Tuesday, 27 October 2015

How do you attain quality effective practice within/across a school?
Using rubrics to self rate your teaching practice

A number of years ago I lectured at Otago University within the Bachelor of Teaching degree, a brand new degree offering teacher training. The whole degree was developed around the reflective practitioner model and required deep levels of critical self reflection over the three year training period. The assumption was if student teachers did not articulate any deficit thinking around teaching and learning, based on their own experience, then they would continue to teach as they were taught within this deficit paradigm.

From the anecdotal evidence gathered we discovered the students found the model of continual critical self reflection confronting but also enlightening. As they developed the ability to reflect more deeply they gained the confidence to not only describe their practice but also to question it leading to a change in practice.

From this experience I have always included multiple opportunities for teachers to critically self reflect on their practice within all the schools I have had the privilege of leading. One tool I developed based on my PhD thesis work was an effective practice rubric.

We all strive to have a continuity of effective practice within all levels of our school to ensure all students receive quality practice and one based on a shared articulation of what that looks like. John Hattie recently pointed out the importance of quality effective practice within a school:

According to Hattie policy makers, school leaders and educators should recognise within-schools differences as the fundamental problem in education and focus their efforts in this area. “Given that the variance in student achievement between schools is small relative to variance within schools, it is folly to believe that a solution lies in different forms of schools,” John Hattie writes in his new report. 
 (What doesn’t work in education; The politics of distraction, 2015)

Taking the time to formulate what key effective practice looks like in a school is an extremely valuable activity as it provides a benchmark of expected practice and is owned by all teachers. The key is to keep the defined practice succinct and ensure it underpins any essential learning area. In my experience, large documents of agreed practice in separate learning areas (maths, literacy, science …) are overwhelming and too hard to monitor.
Like all rubrics a rating system was needed so I gathered together a number of examples based on novice to expert rating adopting bits of them to form descriptors that would fit the effective practice tool. See below:

I found it was beneficial to unpack the novice to expert rating and it naturally facilitated intense discussion. Teachers reflected that the transition from novice to expert is a continual journey throughout their career as they continually strive to improve their practice.

A draft rubric of effective practice was developed based on our focus to develop our students as self regulated learners. The practice was in fact mostly related to quality formative assessment practice, that is, assessment for learning. We know the ultimate purpose of assessment for learning is to create self regulated learners who can leave school able and confident to continue learning throughout their lives. 

Six effective practices were identified:
1.     Using self regulated learning strategies and tools
2.     Sharing learning intentions & co-constructing success criteria with students
3.     Giving quality feedback
4.     Using the inquiry process
5.     Utilizing effective questioning skills
6.     Modeling in multiple modes

A descriptor was developed under each practice to describe what each one may look like through a novice to expert lens.
See below:

At the beginning of each term teachers highlighted on the rubric two things:
1.     Where I judge my practice to be at this time
2.     What practice I will work on over the coming term

The rubric was intended as a personal reflection, not intended for public sharing, however teachers shared what they were working on for the term in their teams as this allowed them to share expertise and resources around a common goal.

By personally reflecting on the agreed effective practice rubric each term teachers became very familiar with what was expected across the school. It also highlighted professional learning needs and enabled teacher inquiries to be focused and pertinent to quality teaching expectations.
Using the effective practice rubric is one tool of many used to help teachers critically reflect on their practice and identify goals and needs.

What tools do you use to help teachers critically reflect on their practice?
Do teachers critically reflect on their practice frequently?
Have you developed a shared, succinct understanding of effective practice that is clearly articulated across the school?

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