by Drew Perkins, Director of TeachThought PD
The start of every new year usually brings an increasing number of requests from school leaders looking to discuss professional development options for the spring, summer, and fall.
As we moved from January to February and into March that annual trend was typically growing with each passing week. Then the world stopped. Well, at least it feels like it in so many ways, right?
So what’s next and how might we prepare? It’s impossible to know how long schools will need to conduct teaching and learning without being able to convene in-person but even then we can anticipate some things will clearly be different.
Thinking through this challenge it’s been helpful for me to lean into our PD Refinement and Alignment Cycle process as a framework. Clarifying your 1. mission/purpose, 2. vision, and 3. what actions will support them can provide a way to remain focused on what’s important, which seems increasingly difficult these times of growing distraction.
Because everything we do uses inquiry as a lens, I’ll frame our purpose or goal as a ‘Mission Question’ that includes language from our TeachThought PD mission. Your ‘Mission Question’ may be different based on your organization’s mission.
Mission Question: How can we be ready to prepare our students for the modern world in whatever circumstances we’re compelled to operate in?
As I generated questions I would need to know and answer to answer this I came up with this list:
- How do we prepare our teachers?
- What do/will our teachers need physically, emotionally, and in terms of pedagogy?
- What will the modern world demand?
- What infrastructure will we need?
- What infrastructure do we have?
- How should we think about student assessment and accountability?
- How will we reach students without reliable internet access or devices?
- How many teachers have family members that require attention during the “school day”?
- What software will help us teach effectively?
- How can we shift from less ‘content delivery’ to more inquiry, reflection, and meaning-making?
I’m certain I’ve missed some important questions that would likely surface as we worked through the process. In PBL good ‘need to know and learn’ lists are dynamic, not static, as we traverse the cognitive terrain necessary to meet the challenge.
I like to think of vision statements more as a collection of evidence.
What do we want things to look, sound, and feel like?
How would we know we’re making progress toward our mission?
What are the things we would look for evidence of happening or not happening?
Here’s the list of descriptive terms I came up with:
- a culture of connections
- content and knowledge meaningfully connected by inquiry
Again, I’m sure there are more, or perhaps even better ways to describe the ideals we’re in pursuit of. Regardless, we want to make those things we’re hoping to see visible as a target with the tacit understanding that these are likely more challenging to achieve in circumstances where physical distancing is still forcing many of our interactions online.
Now that we have clarity of what we’re aiming for, how are we going to try to get there?
What specific actions are we going to take?
- professional development needs that will help teachers with tools and pedagogy
- purchasing of hardware and/or software
- clarifying curriculum focus areas and best ways to make content available
- systems and practices to build and maintain cultural cohesiveness
- assessment practices and policies for feedback, grading, and accountability
- differentiation practices for special needs (both in terms of cognitive ability and physical access) students
- flexibility for evolving circumstances of fully online (synchronous and asynchronous), a blend of online and in-person, or hopefully eventually fully in-person
The fourth piece of the aforementioned alignment cycle includes constant re-evaluation. This isn’t meant to happen once or at any particular time but as part of an ongoing practice of examination.
Are the actions supporting the mission and vision? If not, why not?
Are our mission and/or vision due for an adjustment?
If what we’re doing isn’t contributing to our goal, why are we doing it?
In this critique process I like to have a lens for quality so I’ve developed a rubric to guide the thinking. This single-point rubric provides three simple qualitative statements we can use to guide our pursuit of evidence rooted in a framework we use to think about the components of school.
Using this as a tool, we can cite specific evidence of things we observe as proof that what we’ve implemented is working well or falling short. Leaning into good formative assessment practice we can be responsive to shortcomings by changing our actions to better meet those goal statements.
The reintegration of elements of normalcy are likely to be a slow and tedious process. School leaders will be forced to innovate in ways they hadn’t needed to consider before and likely with significant budgetary constraints.
Focusing on thinking and inquiry skills that will help our learners be better problem solvers seems like a no-brainer but the easier route will be content delivery. Five years from now we’ll likely have adjusted to some new normal and looking at preparation now and it’s valuable to think of this as an exercise of flexibility and agility.
What Is Edcamp? An Overview For Teachers
What Is Edcamp? An Overview For Teachers
by TeachThought Staff
What is Edcamp? In summary, Edcamp is a low-cost, ‘bottom-up’ approach to teacher improvement where ‘conference’ participants gather, decide what’s going to be learned, then set out to teach one another in a laid-back, communal approach of sessions.
Obviously, the big idea is in the contrast to large conferences or formal professional development (which we also offer and believe has a role in education improvement) that is more ‘top down’ and pre-determined–that is, where a few people come and deliver content to a lot of people about a topic more or less out of their control. Edcamps are often called ‘unconferences’ and the video below explains why.
According to edcampnepa.org, in an Edcamp event, educators simply gather to learn:
EdCamps are ‘unconference’ events with a focus on education and learning. Most professional learning is done where participants listen to one person who shares their presentation with the audience. EdCamps on the other hand are meant to encourage conversation and participation among the attendees. Participants determine the topics for the day and take an active role in setting the direction of the conference. In the first hour of EdCamp NEPA, attendees will meet and interact over coffee and a light breakfast. An empty session board will be available for everyone to post session titles. From that, a session board will be constructed that will provide the schedule for the day.
Common Elements Of ‘An Edcamp’
A session board for day-of session planning
Food and ‘swag’
Sponsors (cheap doesn’t mean zero-cost)
Short 30-60 minute sessions
Use of social media to share learning and connect with teachers inside and beyond the Edcamp event using twitter and hashtags like #edcamp and #edcampusa, for example
Teacher-driven ‘promotion’ of Edcamp event that often includes blogs, digital/social ‘groups,’ and larger sign-up tools like Eventbrite
In a previous post on TeachThought from 2014, Dawn Casey-Rowe offered her view on Edcamp:
EdCamp is the essence of collaboration–melding and sharing of ideas in the spirit of excitement. How many school professional development days have seen faculty disappointed that there wasn’t enough slots to do all the interesting professional development?
Now, imagine this. Imagine that your faculty meeting had no agenda. Imagine that there was simply a grid in the front of the room with a certain amount of empty spaces with corresponding rooms and participants could put “I’m going to present this!” Some rooms might have (academic) standards, others might have co-teaching, still others could have “physical fitness and student/teacher wellness.” It could be anything. People vote with their feet–the sessions that were the most helpful for people would be the ones that fill up. It might be that there were a couple of mandatory sessions. It might be the entire day could be up to the participants. But to really do it right, you’d have a nice table full of coffee and treats, and just let the day flow.
Consider having an Edcamp or Edcamp-style PD event at your school and getting your rock star faculty to take ownership of the subject material. You’ll save money, give respect to your on-staff experts, and have a day full of community building and interesting collaboration. Set up a twitter board and tweet between sessions. I give a guarantee this will be a PD format you’ll want to continue.
The Background Of Edcamp
According to their About Us, the story of how Edcamp got started is fairly simple: Educators got together to improve independent of a conference, local requirement, or large-scale training. They just gathered and grew.
The first Edcamp was organized in 2010 by a group of teachers in Philadelphia who met up for a computer science “un-conference.” At BarCamp, they collaborated with others to create discussion sessions based on the interests of the people in the room. There was no presenter; no boring slideshow. The entire day was personalized and learner driven with those in the room sharing their experience and expertise. At the end of the day, the teachers decided this model was too good to contain! They exchanged contact information, and within the next few months they used the “unconference” model of BarCamp to target educators.
We’ll have more on Edcamps soon. In the meantime, if you want to search for Edcamps near you, here you go.
If you’d like to see what they look like ‘ in real life,’ here are some pictures of previous Edcamps shared by participants.
What Is Edcamp? An Overview For Teachers
Actors Theater Announces New Voices Young Playwrights Festival For Students
From a press release
LOUISVILLE, KY—Actors Theatre of Louisville is proud to announce the return of the New Voices Young Playwrights Festival. This year’s lineup will feature eight new plays by local high school students. The 15th annual festival will be sponsored by the LG&E and KU Energy Foundation. The New Voices Festival will run from April 27-29, 2020.
This year, 833 students submitted plays in consideration for the New Voices Festival. This includes students from 31 schools in 6 counties in Kentucky and Indiana. Selected plays for the festival were chosen by a group of 37 readers, made up of Actors Theatre staff and volunteers. The winning playwrights represent seven different high schools.
This year’s festival marks the first time a winner has been chosen from Central High School.
The festival is produced by the Learning & Creative Engagement team at Actors Theatre. Each piece is assigned a director, dramaturg, design team, and group of actors from the Professional Training Company (PTC), who work in conjunction with the playwrights to bring these pieces to life. Together, each team participates in workshops, production meetings, and a full rehearsal process before the festival in April. Each year, the plays produced in the festival are also published in the New Voices Young Playwrights Anthology.
To reserve tickets to review, to request images or for any other press inquiries, please contact Elizabeth Greenfield, Director of Communications, [email protected].
Actors Theatre’s Professional Training Company is generously supported by a significant grant from The Roy Cockrum Foundation. The $1.2 million award supports grants over a ten-year period for each apprentice during the nine-month program, and enables year-round employment for the program’s leadership. Founded by Roy Cockrum, the Foundation supports world-class performing arts projects in not-for-profit professional theatres throughout the United States. The Foundation considers grants by invitation only and is dedicated to helping non-profit theatres reach beyond their normal scope of activities and undertake ambitious and creative productions.
The selections for this year’s 15th Annual New Voices Young Playwrights Festival
Once Upon a Breakroom
by Alexandra Rapp (Mercy High School)
The Bow and Its Arrow
by Jocelynn Pry (Brown High School)
by J.C. Hyde (Floyd Central High School)
by Lita Van (Atherton High School)
by Skylar Wooden (Central High School)
by Aiden Kash (St. Francis High School)
by Katie Dobson (Ballard High School)
by Ethan Bower (Salem High School)
A Bite of Strange Fruit
by Olivia Benford (Moore High School)
by Islan F (Brooklawn)
15th New Voices Young Playwrights Festival
An Evening of New Work
Written by local high school students
Sponsored by the LG&E and KU Energy Foundation.
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 W. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Tuesday, April 27
April 27, 28, 29 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets are $5.
Tickets will be available starting in April.
Call the Box Office at 502.584.1205 or visit ActorsTheatre.org.
To reserve tickets to review, to request images or for any other press inquiries, please contact Elizabeth Greenfield, Director of Communications, [email protected]. About Learning & Creative Engagement at Actors Theatre of Louisville
Erica Denise, Director of Learning & Creative Engagement
Janelle Renee Dunn, Learning & Creative Engagement Associate
Abigail Miskowiec, Learning & Creative Engagement Associate
As the home of the Humana Festival of New American Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville is world-renowned for developing new work by playwrights with varying styles, interests, opinions and innovative approaches to making plays. Learning & Creative Engagement shares this energy and passion for playmaking by venturing into classrooms and teaching the art and craft of playwriting in fun, collaborative and differentiated ways.
By harnessing the wildly creative resources under its roof, the Learning & Creative Engagement department at Actors Theatre of Louisville aims to create outstanding artistic and learning experiences, where young people of all backgrounds, from elementary school to college, are invited to see plays and make theatre happen.
About the New Voices Playwriting Residency
Since its inception in 2003, the New Voices Playwriting Residency has introduced thousands of students from around the region to the basics of playwriting. Over the course of nine sessions, character development, conflict, dramatic structure and stakes are explored, as every student completes a ten-minute play. The Residency has inspired an annual New Voices Play Contest, a New Voices Young Playwrights Festival—fully produced by Learning & Creative Engagement and the Professional Training Company—and published New Voices anthologies of student-written work.
About the Professional Training Company
Jonathan Ruiz, Professional Training Company Producer
Now in its 48thyear, the Professional Training Company (PTC) is the cornerstone of Actors Theatre of Louisville’s commitment to education. One of the nation’s oldest pre-professional training programs, the PTC is a one-of-a-kind immersive program designed to elevate early-career practitioners in the American theatre industry by teaching the business and art of being a theatre professional. Members of the Company work directly with Actors Theatre artistic, administrative and production staff leaders as well as visiting guest artists, to receive hands-on training in their respective fields. The PTC is a diverse ensemble comprised of 39 talented individuals who are the next generation of American theatre.
About Actors Theatre of Louisville
Robert Barry Fleming, Artistic Director
Now in its 56th Season, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the State Theatre of Kentucky, is the flagship arts organization in the Louisville community. Actors Theatre serves to unlock human potential, build community, and enrich quality of life by engaging people in theatre that reflects the wonder and complexity of our time.
Actors Theatre presents almost 350 performances annually and delivers a broad range of programming, including classics and contemporary work through the Brown-Forman Series, holiday plays, a series of theatrical events produced by the Professional Training Company, and the Humana Festival of New American Plays—the premier new play festival in the nation, which has introduced more than 450 plays into the American theatre repertoire over the past 43 years. In addition, Actors Theatre provides over 15,000 arts experiences each year to students across the region through its Learning & Creative Engagement Department, and boasts one of the nation’s most prestigious continuing pre-professional resident training companies, now in its 48th year.
Over the past half-century, Actors Theatre has also emerged as one of America’s most consistently innovative professional theatre companies, with an annual attendance of 140,000. Actors Theatre has been the recipient of some of the most prestigious awards bestowed on a regional theatre, including a Tony Award for Distinguished Achievement, the James N. Vaughan Memorial Award for Exceptional Achievement and Contribution to the Development of Professional Theatre, and the Margo Jones Award for the Encouragement of New Plays. Actors Theatre has toured to 29 cities and 15 countries worldwide, totaling more than 1,400 appearances internationally.
Currently, there are more than 50 published books of plays and criticism from Actors Theatre in circulation—including anthologies of Humana Festival plays, volumes of ten-minute plays, monologues, essays, scripts, and lectures from the Brown-Forman Classics in Context Festival. Numerous plays first produced at Actors Theatre have also been published as individual acting editions, and have been printed in many other anthologies, magazines, and journals—making an enduring contribution to American dramatic literature.
You can find more information at ActorsTheatre.org.
Survey: High School Students Are Tired, Bored, And Stressed
by TeachThought Staff
Researchers from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Yale Child Study Center surveyed 21,678 American high school students and found that nearly 75% of the students’ emotions about school were negative.
“It was higher than we expected,” Ivcevic explained. “We know from talking to students that they are feeling tired, stressed, and bored, but were surprised by how overwhelming it was.”
The article continued to break down the gist: High school students are tried–and not just tired, but stressed and bored:
“They are on the positive side of zero,” Ivcevic said, “but they are not energized or enthusiastic.” Feeling “interested” or “curious,” she noted, would reveal a high level of engagement that is predictive of deeper and more enduring learning.”
It continued, “In the open-ended responses, the most common emotion students reported was tired (58%). The next most-reported emotions — all just under 50% — were stressed, bored, calm, and happy. The ratings scale supported the findings, with students reporting feeling stressed (79.83%) and bored (69.51%) the most. When those feelings are examined with more granularity, said Ivcevic, they reveal something interesting. The most-cited positive descriptions–calm and happy–are vague.”
We investigated students’ feelings at high school in a nation-wide survey of 21,678 US students (study 1), and in a four-week study using experience sampling methodology (ESM) with 472 students across 5 high schools (study 2).
75% of all feelings students reported in their open-ended responses were negative.
Feeling tired was the most prominent feeling, across measures and samples.
Negative feelings about school prevailed across all demographic groups.
We’ve explored emotion as a cause and effect of learning for years–even going as far as to suggest that emotion is more important than understanding. when Terry Heick explained, “While you look for your students’ attention and try to cause engagement, it’s their emotion you need to skillfully identify, navigate and masterfully manipulate.”
In general, the survey is data that reports what most teachers already know: Students are tired and, mostly, bored. And stressed. The conclusions we take away from this data are more critical–and we might consider answering some of the following questions:
Why exactly are students bored? Content? Learning models? Pacing? Their expectations? Pressure? Agency and ownership (or lack thereof)? The survey looked at demographic data. Are there any co-relations with learning models, teacher experience, content areas, letter grades, and said boredom/tiredness/stress?
What are the primary causes of the ‘tiredness’? Mental health? Engagemet? Sleep quality? Sleep duration? (The former could be psychological while the latter more behaviorial.)
What is the impact of negative emotions not just on academic performance but the long-term quality of life for ‘students’ (i.e., young human beings)?
And maybe most critically and broadly, in the face of this data, how should we respond?
“We investigated students’ feelings at high school in a nation-wide survey of 21,678 US students (study 1), and in a four-week study using experience sampling methodology (ESM) with 472 students across 5 high schools (study 2). Both studies combined mixed methods, including open-ended questions and rating scales (e.g., PANAS). In study 1, seventy-five percent of the feelings students reported in their responses to open-ended questions were negative. The three most frequently mentioned feelings were tired, stressed, and bored. Similar findings emerged with rated items, The prevalence of negative feelings was largely similar across demographic groups. Study 2 largely corroborated the findings from study 1. Although the retrospective measures showed similar results to study 1, the in-the-moment measures also showed frequent positive feelings. We discuss the findings in light of the ‘sleep deprivation epidemic,’ the achievement motivation literature, and implications for the validity of state- and trait measures of academic emotions.”
To analyze the data and methodology, you can download the full survey results here.
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