Category Archives: Reflection

#TEDTalkTuesday from A More Beautiful Question

One of the choices for summer reading in our community is A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Idea by Warren Berger (@GlimmerGuy).

The following three are featured in the book, and I thought we might want to hear from them to add depth to the reading.

Mick Ebeling: The invention that unlocked a locked-in artist

Jack Andraka: A promising test for pancreatic cancer … from a teenager

Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover


struggle + perseverance = learning

How are we facilitating experience where learners can risk and grow in sense making and perseverance?  We want every learner to be able to say:

I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them.

An important and powerful aspect of teachers’ practice concerns the ways in which they treat mistakes in mathematics classrooms. Research has shown that mistakes are important opportunities for learning and growth, but students routinely regard mistakes as indicators of their own low ability. (Boaler, n. pag.)

Do we teach mistakes as opportunities to learn? What if we slow down – pause – to reflect on what didn’t work well and plan a new tact?

In analyzing a series of setbacks, a key question to ask is Am I failing differently each time? “If you keep making the same mistakes again and again,” the IDEO founder David Kelley has observed, “you aren’t learning anything. If you keep making new and different mistakes, that means you are doing new things and learning new things.”(Berger, 124 pag.)

How might we take up the challenge to focus on learning? What if we teach the importance of struggle?

Struggle is not optional—it’s neurologically required: in order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit suboptimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit. You must also keep firing that circuit—i.e., practicing—in order to keep myelin functioning properly. After all, myelin is living tissue. (Coyle, 43-44 pag.)

I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them.

How might we amplify the important practice of how we treat mistakes? What if we teach and learn how to pay attention to mistakes and how to change based on what we learn?

What pathways to learning are illuminated in order to highlight learning = struggle + perseverance?

What if we slow down to focus on learning?

Berger, Warren (2014-03-04). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas . BLOOMSBURY PUBLISHING. Kindle Edition.

Boaler, Jo. “Ability and Mathematics: The Mindset Revolution That Is Reshaping Education.” Forum 55.1 (2013): 143. FORUM: For Promoting 3-19 Comprehensive Education. SYMPOSIUM BOOKS Ltd, 2013. Web. 2015.

Coyle, Daniel (2009-04-16). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Patient development of conceptual understanding

<true confession>

Sometimes I teach at my pace instead of the pace of the learners in my care.


To where am I racing?

Rule Three from The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle is SLOW IT DOWN.

“Why does slowing down work so well? The myelin model offers two reasons.  First, going slow allows you to attend more closely to errors, creating a higher degree of precision with each firing – and when it comes to growing myelin, precision is everything.  As football coach Tom Martinez likes to say ‘It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.’ Second, going slow helps the practitioner to develop something even more important: a working perception of the skill’s internal blueprint – the shape and rhythm of the interlocking skill circuits.”  (p. 85)

In her Shortest Path post, Jennifer Wilson (@jwilson828) asks:

How many of our students would choose a beautiful path over the shortest path to learn a new topic? Which of our students would always choose the shortest path over a happier path to learn a new topic?

I wonder how many learners would choose a beautiful path over the shortest path.  Listen to Daniele Quercia.

I have a confession to make. As a scientist and engineer, I’ve focused on efficiency for many years. But efficiency can be a cult, and today I’d like to tell you about a journey that moved me out of the cult and back to a far richer reality.

What is lost by the time we save being efficient?

How might we take up the challenge of teaching and learning procedural fluency through patient development of conceptual understanding? What if I can show what I know in more than one way is deemed essential to learn?

What if we guide our learners on a journey that offers beauty, understanding, quiet, more time, and then efficiency?

Let’s avoid the dangers of a single path. Choose patient development of beautiful paths to conceptual understanding.

It is not an impossible dream.

Be patient.


Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born : It’s Grown, Here’s How. New York: Bantam, 2009. 217.  Print.

Assessment of Assessment – calibrating points of view to learn

What if we take the time to learn more about and from the instruments and products of our work? How do we critique our work and hear every voice? What if we  leverage technology as a formative assessment tool to open discussions and learn from everyone’s point of view?

Here’s a snippet of how we embed learning targets on our test for student learning, feedback, and reflection.

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What if we, as a team, use a Google form to analyze our assessment to discuss where we agree and where we differ?

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While, as a team, we are close, we do not all agree on where we are with our latest assessment.  Now that we see everyone’s thinking, it is easier to discuss the gaps in our points of view and set goals.

Communication and collaboration are essential to high functioning teams.  How do we share ideas, questions, and understanding to support one another as we learn together? What high leverage team actions are we taking to support learning for all?

Connected posts:

Practice vs. Class – skill building, scrimmage, get in the game

Over coffee last week, Mary Cantwell and I connected coaching and practice to teaching and learning. Mary’s engagement with our discussion continues as seen in her post, An Ah-Ha Moment: Practice vs. Class.

Our conversation, for me, connects to PLCs and Dr. Bob Eaker‘s writing.  While at our previous school, Bo and I challenged our teaching teams to consider this connection that we learned as we studied, learned, planned, and implemented our PLCs.

How often do our learners scrimmage and get in the game: apply, synthesize, innovate, create with, use what they are learning?

As we plan, are we intentional to craft learning experiences so that learners grapple with content, process, and skill? Do we plan and collaborate so that learners scrimmage before game time? Do our learners experience needsapplications, and connections for what we are learning?  In our team (coaches) meetings, do we discuss and plan meaningful scrimmages?

A lack of meaning in our reality robs us not only of that joy but also of our ability to use our multiple intelligences to increase our success. (Achor, 65 pag.)

Achor, Shawn (2013-09-10). Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Top posts from 2014 include:

Top posts continuing to be viewed in 2014

The self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach (TBT Remix)

Do we applaud the process that our learners use to solve a problem or respond to a question?  Do we praise them when they try something different?  Are we promoting and encouraging risk-taking, creativity, and problem-solving?

On our 4th day of cookie baking, AS taught me a couple of really great lessons about learning with my students.  Once again, by popular request, we were making Reese’s peanut butter cup cookies.  We make peanut butter cookie dough, roll it into balls, and cook them in mini muffin pans.  As they come out of the oven, we press mini Reese’s peanut butter cups into the center of the cookies.  Delicious.  My small extended family blazed through 8 dozen in two afternoons.

For the first 4 dozen, I made the batter and rolled the cookies.  Together we pressed the candy into the cookies as they came out of the oven.  No big deal. 

How often do our students watch us do the work to solve the problem or answer the question?

Baking the second 4 dozen was a very different story.  My mother gave AS her very own measuring spoons, spatula, and mini muffin pan that bakes 1 dozen muffins.  Now she had her own pan; she was in charge.  It would have been so much faster for me to have rolled the cookies.  But, no…her pan; her cookies.  Her mantra: “I can do it myself!” 

So, I watched, waited, and coached.  Some of the balls were too small and would have been difficult to press candy into after baking in the oven.  Some were too big and would have blobbed out on the pan during baking.  She fixed most of these problems with a little explaining from me. 

Isn’t this happening sometimes in our classrooms?  It is so much faster and more efficient for the teacher to present the material.  We can get so much more done in the short amount of time we have.  But, how much do the children “get done” or learn?  When efficiency trumps learning, does anyone really have success?  How do we encourage “I can do it myself!”?  How do we find the self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach?

That was the story for the first 2 dozen cookies.  Can you believe that she would alter my recipe?  We cooked our second dozen cookies, and while I was busy pressing the peanut butter cups into my cookies, she decided that Hershey kisses would be just as good or better.  With no prompting (or permission) she created a new (to her) cookie.  Santa left kisses in her stocking and she wanted to use them. 

Does it really matter which method a child uses to solve a problem or answer a question?  Isn’t it okay if they use the lattice method to multiply?  Does it really matter which method is used to find the solution to a system of equations?  Shouldn’t they first find success?  Don’t we want our learners to understand more than one way?  Is our way always the best way?

Was AS pleased with herself and her creativity?  You bet.  Were her cookies just as good as the original recipe?  Sure!  How can you go wrong combining chocolate and peanut butter?

Do we applaud the process that our learners use to solve a problem or respond to a question?  Do we praise them when they try something different?  Are we promoting and encouraging risk-taking, creativity, and problem-solving?

Can we find the self-discipline to be patient while learning is in progress, to watch, wait, and coach?  Can we promote and embrace the “I can do it myself!” attitude?

The self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach was originally published on December 26, 2010.