Ilja van Weringh’s blog


Welcome. My name is Ilja van WeringhI am a teacher. I like learning. This blog is where I share the interesting things I find offline and online about Teaching, Technology and Thinking. Putting thoughts, ideas, quotes, resources, images and links together is my way of learning.

You can also find me on Twitter and Diigo.

Quality Teaching Rounds: Talking about great teaching

Quality Teaching Rounds, developed by Jenny Gore and Julie Bowe, involves teachers working in professional learning communities (PLCs) of four or more to observe and analyse each other’s teaching (Bowe & Gore, 2017) a. The QTR is a protocol using a set of “good teaching practice” criteria with which a lesson is “coded” and then discussed by a group of three or four teachers. The three dimensions and 18 elements are grouped in three domains of good pedagogy: Intellectual Quality, Quality Learning Environment and Significance.

How it works:

A group of four teachers (three could work, but four is optimal) observe a lesson by one of the group. The three observers “code” the lesson using the Quality Teaching criteria. After the lesson, the group of four get together and discuss the lesson. The discussion is not an appraisal of the teacher; it is about discussing the elements of good teaching.

Below are my notes of an excellent two day PD I was lucky enough to attend b, guided by Professor Jenny Gore. She was insightful, interesting and showed us how the QTR model is one of the few ways in which teachers can have safe and constructive discussions based on lesson observations.

I have blogged about Jenny Gore’s QTR before, but at that time, I didn’t fully get how useful and great this protocol actually is. Now I do, and I can’t wait to start working with it at my school. Here is the blog post from June 2016.
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  1. https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1336&context=research_conference  (back)
  2. On the 25th and 26th of February 2020, at Lauriston Girls’ School  (back)

Effective Mentoring, VIT

I attended a VIT refresher course on Thursday the 5th of March 2020, led by Catharine Hydon and Matt Woodley from the VIT. My main take-away was how important it is to have a clearly defined induction and mentorship program with well trained and committed mentors. At my school, we have a lot of good people and great intentions, but we have some way to go towards properly formalising our processes.

What is mentoring?

  • Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be. (Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring)
  • As a process, mentoring may be generally described as a dynamic interpersonal relationship involving two or more people. Mentoring in early childhood is often perceived as “a peer relationship” (Nolan, 2007, xvii), where a more experienced practitioner provides professional guidance to one or more novice practitioners, either on a 1:1 basis or as a group. (Wong and Waniganayake 2013) 
  • Need to have a written down protocol or policy to support VIT teachers.

What mentoring isn’t

  • Performance management
  • Training
  • Peer friendship and support
  • Counselling
  • Rescuing

What good mentors do?

The good mentor is:

  • committed to the role of mentoring.
  • accepting of the beginning teacher.
  • skilled at providing instructional support.
  • effective in different interpersonal contexts.
  • a model of a continuous learner.
  • The good mentor communicates hope and optimism. a
  • My notes here

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  1. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may99/vol56/num08/The-Good-Mentor.aspx  (back)

Evaluating Professional Development

My school is currently trialing and evaluating different forms and modes of professional development. I did some reading to gain perspectives on how to evaluate the effectiveness of professional development.

I read two articles about PD evaluation, both by Thomas Guskey, who seems to have made this his academic niche.

Article 1: What Works in Professional Development?

Abstract of “What works in Professional Development“: a A research synthesis confirms the difficulty of translating professional development into student achievement gains despite the intuitive and logical connection. Those responsible for planning and implementing professional development must learn how to critically assess and evaluate the effectiveness of what they do.” You can read the article with detailed comments by a broad group of educators here: https://kami.app/J15eQMqxFzOk.

While this article is interesting, it is also questionable because its quite considerable conclusions seems to rest from just 9 ‘valid’ studies. All the other studies were dismissed because of problems with the methodology. So; it is too hard to do valid studies into the efficacy of Professional Development and its impact on student outcomes? Can we make any statements about the impact of PD on student outcomes?  Jenny Gore would say she has evidence for the effectiveness of the Quality teaching rounds model. 

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  1. What Works in Professional Development?
    Guskey, Thomas R.; Yoon, Kwang Suk
    Phi Delta Kappan, v90 n7 p495-500 Mar 2009
    https://tguskey.com/wp-content/uploads/Professional-Learning-5-What-Works-in-Professional-Development.pdf Accessed 29/02/20  (back)

Getting students to talk about pages in a textbook

Contents

    I try to get the students to talk through their understanding and ideas as much as possible. Some days I’m more successful than others.  It can be challenging to deal with long text book passages and making the info on those pages ‘stick’. The other day I tried a new activity, I call it Study Group Tabata. Tabata It worked well. It is roughly based on Ron Ritchhart’s MicroLab and allows students to talk through new information from a textbook, and then work towards answering a central question. It can be adapted to any subject.

    • Aim of the task:  To understand a complex issue (in this case Gleichschaltung in N*zi Germany) and then answer a central question (“How successful was Gleichschaltung?”)
    • How: Break down the complex issue into elements. (In my case, political parties, trade unions, regional states: This was based on pages and topics in the textbook)
      • Activity:
          • Groups of three.
          • Student 1 discusses subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
          • Student 2 discusses same subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
          • Student 3 summarises subtopic 1 and highlights the key issues and knowledge. Student 3 could be a note-taker too.

    Continue reading

    Better conversations, Jim Knight

    Contents

      Jim Knight, Better Conversations Book coverI have really enjoyed reading Jim Knight’s “Better Conversations”. It is inspirational in the way it makes you mindful of what we do all day: Talk. We talk at, about, with and to each other. We all know how great it feels to have a truly wonderful, productive and invigorating conversation. What if more of our conversations could be even better? Knight provides some common sense approaches, but to call it ‘common sense’ is unfair because if having great conversations is common sense and easy, then why do we have bad/unproductive conversations, or conversations which could have been better?

      I picked the 5 chapters I found most interesting and relevant, and used the mindmaps Knight provides at the beginning of each chapter as my guide to form my own notes and understanding. For this I used the software package MindJet Mindmanager, which our school provides for our students and created this mindmap overview: Better conversations Jim Knight (also see below)

       

      • Better conversations (Ch1)
      • The Better Conversations Beliefs (Ch 2)
      • Ask better questions to foster inquiry (Ch5)
      • Redirecting toxic words and emotions (Ch8)
      • Building Trust (Ch9)

      My key takeaways: Continue reading

      Pareto Principle; work smarter not harder

      Contents

        I had heard of the 20/80 rule, but had never really looked into it deeply. It’s such a great strategy for teachers in many ways. Basically: “Find out what is vital, ignore what is trivial, and you can maximize results.” a  When making a to do list (which I do often), identify the top 20% and focus on finishing those off first. Here is a distillation of my reading and understanding (all links provided) : Continue reading

        1. https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2015/10/01/the-80-20-rule  (back)

        A week on #edutweetoz, in polls

        Contents

          Twitter continues to be my favourite form of professional development. The networking and ideas I get from it are just invaluable to my teaching practice. I had another go at hosting @edutweetoz for a week (from 24/11/19 till 01/12/19). It was great fun, but it also made me realise how used I am to my own posse of people on Twitter. It felt quite different to interact with a whole new (and much bigger) group of people. One of my themes for the week was to run lots of polls because they are easy to interact with and can start some interesting conversations. Below are the polls I ran. Some interesting data about the working life of teachers:

          • 43% of respondents work through recess
          • 45% of respondents stay at work until after 5pm
          • 47% of respondents eat lunch at their desk
          • 65% of respondents use Sunday to prep for Monday
          • 77% of respondents are a member of a teachers union

          See more polls below, in random order: Continue reading

          PD Bingo

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            Here is a great way to diversify the professional development offerings at your school. During Term 3, I held a ‘PD Bingo’, based on an idea by @nbgreene, found via @cultofpedagogy (also see bottom of post).
            This Bingo poster contained a mix of 24 teaching ideas, strategies and PD choices. The aim was to inspire staff to try new things, and to get a sense of what they found easy or challenging to implement in their classes or in PD. I got the Bingo sheet printed on A2 size and hung it in the staff room for 3 weeks. Here is what it looked like:

            Many staff members participated and it got some great conversations going. Below is an analysis of the results: Continue reading

            Building an argument tower with thesis, antithesis, synthesis

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              Today we built an ‘argument tower’ in class. The idea was found by my colleague Sara, on this AP Word History blog, written by Jonathan Henderson. There are also a few Tweets about “argument towers”.

              I used the ‘Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis‘ argument structure to help students construct an effective paragraph or essay. You can also use “Contention – Example – Evaluation” etc. Works for English, Philosophy, Geography or any area where students have to argue something.

              What’s needed: Continue reading

              Teaching students how to learn effectively

              Contents

                Here is a great article by Pamela L. Bacon: “Effective Studying is a Science, Not an Art: Teaching Students Scientifically-Based Study Techniques” (2017). You can read the article and see my highlights and annotations here in Kami, If you like, you can add your own comments / highlights to it.

                Bacon is very clear and honest about what did and didn’t work when she tried to convince her students to use these scientifically proven techniques to study better.

                • What didn’t work: Simply telling the students about these techniques.
                • What did work: Attaching an assessment task to the techniques > forcing students to use these specific methods in a task which was then graded, although the weighting of those tasks was quite low.

                The three effective study techniques which have been supported by most research are: Continue reading

                Revision Twister

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                  This worked well with my small IB History class. The students created the questions and ran the game themselves. It’s a bit gimmicky, but they had fun and hopefully it was a bit of a break from the endless practice essays and note taking at the end of the year.

                  Questions can be found here

                  And PPT with circles (PPT smart art) here: Revision Twister PPT Continue reading

                  The Value of History

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                    The History Council of Australia has recently adopted a wonderful new statement on the value of History.
                    This fantastic manifesto deserves to hang in each classroom in Australia, but unfortunately the layout of the original PDF was a bit plain. I have recreated the statement as posters in Canva so that you can print them off and have something colourful and visual to put up on your classroom walls. The originals are A3-sized, but they will also work well in A4.

                    Download all the A3 PDFs here. It is a large file. 

                    The image files (Large PNGs) are below. Just right click and save as…. Continue reading