Over the last few weeks there have been many great discussions stemming from the Iowa Education Summit and the School Administrators of Iowa Conference. Many of the discussions resonated with the educators and administrators of Iowa. The following are my “takeaways” from the discussions.
1) There are many great things being done for students in Iowa schools; however, we can always improve.
2) The world is rapidly changing and because of this, educators, lawmakers, and administrators tend to feel they must change programs at the same rate.
3) We know that we can’t prepare students for a certain future but we can develop certain skills that will prepare them for an uncertain future. We can nurture student creativity, develop communication skills, and develop higher-order thinking skills.
4) SIMPLIFY! Multi-tasking is a myth. We need to focus on the practices that will have the greatest impact on student learning. In other words: narrow our focus and implement to a deeper level.
Ideas for a narrowed focus:
1) Teaching for Learner Differences
We know that students learn differently, so we need to prepare for different students. If we can accomplish this, it will have an enormous impact on learning.
2) Assessment for Learning
We know that if teachers assess students more frequently than only once at the end of a unit, it will allow teachers to restructure instruction. If teachers assess more frequently then they will be able to use the differentiated strategies for students more effectively.
3) Teaching for Understanding
We know that instruction needs to be developed around higher-order thinking skills. If we have the ability to cater to learner differences, and have the ability to assess what students need, we will be able to challenge students more.
Technology can’t do this alone. If we give students computers they won’t magically develop the skills needed for a 21st Century work environment; however, tech tools can help teachers develop the first three practices mentioned above.
5) Professional Development of Interest
Teachers need time to develop skills that they feel are burning issues for them. It’s like the 20% idea for Google employees. If teachers are given time to focus on what they feel is vital, school morale will improve as well as instruction.