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10 Simple Ways To Save Time As A Teacher

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10 Simple Ways To Save Time As A Teacher

contributed by Dr. Stuart Kahl and updated by TeachThought Staff

It goes without saying that teachers are very busy.

So it’s not unusual to hear their concerns about the lack of adequate time to do everything teachers need to do: plan, individualize instruction, test, assign grades, collaborate, innovate, reflect and of course, teach. No one, not even teachers, can add more hours to a day. The key to finding more time each day may be to use strategies that make the most of your available time.

Formative Assessment

Interestingly, teachers have found that implementing the instructional process of formative assessment can actually maximize time for teaching and learning.

Remember these major steps of effective formative assessment.

Clarify learning goals and criteria for success;

Plan and implement instructional activities that include the gathering of evidence of learning;

Analyze the evidence and provide rich, descriptive, actionable feedback;

Adjust instructional/learning activities to address learning gaps;

Involve students in self-evaluation;

Activate students’ peers as resources for learning.

Research has shown convincingly that these practices can help teachers make the most of their instructional time and raise student achievement levels significantly, particularly for underachieving students.

See also 20 Simple Assessment Strategies You Can Use Every Day

10 Simple Ways To Save Time As A Teacher

1. Gather Evidence of Ongoing Learning

Implementing the formative assessment process means shifting our thinking about how assessment is used in the classroom—from gathering evidence of student learning after instruction, to gathering that evidence while learning is occurring.

You can do this by building in opportunities for students to provide evidence of understanding through short, instructionally-embedded assessments that are focused on clear learning targets. These evidence-gathering opportunities help students understand what they currently know and can do.

Teachers can also adjust their instructional actions and provide descriptive feedback to students on what they need. Taking the time to ensure that students have learned what was taught allows the teacher to move forward with instruction—saving time typically spent having to reteach later.

2. Prioritize

You can’t do everything–or not equally well, anyway. One easy way to save time as a teacher is to reduce your workload by focusing on teaching what’s most important by using the 40/40/40 rule in teaching.

3. Share The Responsibility For Learning

This deceptively simple statement has far-reaching impact, and points back to the above. How exactly you accomplish this would be a fantastic topic for a book. Project-based learning, place-based education, ‘living’ student portfolios of work, and student-led conferences are just a few examples of how this can happen.

4. Empower students

How useful this is–and if you can also use collaborators from outside the classroom–depends on what grade level you teach, but one of the most important rules in teaching is to never work harder than your students. This isn’t easy to pull off and very well may not be a ‘simple’ way to save time as a teacher, but over the long run can be one of the most powerful.

Assigning students specific tasks, teaching through stations and literature circles, having systems for make-up work and grading, and so on can all go a long way to save you time in the classroom.

5. Clarify Learning Goals And Criteria For Success

In the era of the new College and Career-Ready Standards, it is critical that teachers take time to clearly articulate learning expectations that support the content, skills, and processes inherent in the standards. Clarifying learning expectations not only helps teachers focus instructional time on what’s important, it helps engage students in learning and understanding the criteria for success.

The instructional process becomes more transparent when success criteria clearly articulate expected performances of understanding and skills. This allows teachers and students to use time more efficiently when interpreting evidence of learning as it unfolds.

6. Rethink The Roles Of Teachers & Students

Adding on to #4 above, rethinking the role of teachers of students in the classroom can allow students can pick up foundational knowledge and skills on their own, rather than through large group lectures or other teacher-led instruction. They can do this using online tools or other resources, either within or outside the classroom.

Some activities that have typically been considered homework—such as practicing skills introduced in class—can move into the classroom. This doesn’t mean that teachers should dispense with large-group instruction entirely. Variety is the spice of life. However, this approach allows teachers to spend more of their classroom time checking on student understanding in a variety of ways.

7. Involve Students In Small Group Work

Another way to save time as a teacher is to share the responsibility of learning is to ‘activate students’ peers as resources’ through small group work.

The delivery of instructional content or facilitating learning through small groups can also be a way of having the students and peers check their understanding themselves against the success criteria. This allows teachers opportunities to spend their time assisting students who have the greatest need for support.

8. Don’t Grade Everything!

Terry Heick has said this again and again–in how to reduce teacher workload, for example: don’t grade everything!

Most evidence of learning gathered for formative purposes should not be graded. This evidence is collected during the learning before students have reached the level of attainment they will by the end of a unit. It would be unfair for their early work to be counted toward summative grades. Rather, the early work should be thought of as preparation for subsequent—and fewer—summative assessments (another time saver).

When everything is graded, students are motivated by the grades: “I got 80 percent right; I don’t care what I missed. Besides, I can get extra credit for some things I do.” Research has shown that over-grading inhibits learning. Of course, the first time students are asked to produce work that is not graded, they may not take the assignment seriously. But when they are reprogrammed to realize that what they’re practicing will show up later on the test that does count, they soon will develop the motivation to learn, which formative assessment experts assert is critical.

The ungraded work yields the rich feedback that students use to reflect on their work and that students and teachers use to identify learning gaps and decide on the next instructional steps.

9. Plan Time for Students to Reflect on Learning with feedback

Build time into lesson plans for students to review progress. When students have the opportunity to reflect on their learning and apply feedback to improve their work, they can see their progress and advance their learning.

By giving students major responsibility for their learning, using class time differently, and changing grading practices, teachers can gain time that might be put to better use. Teachers may not be able to change some practices on their own. Education leaders need to understand formative assessment and support teachers in implementing it effectively—to allow teachers to focus their time on their primary goal of helping students learn.

10. Automate

This is obviously not ‘simple,’ either. How to automate and what to automate and when to automate in your teaching is a complicated thing.

That said, some automation in the classroom are more obvious than others: Taking attendance, self-grading assessments, systems for grouping students and exit slip collection and more are all low-hanging fruit, here. More on this topic, soon.

Dr. Stuart Kahl is founding principal of the nonprofit assessment organization Measured Progress.

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Teaching

The Selflessness Of Pedagogy: What Every Teacher Gives

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denisekrebs

The Selflessness Of Pedagogy: What Every Teacher Gives

by Terry Heick

It’s better to give than to receive–something that holds true for gift-giving and education.

In fact, the act of giving isn’t just a matter of ultimately receiving more, or even an act of altruism and selflessness. It has more to do with seeing the big picture itself — a healthy, robust, functioning system of careful human performance — that becomes the goal. It’s in this simple paradigm shift that we, as teachers, can find a new level of performance as professionals, contentment in our craft, and changed lives in the communities we serve.

So how might we focus on that service not as a characteristic of my job, but as the goal itself–the most macro product of all? For teachers, this would obviously be built around the idea of service-oriented teaching, where we gain strength and perspective from serving others. It would lead to ‘other growth,’ including, on a broader level, the formation of a personal and professional ecology than can sustain us through the challenges of teaching.

What would this look like?

Other teachers who need us, and who we need

Parents who need us, and who we need

Students who need us for something other than clarifying instructions, providing credit, and letter grades

The community of our school, including grade levels above and below ours, that needs us for our performance, collaboration, and ideas, just as we need that community.

In a word, this looks like interdependence. So what can I give to begin?

They give themselves.

Teaching is martyrdom. So often, educators feel the need to give themselves up to be feasted upon until there’s nothing left. Giving yourself is a different kind of gift, though. Here, it means truly putting your self aside — your need to be the best, your insecurities, professional goals, need for affirmation, and so on — and instead give in to the act of teaching.

But more crucially, this giving of yourself implies that you give your whole self to the act of teaching — your creativity, affection, background knowledge, contacts, networks, dreams, hopes, and so on — in the whole merging of you and your work.

They give others the benefit of the doubt.

As a teacher, you’ll see a lot moving upstream and down — struggling readers that always seem to come from that school; that family that doesn’t seem to care; that co-worker who seems to challenge you at every chance; that administrator who always seems to find a way to poke holes in your teaching. That assessment. That law. That policy.

Never, ever stop questioning the things happening around you. Be a critical educator, ask tough questions, and ring the bell when you’re concerned. Just do so from a position of positivity — give others the benefit of the doubt. Use positive presuppositions, such as: “We’ve always been strong supporters of literacy here, so I’m confused why. . . ”

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They give themselves the opportunity to learn new things continuously.

Okay, perspective change to first-person: I’m going to give myself the gift of learning. As a teacher, it makes sense to learn endlessly, not just to model it for students, but to keep my own curiosity and tendency for play stirring and alive.

I may learn a new set of literacy strategies. Maybe it’ll be a variation on the Socratic Seminar, or I’ll mash Fish Bowls with Agree/Disagree. I may bring new education technology into my classroom, or reach for new learning models such as project-based learning, sync teaching, or self-directed learning. I may throw out my desk and go paperless, mobile, or completely back to basics.

But I’m never going to stop learning. That is my gift to myself.

They give students a chance.

Maybe that’s a chance to surprise themselves. I want to give the gift of inspiration. Who doesn’t? And what better way can we inspire than by designing learning experiences that let students do things they didn’t think they were capable of? My gift would be giving students opportunities to surprise themselves through their own skills, critical thinking, creativity, and deep understanding of important ideas.

They give parents authentic opportunity to get involved.

It’s tempting to complain about parents that aren’t involved in their child’s schooling. Who on earth wants to be involved in schooling? Learning is a different matter — that’s something with a foothold allowing parents to engage meaningfully. This isn’t grades and homework, but rather understanding and the need to understand.

You may or may not get anything more from parents, but at least you’ve given them more tempting access than they’ve ever had in the past.

They give others chances to create new measures of success.

Teaching — properly done and measured as we do today — is impossible. It can’t be done. You cannot bring every single child to proficiency in every single standard while, at the same time, meeting their needs as human beings and helping them both see and reach their full potential. If this is your goal, you’re only going to disappoint yourself endlessly until you either burn out or realize that you’re lying to yourself.

Teaching, though, with new metrics of success — well, that’s suddenly a whole lot easier.

They give themselves a break.

The preceding represents a lot of giving, and also a lot of complexity, interdependence, opportunity, work, and chances to fail. So above all, I’m going to give myself a break.

I will give all of myself. I will give the benefit of the doubt. I’ll learn new things, promote self-discovery, connect with communities, and establish new measures of success. And when things go wrong, I’ll have a short memory. I’ll give myself a break and push on, excited about what tomorrow might bring.

Image attribution flickr user denisekrebs and cloudboard; What Every Good Teacher Gives

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Teaching

How The Lesson Study Approach Can Improve Your Teaching

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How The Lesson Study Approach Can Improve Your Teaching

contributed by Vicki Collet

Making teaching a shared and public practice supports improved instruction.

When teachers have opportunities for collaboration, reflection, and inquiry, they “can find better ways to answer the learning needs of students” (Lieberman & Wood, 2002, p. 42). Teacher inquiry makes us question practices that have become stale, generate innovation, and create dynamic learning for ourselves and our students.

Over the past decade, I’ve participated in teacher inquiry using a process called Lesson Study. I’ve seen scores of teachers engage with authentic professional learning through this work. Lesson Study is a structure for teacher inquiry that is as straightforward as it sounds: the study of a lesson. However, Catherine Lewis, who learned about Lesson Study in Japan and has been instrumental in spreading its use in the United States, points out that during Lesson Study,

(Teachers) improve the lessons not as an end in
itself, but as a way to deepen their own content knowledge, their knowledge of
student thinking, their understanding of teaching and learning, and their
commitment to improvement of their own practice and that of colleagues…Lesson
study is not about discovering the one right way to teach a lesson, but about
building knowledge of many teaching strategies and habits of observation,
inquiry, and analysis of practice (Lewis & Hurd, 2011, p. 24).

When participating in Lesson Study, you will collaboratively plan lessons that become the focus of inquiry on effective teaching practices. Then you’ll observe one another teach lessons and collaboratively revise and refine your instructional plans, as shown in the figure below.

How The Lesson Study Approach Can Improve Your Teaching

Inquiry is the essential element of Lesson Study, so the clear focus you identify for a Lesson Study cycle should propel your desire to investigate, to analyze and study together. Pursuing the questions your group has identified provides challenge and authentic purpose, which will increase your team’s motivation and engagement. Because you have identified the problem for yourself, the process will have immediate value. 

The goal of Lesson Study is not to create the ideal lesson that is universally useful. During teacher preparation and professional development, you have doubtless been taught and encouraged to use ‘best practices.’ Although it is true that some practices are more effective than others (and research has much to teach us), it is also true that there is no single, perfect lesson. This is true because you and I, and the students we teach, are diverse in so many ways. Lesson Study focuses on “the why of teaching: why teaching methods work in particular ways in particular settings” (Smagorinsky, as cited in Garcia & O’Donnell-Allen, 2015, p. 5). 

Grow your school with TeachThought PD Collaborative Lesson Study Workshops.

In our quest for better ways of doing things, Lesson Study can help us identify places where we are frozen in old practices and can help us warm to new ones. Lesson Study uncovers new approaches that are informed by the examination of evidence gained through our professional inquiry. Collaboration with colleagues who share similar contexts and concerns makes the insights gained especially helpful. By being the guides to our own professional learning, teachers resist stagnation and become mobile, active agents of change. With our colleagues, we take a learning stance by asking questions, taking risks, and reflecting on both successes and failures.

Lesson
Study uses knowledge you gain from your own classroom to stimulate professional
conversations about teaching and learning. Shared experiences through joint
planning and observation support the conversation, helping you develop your own
understanding and share it with others.

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If you are eager to investigate and improve instruction and increase your understanding about teaching, I invite you to learn more about Lesson Study. Lesson Study creates continuous learning cycles that put teachers in the driver’s seat of their own professional development.

———————

Book: Collaborative Lesson Study: ReVisioning Teacher Professional
Development

Website: vickicollet.com

Request to join Collaborative Lesson Study Book Club on Facebook est (next book study begins January 13, 2020)

Vicki’s blog: mycoachescouch.blogspot.com

Vicki on Facebook: facebook.com/mycoachescouch/

Vicki on Twitter: @vscollet

References

Garcia,
A., & O’Donnell-Allen, C. (2015). Pose, wobble, flow: A culturally
proactive approach to literacy instruction. Teachers College Press.

Lewis,
C. & Hurd, J. (2011). Lesson study step by step: How teacher learning
communities improve instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Lieberman,
A., & Wood, D. R. (2002). From network learning to classroom
teaching. Journal of Educational Change, 3, 315-337.

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18 Inconvenient Truths About Assessment Of Learning

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18 Inconvenient Truths About Assessment Of Learning

by Terry Heick

I. In terms of pedagogy, the primary purpose of an assessment is to provide data to revise planned instruction. It should provide an obvious answer to the question, “So? So what? What now?

II. It’s an extraordinary amount of work to design precise and personalized assessments that illuminate pathways forward for individual students–likely too much for one teacher to do so consistently for every student. This requires rethinking of learning models, or encourages corner-cutting. (Or worse, teacher burnout.)

III. Literacy (reading and writing ability) can obscure content knowledge. Further, language development, lexical knowledge (VL), and listening ability are all related to mathematical and reading ability (Flanagan 2006). This can mean that it’s often easier to assess something other than an academic standard than it is knowledge of the standard itself. It may not tell you what you want it to, but it’s telling you something.

IV. Student self-assessment is tricky but a key matter of understanding. According to Ross & Rolheiser, “Students who are taught self-evaluation skills are more likely to persist on difficult tasks, be more confident about their ability, and take greater responsibility for their work.” (Ross & Rolheiser 2001)

V. Assessments of learning can sometimes obscure more than they reveal. If the assessment is precisely aligned to a given standard, and that standard isn’t properly understood by both the teacher and assessment designer, and there isn’t a common language between students, teacher, assessment designer, and curriculum developers about content and its implications, there is significant “noise” in data that can mislead those wishing to use the data, and disrupt any effort towards data-based instruction.

VI. Teachers often see understanding or achievement or career and college-readiness; students often see grades and performance (e.g., a lack or abundance of failure) (Atkinson 1964).

VII. Self-evaluation and self-grading are different. ‘Self-evaluation’ does not mean that the students determine the grades for their assignments and courses instead of the teacher. Here, self-evaluation refers to the understanding and application of explicit criteria to one’s own work and behavior for the purpose of judging if one has met specified goals (Andrade 2006).

VIII. If the assessment is not married to curriculum and learning models, it’s just another assignment. That is, if the data gleaned from the assessment isn’t used immediately to substantively revise planned instruction, it’s at best practice, and at worst, extra work for the teacher and student. If assessment, curriculum, and learning models don’t ‘talk’ to one another, there is slack in the chain.

IX. As with rigor, ‘high’ is a relative term. High expectations–if personalized and attainable–can promote persistence in students (Brophy 2004). Overly simple assessments to boost ‘confidence’ are temporary. The psychology of assessment is as critical as the pedagogy and content implications.

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X. Designing assessment that has diverse measures of success that ‘speak’ to the student is critical to meaningful assessment. Students are often motivated to avoid failure rather than achieve success (Atkinson 1964).

XI. In a perfect world, we’d ask not “How you do on the test,” but “How’d the test do on you?” That is, we’d ask how accurately the test illuminated exactly what we do and don’t understand rather than smile or frown at our ‘performance.’ Put another way, it can be argued that an equally important function of an assessment is to identify what a student does understand. If it doesn’t, the test failed, not the student.

XII. The classroom isn’t ‘the real world.’ It’s easy to say invoke ‘the real world’ when discussing grading and assessments (e.g., “If a law school student doesn’t study for the Bar and fail, they don’t get to become lawyers. The same applied to you in this classroom, as I am preparing you for the real world.”) Children (in part) practicing to become adults is different than the high-stakes game of actually being an adult. The classroom should be a place where students come to understand the ‘real world’ without feeling its sting.

When students fail at school, the lesson they learn may not be what we hope.

XIII. Most teachers worth their salt can already guess the range of student performance they can expect before they even give the assessment. Therefore, it makes sense to design curriculum and instruction to adjust to student performance on-the-fly without Herculean effort by the teacher. If you don’t have a plan for the assessment data before you give the assessment, you’re already behind.

XIV. Every assessment is flawed. (Nothing is perfect.) That means that the more frequent, student-centered, and ‘non-threatening’ the assessment is (here are some examples of non-threatening assessments) the better. It’s tempting to overvalue each assessment as some kind of measuring stick of human potential. At best, it’s an imperfect snapshot–and that’s okay. We just need to make sure teachers and students and parents are all aware and respond to results accordingly.

XV. As a teacher, it’s tempting to take assessment results personal; it’s not. The less personal you take the assessment, the more analytical you’ll allow yourself to be.

XVI. Confirmation bias within assessment is easy to fall for–looking for data to support what you already suspect. Force yourself to see it the other way. Consider what the data says about what you’re teaching and how students are learning rather than looking too broadly (e.g., saying ‘they’ are ‘doing well’) or looking for data to support ideas you already have.

XVII. Assessment doesn’t have to mean ‘test.’ All student work has a world of ‘data’ to offer. How much you gain depends on what you’re looking for. (Admittedly, this truth isn’t really inconvenient at all.)

XVIII. Technology can help make data collection simpler and more effective but that’s not automatically true. In fact, if not used properly, technology can even make things worse by providing too much data about the wrong things (making it almost unusable to teachers).

The Inconvenient Truth About Assessment

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