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Good 'Ol Fashioned Teaching

Over the past few weeks, my mind has been flooded with thoughts regarding flexible delivery of instruction. I'm not sure my definition of it works for everyone, as I would argue it has different meanings to different people. With the addition of blended and online courses, more and more educators have been intrigued by how to use time and space in order to individualize instruction and empower students.

Luckily, in my role, I have the opportunity to collaborate with teachers who are actually teaching blended and online courses. So, when meeting with a group of our blended teachers, we developed a working definition of flexible delivery of instruction: Creating a culture for empowering students to take ownership of their learning. If you've been following this blog over the past two years, this definition stands behind all that I believe to be true about good teaching. As teachers, we must create learning opportunities for students to create, critically think, collaborate, communicate, and be curious. In a student-centered learning environment, teachers are using time, space, lesson design, questioning, and groups to help students not only learn the content but also to do something with it...aka apply their learning.

As I shared with our staff at the past two Lunch n' Learns regarding Flexible Delivery of Instruction and Putting SEL into Action, I would argue that ALL teachers can take our working definition of Flexible Delivery of Instruction and put it into action in their classrooms. Yes...I know what you're can a teacher with 30 students have the same impact as a teacher who has 5-7 students in his/her class due to the blended model? While the blended model provides an awesome opportunity for teachers to really develop relationships with students and personalize instruction, teachers who have a full class can still do some "blending" in their lessons in order to allow time for individual or small group student contact. As stated earlier, this can be done through questioning, groupings, classroom design, and most importantly, teacher flexibility and willingness to empower his/her students.

As I stated earlier, I believe that flexible delivery of instruction is just good teaching. And while it may be intimidating to think about, many of our teachers are already doing just this: good 'ol fashioned teaching that puts the students in the driver's seat when it comes to their learning. How do I know, you ask? Well, my friends, I've seen it firsthand in classrooms around our building. And man oh man, it is fun to see! Here are a few awesome examples:
  • In an AP Physics class, Mr. Kennedy asked his students to do a "ridiculously difficult" calculation that not only involved physics but also tested the students' calculus skills. Instead of just showing his students how to do it, he modeled portions of the problem but had the students work in groups in order to break it down and make sense of it. After talking through it, each group went to their lab and white boarded their understanding. What did Mr. Kennedy do, you ask? He didn't stop moving. He moved from group to group answering questions, posing questions, encouraging, coaching, and empowering groups to work through the difficult problem. While he met with small groups, the other students were still engaged in the activity. Some even walked over to see what he was talking to another group about and then went back to report to their group. One student - at the end of the lesson - said that the problem and their work was "epic." What an awesome comment on a "ridiculously difficult" lesson. And guess what...I've seen this type of lesson, grouping, and differentiation in multiple science classrooms. Yes....multiple. Students are engaged. Teachers are differentiating and creating relationships with students through time, space, and lesson design. That calls for a #boomshakala.
  • I met with one of our Business teachers, Mrs. Pavlik, and she walked me through how she transformed her Consumer class as she began to teach a blended course and the conversations she's had about flexible delivery of instruction. Her whole instructional philosophy has changed, and now she considers - for every unit - what she wants her students to know, to do, and ultimately, what she wants them to become after the learning experience. She revamped one of her units and asked students to complete "Evidence of Learning" slides that ask students to show their learning and do various activities that actually applies the content instead of just hearing about it from her. During the process, she is still teaching, coaching, answering questions, and challenging her students; however, she has more freedom now to work with smaller groups of students as they complete the work. She can adjust her lessons based on the evidence she sees of their learning. She can explain the importance and relevance of the content.  Her students are creating actual budgets using tools they may use in the future. They are researching banks and determining the best to use based on what they learned about fees and other financial factors.  They are taking ownership of the content and demonstrating they not only learned it but that they can also something with it. It is very impressive. And get this...she's doing this in ALL of her consumer classes, not just the blended course. That calls for another #boomshakalaka.
  • In Mr. Hurst's freshmen reading class, he asked his students to partner up in order to complete a fluency activity. One student was the "coach" and the other was the "student." They went through a process of the student reading a difficult passage aloud, the coach making notes and offering feedback/suggestions for improvement, and then the student silently practicing and reflecting on their confidence with this passage. It was so wonderful to see the students listening, questioning, and coaching each other. Mr. Hurst walked the room throughout the activity and provided suggestions to the coach to share with the student and was able to see - through the rubric - how students felt and progressed when it came to their confidence with the passage. All students were engaged and were taking ownership not only of their learning but also for their peers' learning. Now that's what I call giving power to the students. #boomshakalaka 
There are so many more examples of great teaching that I've witnessed this year. And even more that I've witnessed over the past 2 years. There are about 70 posts on this blog that include example after example of this good teaching. We are providing a culture for students to feel good about what they are learning and encouraged to take risks and do something with this new knowledge. Through this process, they are developing skills and characteristics that that will help them succeed personally, socially, and professionally. As we continue to dive into flexible delivery of instruction, I am so excited and eager to see what awesome learning opportunities we continue to extend to our students.  #whatsup

You tell me...what is your definition of flexible delivery of instruction? What are some awesome examples that others should know about?