I was able to compile my entire project into the relatively brief write up. It was challenging to put so much information into a short report, but I feel like it gives an accurate description of what I have learned. Read it HERE
The testing phase of the design process has been challenging for me. The schedule was less than ideal. We had spring break and Easter and report cards at the end of the quarter. I felt bad asking for a meeting much less time to be my guinea pigs. We got through it though. It even helped my design. Hooray! I was able to create a prototype of my plan to address how we can balance teacher workloads with the need to provide students with timely feedback. The goal being to keep my colleagues and I from completely stressing out and wanting to quit. I created an infographic that demonstrates my plan and then began by sharing that infographic with a wide range of colleagues via email. They included teacher from kindergarten to fifth grade with anywhere from 1 year of experience to over 40 years.
My protocol was as follows:
Please be as critical and brutal as possible. My goal is to dismantle this plan as much as possible to discover which parts stand up to scrutiny. What part of this plan resonates with you most and why? What part of this plan seems most unrealistic or incorrect and why? What would you add to these ideas? What questions or problems are not addressed that ought to be?
It took a while to compile the data and the responses I received via email were limited. I then took to interviewing two of my colleagues one on one so that I could bolster my sample size. I used the same protocol as before. This allowed me to follow up with some questions and started a more conversational tone. In the end I learned a lot about the ideas I presented. Most importantly I created a conversation amongst my colleagues that goes beyond my project. I am hopeful that it is the beginning of a more open and supportive team of educators. I learned that while this problem is huge it can be confronted. Short term I have a few tweaks to make to my infographic that will allow me continue testing the plan with an expanded sample of educators. Long term I have seen how this process has set up a mindset in me personally to tackle big problems and be a resource for educators. It feels like I have gained an expertise in an area that I was struggling with previously.
Over the last several weeks I have been working to design a plan to address the problem of teacher burnout. Specifically I have been examining the balance between teacher workloads and student feedback. Students need to know how they are doing as early and often as possible. Teachers need to be equipped to provide that feedback without sacrificing their families and health. What do we do about that? After researching, empathizing, ideating, and prototyping I made this brief vodcast to share my experience with putting my ideas out there for the whole world to see. What do you think?
For my problem of practice I have been exploring teacher workloads and student feedback. For my prototype I have been attempting to create a plan to address the problem in a comprehensive manner. I created this infographic to present the ideas to colleagues and other stakeholders to test the validity of my ideas from the ideate mode. As I gather feedback I will revise this infographic to reflect that feedback.
The process of prototyping has been an interesting journey. As I have taken all these ideas and thoughts about my POP (problem of practice) and organized them into a visual representation I have been able to see how all these ideas link together. Before this step everything seemed more abstract. I am excited to present my prototype and get some feedback. It allows me to see what is realistic in my design. I have enjoyed breaking the inertia of this project. As I saw in the prototype lab, beginning the process created momentum to fuel more ideas. When designing, dreaming, and planning that first step can be the difference between accomplishing something or nothing.
My Prototype Lab represents my thoughts about teaching and learning.
Teaching is about opening minds to the larger world.
Without it our worldview remains narrow and self centered...
Our worldview and what we learn is shaped by our teachers. Whether those teachers are parents, friends, cable news, or educators they all shape the way we see the world.
The process of building something concrete to represent an abstract idea is not new to me. I'm a teacher. My days are spent trying to connect ideas in the classroom to real life. Today I used a couple of cardboard rings, a napkin, and some markers to make a point about education. We often spend a lot of time talking about ideas, but it is a challenge to take action at times. It felt like putting my hands on something tangible really helped my creative juices to start flowing. I found a piece of cardboard tube while putting away dinner, and that led to another piece then another until I had developed an idea for what I wanted to create. It felt a little artsy, but the thinking that it sparked is valuable. It makes me think about other situations where getting our hands on something tangible might spark creative thinking and lead to something great. Often I am so rushed in the day to day tasks of education that I forget that my students really do need these sort of rich tasks to spark their own creativity.
This week during the process of ideation I learned so much about methods to spur creative thinking. They are methods that can apply to so many areas of life. From my professional life to my personal life these methods and tools are sure to be invaluable. It was refreshing to take on a new perspective and actively seek out the input of my colleagues and friends. Gathering ideas from a number of sources proved to be most helpful in generating a bank of possibilities for my problem. While it was difficult to set aside the time to give the labs and activities a fair trial, I feel like the time I was able to contribute was a quality investment. As I continue into the trial stage I have been able to identify some promising possibilities. Through the process the range of skills among teachers has become very clear to me. That has given me some clear direction on where to take this design process next. Teachers need to be equipped.
In CEP 817 this week I was tasked with the process of ideation for my problem of practice. I first spent some time writing down my thoughts and thinking deeply about the problem to seed my mind. That is illustrated in the top portion of the photo of my notes above. Then I took a long walk to allow those thoughts to incubate in my mind. Upon my return I set out to add to my thoughts and hopefully find a solution or at least a fresh idea.
I am so overwhelmed with life this week that I spent my entire walk focused on other problems rather than allowing my mind to rest. It seemed that every thought that came to me afterwards was merely a regurgitation of thoughts I had previously considered. I didn't really find any new connections or ideas.
I'm intrigued by the method though, and would be willing to incorporate it into future creative thinking and brainstorming. It reminds of the advice i give my students to sleep on a study session rather than cramming for hours and hours. It also seems to help some of my students who struggle with writing to step away from it and come back with a fresh start.
Problem of Practice: How do we balance providing timely feedback to students with teacher workloads?
FIVE WHYS: Why is it difficult for teachers to provide timely feedback? - Because they have to balance life.
Why is it difficult to balance life? - Because they have too much on their plate.
Why do they have so much on their plate? -Because they lack the skills to manage them.
Why do they lack the skills to manage them? Because they haven't been trained.
Why haven't they been trained? Because it hasn't been a priority.
Why hasn't it been a priority? Because it hasn't been voiced.
Why How Ladder
A POV MadLib!
An overwhelmed and frustrated educator needs the support and inspiration of colleagues because she needs to inspire a generation of learners without abandoning her own kids in the process.
The POP (problem of practice) I am addressing is the tension between providing timely feedback to students about their progress and learning, which has been shown to greatly improve students growth, and the workload and stress that teachers experience on a daily basis. I hope that this information will be not only helpful to administrators as make policy decisions, but also encouraging to educators and enlightening to students and their families. As I mentioned, providing timely feedback has been shown to greatly increase student achievement. It is a somewhat intuitive statement. As students are more aware of their strengths and weaknesses they have opportunity to address them. On the other end of this equation there are teachers swimming in assessments, neglecting other obligations, and frustrated by the inability to give the classroom the time it demands. This tension is felt by administrators, educators, families, and students alike. It is caused by unrealistic expectations, poor communication, and a lack of specific training. As a result, teachers are unhealthily stressed, families are frustrated and students make less growth than they may have otherwise. In this project I hope to lay out some specific data on teacher workloads and present some actionable steps to allow for maximum student growth while being sensitive to the needs of educators and desires of families.
A few made up words that ought to be in the dictionary for your reading pleasure.
Keyquest (Kee - kwes) - n. The journey to find a set of rarely used keys.
Phantom Java - n. The last sip of coffee which mysteriously disappears from your travel mug resulting in a temporary state of depression.
Debtors Panic - n. The sudden panic brought on by the realization that you haven't paid a bill in over two months. Not to be confused with debtors apathy which is often experienced after remember a bill after 1 month.
This week I was challenged with finding a situation where a problem being was reframed to reveal a solution. As a Dad of two boys and a girl my home is wrought with problems to solve. I often feel like I spend my days settling disputes, avoiding meltdowns and breaking up potential wars. Reframing problems is a major strategy in my repertoire of skills for handling these situations. Recently I had a similar situation with two of my students. They could not stop fighting. Every day it was the same routine. Someone would say the wrong thing or give the wrong look and everyone knew that there was an issue. It was affecting the environment of my entire class. It came to a point where some mediation was in order. After taking the time to reframe the problem I was able to help the students realize what they truly wanted from the relationship. They had allowed their emotions to cloud the conflict so much that they couldn't see straight to get out of it. A small conversation helped them both to see that they truly did not want to live like this.
In the design process we are often too close to a situation to see it clearly. When the problem is ours we get wrapped up in the emotion of the moment and rational thought often goes out the door. As a result what seems likes a obvious solution often leads to catastrophic failures. I am thinking about the attempts to upright the Tower of Pisa or knee jerk reactions of lawmakers legislating us into bureaucratic nightmares. I suppose that is why there is an entire industry profiting on designing solutions to problems and shifting away from just making things pretty. That is powerful... When we are able to step back and reframe our problems beyond the tree to the forest we can finally solve the real problem. So many times in interpersonal relationships this is apparent to outside observers but not to those who need the revelation most. As we face our own design issues it is key to step back to see what we are really trying to solve and even get an outside perspective on it.