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Reflect / Hypothesize / Plan

Back in October, I shared the past, present, and future work of the Collaborative Learning Team at Neuqua Valley High School. You can click here to view that post if you need more context regarding today's post.

On that day, I shared my excitement for the team's future because of the work our teachers planned to do over the next 6 weeks. And don't you worry...our teachers rocked out the tasks by completing horizontal classroom observations and experiencing what our students do on a daily basis in various classes around the school. This week, we came back together to reflect, hypothesize, and plan for the future. The room was full of energy as teachers discussed student learning. Teachers were grouped based on what level they observed: Freshmen, sophomore, junior, or senior.

First, the team was asked to Reflect. Here are the questions they answered after their observations and then talked about in groups during our meeting:
  1. What intrigued, surprised, or made you curious while observing? 
  2. What did we see in other classes that we also see in our own classrooms?
  3. Did the experience inspire you to do something different in your classrooms? 
Here are a few of the reflections I heard from our teachers: 
  • Different content areas teach similar skills, and they learned a few different instructional techniques to teach these skills from the classes the visited 
  • Since students were learning and practicing similar skills in various classes, it was refreshing to know that our students learning was consistent throughout the day 
  • While observations were powerful, the conversations between teachers before and after the process were insightful and helpful regarding student progress. 
  • Teachers enjoyed observing group work and considered how students work together and how to keep them engaged during the process
  • Student behaviors and focus were different at the beginning of the day compared to the end of the day. While our teachers always assume this is the case, it was still quite interesting to see firsthand
  • Student engagement varied in every class, and teachers saw it from a different perspective since they weren't physically teaching 
  • Students were most engaged when they were doing something in class: Creating, collaborating, researching, and so forth. 
  • Students enjoyed seeing their teachers in other classes, and it provided opportunities to develop connections 
Next, the team was asked to Hypothesize. Since the teachers were grouped by student level, it was important for them to consider what teachers need to know about this level of students. So, they were asked to hypothesize a student learning profile for their level of students. Here are a few of the takeaways about our current students' learning behaviors:

  • Our freshmen students are reliant, reluctant, polite, eager, and grateful. They are excited to take ownership of their learning but still need to learn patience and trust in their teachers. Lastly, they seem to be hesitant when it comes to using their technology for learning; instead, it serves as a distraction. 
  • Our sophomore students work hard to do well, yet they are also reluctant learners; they ask for answers and struggle to solve problems on their own. They need more coaching and support when it comes to moving past surface level thoughts and questions. Like all other levels, they are engaged during student-centered activites. They are eager to learn and please their teachers. They have a lot of energy, which can be used to enhance classroom experiences. 
  • Our junior students are highly engaged and enjoy student-centered activities. Choice and voice are critical in the classroom, as students excel when they have ownership of their learning. They also work well in groups and enjoy collaborative opportunities. 
  • Our senior students are either future focused or in-the-moment focused. Some students want to learn in order to be prepared for the future and also need to know how things are relevant for the future. On the other hand, some students want to know exactly what they need to know for the present and then move on to the next thing. 
Lastly, the team was asked to Plan. If you remember from my original post, one of our team's goals is to inspire each other and empower them to act as leaders for other members of our staff. While we had awesome experiences, we need to share the wealth with our colleagues. So, teachers were asked to plan for what's next in this process. How should we share what we learned with staff? This piece is critical, as these answers will ultimately guide our work next semester. Here are some plans proposed by our team:
  • Create a profile sheet for the class level to share with all teachers
  • Continue to teach growth mindset, especially to freshmen
  • Communicate with our past students' teachers to see if they are making transitions well or still struggling (Freshmen teachers talk to sophomore teachers and so on)
  • Share the value of horizontal classroom visits. This is a great way to learn more about student perspectives and behaviors. 
  • Observe more classes to explore more strategies to engage our students, provide collaborative opportunities, and create assignments that offer choice and voice. 
  • Provide more opportunities for teachers to talk instructional strategies with colleagues in different departments
  • Encourage staff to make time for student observations. It is time well spent. 
  • Share our experiences with members of our department and lead by example 
  • Create plans to address the differing needs of students based on what we observe in the classroom
As I'm sure you can imagine, the Collaborative Learning Team's time together flew by as teachers shared their reflections, ideas, questions, and hopes for the future. It was refreshing to just unplug and have good 'ol fashioned conversations with each other, face to face. As I always say, there is nothing more powerful than a room full of teachers sharing ideas.

In just a few short weeks, I would argue that our teachers learned quite a bit about instruction, student learning, and our school environment. Just think about what could happen if more teachers jumped on board....Yes, I agree. It would be awesome! #whatsup