it is the short cycles. The long cycles tend to be handled at higher levels. States mandate learning objectives. Textbooks organize bodies of knowledge.

A teacher who has little control in the classroom will be ineffective. A teacher who fails to plan and prepare each day will waste students' time. A teacher who fails to provide timely feedback to students will miss critical opportunities for helping those students build their understanding.

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Keywords: Continuous improvement

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

RtI Beyond Students

The big ideas behind RtI seem to be that to improve the performance (ie, change the behavior) of an underperforming student, do these things:

  • Have a list of pre-defined interventions to apply
  • The interventions vary by area (academic, behavioral, social, disabilities, etc.) and vary in intensity (tier I, II, III)
  • When a problem with a student is identified, get explicit about current performance and goal performance
  • Prescribe interventions to achieve the goal performance in a specified period of time
  • The teacher logs when the interventions are applied (and records additional comments)
  • At the end of the specified time period, reassess the student's performance. Based on the results, adjust the interventions, set new goals and a new review date
Why? RtI is there to change students' habits (behaviors), and habits are hard to change. Some of the things we know about changing habits are
  • Habitual routines are reinforced each time they are repeated. Reduce the frequency of repeating the habit and you reduce the strength of the habit.
  • Habits are consciously activated by triggers: conditions, events, feelings, etc. that start the habitual routine going. Avoiding the triggers can help reduce the frequency of repeating the habit.
  • Habits are automatic routines. But it is possible to substitute a new, positive routine for an old detrimental routine.
  • Old habits don't go away but are replaced with new ones. There are two implications: the old habit is still there ready to be triggered and the new replacement habit becomes stronger through (lots of) repetition.  
  • The most common reason that attempts to change habits fail is that the replacement habit is not repeated enough times to replace the old habit. That is where logging and coaching comes in: they help keep the need to replace the old habit with the new in one's awareness until sufficient repetitions has made the new habit automatic.
To the extent that RtI is effective for improving student performance, shouldn't it also be effective for improving staff and personal performance? Should we have RtI systems to help administrators work with problems with teachers or other staff members? Staff RtI would not only document attempts to turn around an underperforming teacher but would help in improving that teacher's problem habits.
 
Would RtI systems help in changing personal habits? Important elements in quitting smoking are avoiding triggers such as nicotine cravings (with Chantix) or social smoking (avoiding hanging out with smokers). Weight loss goals are often missed by not sticking with the program long enough to change habits. Having explicit weight loss strategies (meal planning, etc.), exercise strategies and logging and coaching/buddies are among the practices most highly correlated with success.
 
Should we think if RtI beyond its application to student performance?

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Keywords: RtI

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