Sunday, November 2, 2014

Learning from Each Other: A Learning Lab in Action

Teaching can be an incredibly isolating job.  Many teachers cherish their team collaboration time and are connecting with other educators through social media, but it's rare that teachers have the opportunity to observe one another.  As a high school coach, I have the awesome opportunity to be in classrooms constantly.  Of course, teachers specialize in different content areas, courses, and even grade levels, but there is still so much that can be learned by observing a colleague.  We have more similarities than we do differences!

A few weeks ago, I was in Charity Stephen's classroom and saw a tiered assignment in action. Charity had created this fantastic playground for her students.  All students were engaged, and every student was working at their readiness level.  I was immediately struck by two things:
1. There was no stigma for doing different activities in her classroom.  Some students were working on advanced-level work, while others were in the novice stages. 
2.  Many students were choosing to complete the advanced-level work, rather than take the easy way out.  
My immediate thought was MORE PEOPLE HAVE TO SEE THIS IN ACTION! 

Thus, our first LHS Learning Lab was born!  Charity graciously agreed to arrange another tiered assignment and allow teachers to observe.  I invited staff with this LEARNING LAB FLYER.  About ten teachers participated throughout the morning and we used this LEARNING LAB PROTOCOL to guide our conversations. Check out Charity's blog post for info on her lesson and her reflections.

Throughout the morning, teachers engaged in great conversation as they reflected upon teaching and learning.  Here are some of the highlights from teachers: 
  • "It's great to see how it works to differentiate within a single lesson.  I often think of differentiation as something you have to plan for within an entire unit.  This makes it doable!"
  • "It's interesting to see how well students that I struggle with in my class are working in Charity's class.  Perhaps if I try some of these ideas, I would see different results."
  • "The way Charity talks to students always allows them choice."
    • You'll want to take notes.  Do you want to use paper or Google Docs?
    • When you're ready to get fancy, try the mastery level.  When you're ready to get really fancy, try the advanced level." 
My favorite part of the experience was that Science teacher Kari Sherman was able to apply the idea in her own classroom within 24 hours.  Here is the tiered lesson she created the very next day!

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