Category Archives: FAAR

FAAR – No longer a single story…

From Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

“It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power.”  

“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”

How do we celebrate the strengths and contributions of each individual?  How do we show that we are not a single story, but a collection of stories that create the anthology of who we are now?  How do we convey that the story is not complete, that it is a work in progress?  That there are many choices and crossroads ahead? That we have control of the choices and pace?

Our Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) plan offers us the opportunity to collect informing feedback from different points of view.  This is an opportunity to have our work, leading, and learning represented by multiple perspectives.  It decreases the danger of a single story.

I, the assessed, have the opportunity to garner feedback from my peers, my students, my “managers,” and myself.  I have the responsibility and the opportunity to process and summarize this data for myself and share with my team of critical friends and my admin.  I am challenged and empowered to ask questions about my work, thinking, and learning.  I am offered opportunities to calibrate my understanding and view of my work with others who witness and experience it.  I contribute to my story as do my students, my colleagues, and other community members.

I wonder how we can translate this into a formative assessment plan for our young learners.  Where do they have a voice in the assessment of their learning and growth?  Do we offer opportunities to reflect and revise?…to problem-find and problem-solve?  Do I offer my learners the opportunity to have a voice in their feedback and assessment? Do I offer choice in their assessment? Having my voice and choice represented is a critically important component of my professional learning plan.  If it is good and important for me, wouldn’t it be good and important for my learners?

Chimamanda Adichie concludes her talk with:

“I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

We strive for learners to have multiple representations of ideas and concepts.  Do we also help ourselves and others have multiple representations of who we are and can become?

FAAR – Connecting Peer Observations to Learning for Life

As part of our formative Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) plan, we engage in a process of peer observations. We also have a new Learning for Life vision statement.  With his permission, I am publishing my peer observation of my friend and colleague, BC.  As I reviewed my notes taken during his class, I realized that he, in this one lesson,  seized the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century by promoting all six essential actions called for in our Learning for Life vision statement.

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Focus of the observation (if any) and class context:

Algebra I team’s lesson study on Phases of the Moon.

Teaching methods and practices observed (strength-based)/Indicators of student learning.

  •   Integrated Studies
  •   Project-based Learning
  •   Learning Spaces
  •   Teachers working in teams
  •   Assessment and feedback
  •   Content that connects us to the larger world and the world to us.

Assessment and feedback, Teachers working in team, Project-based learning
BC uses inquiry to engage our learners in the context of the lesson.  He solicits prior knowledge to have learners take an active role in driving the lesson.

Integrated studies, Teachers working in teams, Content that connects us
CB used multi-media, a video from the History Channel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXseTWTZlks), to confirm the students’ prior knowledge and introduce necessary vocabulary not discussed by the students.

Teachers working in teams
In the face of no network access, BC calmly transitioned to the team’s Plan B.  Rather than using  the resources for Phases of the Moon on our Google Site, he used a Keynote presentation.  This modeled for our learners that we continue to learn; we do not stop because “we have no Internet.”

Teachers working in teams, Content that connects us, Learning spaces
While the students did not leave the classroom, they definitely utilized spaces.  The students used their MacBooks to find answers and questions concerning the moon.  CB addressed visual and kinesthetic learning styles by having the learners graph the illumination of the moon over the days of a month.

[Note:  Video evidence inserted here.¹  ]

Some questions to consider:

Did you like teaching graph interpretation this way?
How can we have more classes like this?
Where do we turn for more resources to find integrate lessons that engage our students and connect their learning to many disciplines?

What did I observe that I would like to incorporate into my own teaching/Other notes:

This is an awkward question since we built the lesson together.  We observed each other; we all went to DD’s class as a team.  DD and I went to BC’s class while WB was teaching Algebra II.  It is difficult to say what I would like to incorporate since we observed, learned, and tweaked the lesson as it was delivered to all Algebra I learners.

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Our new technology made this observation a richer experience from my team.  I used my iPhone (forgot my Flip camera) to collect video snippets of examples so that we could review and analyze what happened during class.  I used my MacBook with Pages to import the video into my notes in class during the observation.  My team and I had my raw notes from the observation right after class.  (See my raw notes from the observation at the end of this post.)

If a picture is worth 1000 words, what is video worth?

  • How does technology help us learn?
  • Is it “good enough” to do things the way we’ve always done them?
  • Do our learners need different than what we need?
  • How are we practicing?
  • What one thing could you explore, experiment with, and practice that would blend learning?

Our challenge as learners is to learn by doing, to practice new techniques, to use technology do things better, and to make connections.  The video artifacts in this observation allowed us to “view” parts of the lesson over and over.  The video doesn’t just make the observation different; it makes it better.  We have the opportunity to see what we might otherwise have missed.  We have “replay” to continue to question and observe.

As a learner, I had the opportunity to blend my learning.  I observed a colleague deliver a common lesson designed by our team.  I practiced with technology by integrating the use of video into my note taking.  While I don’t have as many written notes, the video tells the story is a way that my written notes could never tell.  As a team, we have evidence that we are taking steps to transform our traditional classes in order to align learning with our vision.  We had the opportunity to learn together as we revised and refined the lesson between “shows.”

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¹  School policy prevents me from showing you the video of the learning that occurred during this lesson. [Awaiting permission.]