Reflection and Feedback

what stuck with you-

I just came across a blog post by Dani Raskin where she talked about a reflection technique called “What Stuck With You?“. Basically, towards the end of the lesson, students are asked to write a post-it note on what they got out of the lesson – or even what questions/problems they have been left with. Students share their thoughts before sticking the note onto a display wall. This lets everyone have a voice, gives the teacher immediate feedback on students’ understanding of the key points of the lesson, and will form the basis for review later on.

I’m keen to try this with some of my classes, but probably more at the end of a unit of work than at the end of a class, just because I am working with primary students, 25 or 50 min lessons, and I don’t think I will get the full power of the activity after just reading a story and talking about it with Preps….

 

The second thing was mentioned later in the same blog post: using the “Start, Stop, Continue” feedback model. In this activity, you ask the students for feedback on your lesson/unit/teaching, specifically ways to improve the classroom experience:

* What would they like you ( the teacher) to START doing?

* What would they like you to STOP doing?

* What would they like you to CONTINUE doing?

A bit of a search and I found this very clear explanation of the model as it applies to primary/high school teaching. I have been changing some of the ways I teach ICT skills to my primary classes, so this would be a good time for me to seek some feedback from them on how helpful these changes have been for them.

 

ALIA day 3 – experiences reviewing the library

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The question for today was:

  • What has been your experience with reviewing your school library?

I found this to be more thought-provoking than expected, because my first response – thinking of the document – was ‘none’! But then I realised that reviewing services happens all the time, sometimes purposefully and sometimes on an ad hoc basis.

My first review activities would have been completed as part of my masters degree in Teacher Librarianship, awaaaay back between 2002 and 2007. I remember completing various assignments on reviewing and creating policy and procedure documents, collection mapping and reviewing online services.

Having moved to Tasmania and taken up this position at Hutchins,there have been different kinds of reviews: position descriptions, staff roles within a team, collaborative curriculum planning…

When I worked in Hong Kong I helped with a redesign of the school library, so that involved a lot of consideration of use of floorspace, flexible shelving and furniture options, placement of immovable IWBs to avoid glare, traffic flow…

In the last two years our school underwent a minutely detailed, comprehensive self-evaluation as part of gaining accreditation as an international school, included in which was of course analysis of library services and curriculum. That analysis was more about perception and use of the school library by the wider school community, so there are areas in these self-reflection and evaluation guidelines that were not touched upon in that process.

So now that I have thought about this a bit more deeply, I would say that I am involved in review processes of different aspects of library management at different points throughout the year, sometimes in response to external factors and sometimes as part of our internal annual cycles.Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps what I should be aiming for is a combination:

  • regular/term reviews of things such as library program and collection development to support the curriculum
  • small annual reports (Dianne Mackenzie is eloquent in her explanations here)
  • 3 to 5 yearly major reviews, which would provide support for a 3-5 year strategic plan for the library

Looking just at the third point is too daunting, but if divided into term-by-term and year-by-year activities, I think I can see it becoming more a process of analysing data that has been collected all along, plus updating documentation, and then from there creating goals for the future.

I foresee some quality time being spent with my calendar….

ALIA Schools National Online Forum

Yesterday was the first day of the ALIA Schools National Online Forum – School Library Resource Centre guidelines – an 8 day exploration of this document which was jointly produced by ALIA Schools and the Victorian Catholic Teacher Librarians (VCTL).

Stephens Library view over tuckshop

View from teaching area out over the steps to the roof of the tuckshop

I had seen the announcement of this online forum over the weekend, and had the blog bookmarked ready to start, when on Monday afternoon it was announced that a long-awaited and much-needed extension to our Junior School would begin in September this year, including the extension of my Library by several metres and a tuckshop roof!

I began working here in April 2008, and it quickly became apparent to me that the combination of layout, fixed cabinetry, immobile shelving, and insufficient space was limiting students’, teachers’ and classes’ use of theLibrary. By swapping the location of fiction and non-fiction collections I was able to improve some aspects, but limitations of space and built-in bookshelves could not be changed.

Now with an extension to the Library happening, I have a very clear timeframe for looking at all the aspects of the Library, from physical space to books on shelves to virtual collection to types of services offered to ways we communicate with and engage with the school community.

Today’s questions were:

  • Why should schools take the time to complete this document?
  • Could this document be useful in conducting a review of your library?

My answers were:

A1) I think that school libraries should be continually reflecting on their services in order to know which direction to take – keep going straight ahead or make a turn in a different direction? This document is a useful tool to guide that reflective process as it has already laid out a logical structure and itemised things to consider during the review.
I also think that the specifically Library-designed questions are more helpful than using a more general tool such as a SWOT analysis.

A2) This kind of review document is definitely going to be helpful in conducting a review of my Library! I think that this online forum, combined with the immediate plans to refurbish our junior/middle school library, are a match made in heaven – now I don’t have to wonder where to start, I’ll just grab a section and get going.

So, taking the plunge – I would like to use the SLRC guidelines for self-reflection and evaluation over the course of the next 3 terms to form the basis of a report on the state of my Library and future plans.

 

Improving the way we praise

“Sweet words are like honey, a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.” Anne Bradstreet

I stumbled across this article about giving the kind of praise that promotes healthy self-esteem rather than narcissistic views of self and abilities. That click led to some other articles on the same topic, looking at Praise vs Feedback, Praise for Girls, and another referencing the excellent Verizon video showing how conservative views of what girls should and shouldn’t do can deter them from tackling things like science and engineering.

I work in a boys’ school, so in my professional life the girl-focussed articles are less directly relevant, but the core message is still important: we must take care to show children with our words and actions that we value their efforts.

Things I am taking from this reading on a dreary Friday afternoon:

  • from the work of Carol Dweck: praise the process eg “I can see that you have worked really hard to write this story/ improve your piano playing/ latest achievement of any kind”
  • give the child your time and undivided attention: it proves that you value their actions (this is pretty hard in a class of 25 students when at least 5 of them are asking for help at any given moment)
  • superficiality and throw-away comments do more harm than good

More than anything else this feels like something that has to be an attitudinal shift for teachers (and parents), because it requires real effort to slow down and focus on one thing long enough to find that meaningful connection. In some areas that comes more easily than others – in conversations with my students about books they have enjoyed, it is easy to relax into a discussion about likes and interests, not least because that is likely to be a one-on-one or small group discussion. Finding times within a frantically busy lesson to pause beside someone and let them know that you saw their thinking and correction of their own spelling mistakes (for instance) is a lot harder.

And this weekend I will be listening to the way I talk to my daughters and son, looking for ways to give them the kind of feedback that shows I value them as young people who are growing into confident, capable individuals whom I will support in whatever direction they choose to travel.

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