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Academic Integrity in International Schools

Author: Mark Botelho Posted: 2017-05-16

While teaching overseas in many different international American curriculum schools, I've run across a few situations where academic integrity has come into questions. The integrity in question often had to do with seniors and their grade point averages (GPA). Unlike public schools in the United States, the cliental of these schools are often from a high socio economic status and perhaps see themselves as entitled. This was made very clear to me recently when a student who rarely participated in my class received a grade that reflected the work artifacts and his understanding. Shortly after the term was over and final grades entered, I receive a correspondence from the parents requesting that all late work be graded and that their child was to receive the highest mark possible. Of course, I was flabbergasted!

This situation made me think of what is expected of parents and student regarding their integrity as well as mine as the teacher. It also has a great deal to do with the school culture and the leadership team as well. Aspects of participating in a class for the teacher must deal with equality for all students. This should entail that if one student receives preferential treatment regarding time given to complete an assignment, or an added opportunity to correct their work, that all students are afforded that same opportunity. So, if one student were to request either late or make-up work, every student's work must be re-evaluated to be fair and equitable. This of course would create a back-log of work for the teacher and negatively affect all students as there would have to be a sacrifice of content covered in the term to allow for time to re-cover the late or make-up content.

Professionally trained teachers are constantly monitoring course work in every aspect. From analyzing each question to ensure it is fair and fully understood by students, to the amount of time needed to complete tasks related to content. Teachers are always engaged. To question a task given by a teacher to their students by a parent or leadership team member is to question a teacher's professionalism. The litmus test for the before mentioned tasks, is to judge if most students were capable to complete the task adequately. If they can complete the task with expected results the task must then be considered legitimately suited for the students in the course, and no further interrogation should be needed. Otherwise teacher are trained to modify the course to reflect a change needed to correct any irregularities.

When teachers are confronted with a situation where parents interfere with the integrity of a professional teacher, the school culture must be looked upon with skepticism. Leaders should primarily support their trained professional teachers, yet keep a dialog open to parents while informing them of the professional environment that honors the ideal of academic integrity in its purest form.





Time is a Factor in Grading Late Work

Author: Mark Botelho Posted: 2017-05-07

Standards based grading is to determine a student's ability to understand and their ability regarding a task, concept, or knowledge. For clarification, categorizing by rubric or descriptors and placing someone's ability into a category is a grade. Many complicated aspects of learning are involved, one of which is time. Regrading or late work will affect the outcome, and is a factor that should be measured. When giving a standard based grade time indirectly is being used to measure, that is why we have grade levels, continuums, and scope and sequences. Students are graded by understanding at a moment in time with others in a group, otherwise there would be no grade. If one argues that a standard based grade is individualistic and only measure one student's mastery, then the grade should be open ended with no due date ever, which it is not. We only give standard based grades for a period, therefore time is an important factor. Standards based grading is the same as percentile grading per assignment, but not for overall unit or course grades.

The purpose of grades is to measure understanding or skillsets. Accurate measurement is dependent on timeliness as to guarantee that outside factors do not influence testing and grading. Otherwise, the grade is not the same grade but rather an altogether alternative assessment compared to other students and is not valid comparison and should be noted, and would be a different grade. That is why scientific studies and experiments are reliant on control groups and different types of variables. If anything differs a comparison cannot be made. This is not to say that a standard based grade cannot be given, but that it is a different assignment or test than compared to those students who had a different time requirement. Time is a factor in learning, as it determines how much practice and study a student has access to, thereby influencing the outcome of understand and ability.

Grades are a snapshot of knowledge and skills for a specific moment in time. Grades are not a measure of student behavior, and graded artifacts are not meant to train students for real world behaviors such as timeliness. Grades are not a measure of intelligence. Penalties are not accurate depictions of knowledge or skillset. Multiple instances should be given to accurately measure understanding or skillsets.

A lesson is a controlled study and its factors should all be under scrutiny to accurately measure a student???s understanding. Measuring with a pre-and post-assessment will show growth. Measuring student individual gains, time is a factor that should be controlled for accurate lesson effectiveness for the group and individuals.
If late or regrading is accepted, all students must be re-assessed to get accurate picture of leveled ability by subject or group. If late work is accepted, there should be no timelines to the account for ongoing learning. This includes once a class is completed, students may come back to take assessments for a better grade. Otherwise, time is a factor and no late work should be accepted. Late work and re-grading of assignments are the same.

Teachers should always use their discretion when adapting lesson time frames as the world is a complex place. However, to maintain standards of teaching practice, lessons should adhere to guidelines and timeframes otherwise the validity of the program will come under question. If time is randomized regarding due dates, then the question if a student's ability will be tainted, as we will not be certain as to what is needed for a student to understand concepts or their ability to gain knowledge or skills within a specified set of instructions of standards. For example, if a tasks or standard is to solve a mathematical problem, what devices are allowed, or if they can ask for assistance would be factors that could influence the perception of their understanding just as time is a factor. Factors are important in studies or lessons to maintain validity of conclusions or in this case, grades. Lastly, as stated in the National Education Association's preamble, a teacher's ethical code mandates a "guarantee of equal educational opportunity for all", so if one student is granted an exception to turn in late work or re-submit, all students must be granted it as well. This will in effect compound the amount of work for the teacher and potentially have a negative effect on projects and lessons scheduled in the course preventing all students from achieving course goals.





The Fitness Tracker Administrator

Author: Mark Page Posted: 2016-09-01

Communication and collaboration are the two aspects of leadership that have the most impact of a leader's ability to run a department in an efficient manner. These two aspects are the cornerstone of any department, and their lack of use will determine the atmosphere and effectiveness of a department. The atmosphere is directly tied to worker performance and happiness, which directly affects the bottom line in regards to staff turnover as well as quality of work expected from employees. When we consider the amount of communication and collaboration together with the three administrative styles of reluctance, reactive and responsive, we see a progressive picture of evolution of leadership styles. Progression or evolution of these styles makes the workplace more effective and efficient.

There are three stages that an administrators can fall into. The first stage is the reluctant boss. I use the term boss as this is different than a leader, or a person who facilitates workers to help them get their work done in the most efficient manner. A leader is typically not only is concerned with efficiency, but also in worker happiness and satisfaction with their job role. The reluctant boss is the one who can be found sitting at their desk behind closed doors. They will rarely mingle with the other members of the team, and will typically give orders with no collaboration of experts in the department. This is the most basic level of administrator.

The reactive administrator is the person who will have an open-door policy. They will sometimes invite members of the department to voice their opinions, and will usually keep other members in the loop in regards to issues at hand. The problem with this type of leader is that many members of the department as well as those whom the service may not feel comfortable in confronting or communicating with a leader who offers an open-door policy. This method supports the extrovert type personalities but leave the introverts, or those with little time on their hands with nowhere to go.

The last category is the responsive leader. This is a leader who not only has an open door policy, but they will purposely intermingle with everyone in the department and those they serve in order to gain knowledge of the inner workings of issue at hand. This method also allows for the braintrust of the department to be more transparent in regards to issues that may not have bubbled-up to the surface yet, allowing the leader to take action towards resolving potential future problems. The responsive leaders are people who work hard in building trust with each member of the team and both communicates and collaborates with all members and utilizes and takes advantage of their expertise to the fullest. In short, they don't wait for problems or issues to come to them, but will seek them out. These administrators are rarely in their office, hence the term fitness tracker administrator. 






The Smiths' 'Meat Is Murder' 8-bit Game

Author: Mark Page Posted: 2016-08-11





The Holistic Observation Approach

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2015-06-06

As a teacher one of the most dreaded aspects of teaching, that has to get done every year and seems to be one of the biggest stress-inducing activities, is the dreaded clinical observation. Having been on both sides of the fence I can see the large amount of busy work that is involved. It makes me think back to a saying from Gordon Ramsay, a famous Chef, who often see kitchen workers working very hard but not efficiently. He calls it "working stupid." I've seen schools where the administrative staff believes that long hours and paper work equals hard diligent work. I call it working inefficiently. I've seen a few viewpoints that point out the negative aspects of the traditional state of observation methods, how they are not motivating, demoralizing, and are a waste of time.

According to my observations, the traditional clinical observation process followed by most schools and organizations is based on Goldhammer's model. His five-step process is designed to improve teaching performance. The desired primary purpose of this approach is to develop skilled teachers who are committed to continuous improvement, collaboration, and professional growth.

Effective clinical supervision should provide an opportunity for teachers to:
  • examine, share, and express their educational philosophies;
  • receive objective comments, advice, and guidance on their teaching;
  • explore the relationship between their predicted and actual performance during the instructional process;
  • consider the connections of their understandings and practices with theories and evidence-based practices;
  • target areas for improvement, monitor progress, and examine changes in their beliefs and practices.
Robert Goldhammer's model for clinical supervision includes five stages:
  • Pre-observation conference
  • Observation
  • Data analysis
  • Post-observation conference (supervisory conference)
  • Post-conference analysis
The teacher and supervisor work together during stages one, two, and four. The supervisor compiles and analyzes data during stages three and five.
Pre-observation Conference The purpose of this conference is to gather information related to the teacher's lesson plan, procedures, and assessments, and to develop an agreement or contract between the supervisor and teacher for expediting the plan. The Observation The purpose of the observation is to observe the lesson outlined in the pre-observation conference and to gather data and information that may be used to advance knowledge, skills, and dispositions of the teacher. Data Analysis During this stage the supervisor complies, sorts, and organizes the data collected into a usable format. Data from the observation provides a framework and content for the post-observation conference. The Post-observation Conference The post-observation conference is for the purpose of examining what occurred during the lesson, targeting areas for improvement or enrichment, and developing an action plan for continuous improvement of performance. Typically, this conference should be conducted at least a day or more, but not more than a week, after the observation. Typical Post-observation questions:
  1. Identify ways in which you think the lesson was successful and unsuccessful.
  2. What role did the students play in making you think the lesson was effective or ineffective?
  3. Highlight the evidence-based strategies you used.
  4. Compare what happened with what you anticipated would happen?
  5. Why do you think the lesson outcomes occurred?
Post-conference Analysis This stage gives the supervisor time to assess aspects of the clinical supervision process. The supervisor determines whether or not the teacher understands and agrees with the follow-up and improvement targets. The observer can also evaluate his/her own performance during the clinical conference process.
Goldhammer's model is well documented and widely used throughout organizations around the globe. However, it is not the end all to observations as there are new models emerging that promise a less intense method. These new methods, as Peterson and Irvine suggest, are less intrusive and have a long-term impact on employee performance. The problem with Goldhammer's model is that it only captures one moment in time, the data collected can be non-narrative, feedback can often include demoralizing stack ranking, and it is only from one point of view. Oftentimes traditional observations are perceived as needing a great deal of effort and energy, according to Jena McGregor in the Washington Post. The answer to the use of traditional observations is to move to a more holistic approach that is motivating and inspires employees to better themselves. The goals of observations, regardless of which model is used, should be to ensure teachers are moving towards an authentic learning environment, and that teachers are in some form or fashion trying to improve their practice. The Holistic model is conceived after the Growth model as described by Bill Peterson, and Adobe's model as described by Robert Sutton. The Holistic model is simple and is really nothing more than guiding principles. It is left intentionally simplistic so that it can be used as framework for organizations to create their own model. The most important aspect of any authentic observation model is that the community takes ownership of the model, otherwise the members will not fully participate in its undertaking. If the teachers do not buy into the program most of the effort will be lost and the participants will not gain from the experience. Just as with anything new, if you want high adoption rates, you need to entice people, not force them. This is a common tactic with students and your own kids, and should be the tactic used when getting teachers to take initiative in their own self-improvement. Angela Peery did a study that has shown that teachers are more likely to adopt new innovations if they feel that they are treated as professionals, that they are not pressured, and that they are supported. A study done by Sam, Othman, & Nordin actually showed that something as simple as making teachers feel comfortable while attending a workshop increased the effectiveness of workshops (Ncsu.edu, 2003). The guiding principles include being informal, frequent, and non-agenda-ized. The observations need to be done by a leadership team, and not just one person. The purpose of informality is that observations need to be a true clear snapshot or a frame that will later be used by the leadership team to build a clear understanding of the progress of a teacher or employee and what they can do to help. The leadership team should always try and start a conversation by using a personal touch and with a non-school or organization related topic to instill less stress and anxiety. The frequency is vital as well as there are good days and there are bad days. It is unfair and not formative to gauge a person's performance on a single event. Finally, the observation must be non-agenda-ized as there are a vast array of variables and topics that may or may not be evident in a single observation. If an observer is looking for something in particular, but that item is not relevant, then the time observing has been wasted. Once again the process is simple and is used only as guiding principles. The process is ever-ongoing and there is no singular event that signifies that an "official" observation has taken place. This is a concept that can be difficult to grasp for administrators, but is crucial. Self-improvement is not a singular event. People are always improving themselves, all the administrator is doing is facilitating the opportunities for their staff to help themselves. Administrators can help by facilitating coaching, peer coaching, helping narrow personal learning focus, suggesting reading resources, volunteering to team teach, sharing expertise, and following up. It has more to do with internally motivating the staff to improve by giving them coaching opportunities and advice, rather than evaluating them. The benefits as I've witnessed and by the data collected by Adobe include "a feeling of relief (that) has spread throughout the company because the old annual review system was 'a soul-less and soul crushing exercise.'" They also found that most Adobe managers and employees found the new system to be less cumbersome and more effective than the stack-ranking system. 78% of their employees reported that the relationship between themselves and their manager improved. There was also less turnover in employee retention as employees with difficulties had more coaching time. Finally, they found that voluntary attrition dropped 30% and those that left did so on good terms. I myself have witnessed with my professional development and integration PD(i) model (that follows the Holistic observation model) that faculty felt more at ease with technology and found it more tailored to their needs. The goal of the Holistic model is to motivate and help employees better their practice, and to create lasing change, and to not burden them with ineffective observation models.
  • Irvine, D. (2014). How to Remake the Traditional Performance Review and Reap Deep Benefits * An Adobe Case Study. RecognizeThis! Blog. Retrieved 6 June 2015, from http://www.recognizethisblog.com/2014/02/how-to-remake-the-traditional-performance-review-and-reap-deep-benefits-an-adobe-case-study/
  • Ncsu.edu,. (2003). Meridian Article: Computer Efficacy, Use and Phobia - Winter 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2014, from http://www.ncsu.edu/project/meridian/winter2010/agbatogun/index.htm
  • Peterson, B. (2015). Teacher appraisal is dead.... What Ed Said. Retrieved 6 June 2015, from https://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/teacher-appraisal-is-dead

Holistic Observation Appoarch
Holistic Observation Appoarch




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