Shawne Kearney’s Passion for Project Based Learning – POP9

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

We welcomed back Shawne Kearney this week to share some more kernels of wisdom. Shawne is a Master Teacher and New Teacher Support Provider and Mentor and is currently teaching 4th Grade in Sonoma State, California.

Shawne Kearny
Shawne Kearney

A teacher for over 20 years, Shawne also now teaches adults at Sonoma State University where she specialises in project-based learning and classroom management.

What is Project Based Learning (PBL)?

This is a teaching method by which students gain specific knowledge and skills. They work for an extended period of time and investigate a complex question, problem or challenge.

  • Launch with a bang – stimulate student interest
  • Come up with a driving question – a challenging problem
  • End with a culminating event – with public audience – so students can shine and reflect on their work

What are the top strategies teachers should consider when contemplating PBL?

1. Know your standards.

2. Choose a problem or challenge which is highly relevant to your grade and students and which you are passionate about yourself.

3. Start small – it’s a paradigm shift to start PBL in which you give students more control so start with a 2-week project

4. Teach the ‘4 Cs’ explicitly before you ask students to solve a challenging problem – Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking and  Creativity.

The Buck Institute for Education has a large amount of helpful resources for teaching the 4 Cs.

The challenges of PBL

Shawne says one of the biggest challenges is students collaborating and giving feedback to one another. She believes this is one of the reasons some teachers avoid PBL. It takes time to encourage students to overcome their ‘learned helplessness’. They need to develop the stamina and endurance to cope with creating a project which may fail several times before finding success.

Evaluation

Shawne has rubrics which help students evaluate themselves and give kind and considerate feedback to their group members. The students can see themselves advancing on this but the real power is the feedback they receive from their peers which is far better than anything she can give them. She sees students’ use of language in this feedback improving dramatically and they practice it so it doesn’t seem so unnatural.

Shawne on Twitter

Mark Cerutti returns to talk about creating effective and sustainable change – POP8

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

In his second Kernel of wisdom, Mark Cerutti gives us the benefit of his experience in effecting and managing change. Mark is Associate Superintendent of Education Services for the Elk Grove Unified Schools District, the 5th largest School District in the State of California.

Top tips for creating effective, sustainable and data-driven change

This is a big question but a critical one.

Mark Cerutti
Mark Cerutti

1. Mark sees the current situation as narrowing down assessments of schools to a single number or a single letter and if a school is seen to be successful then the only question which is asked is ‘what did they do to be successful?’ Mark believes this is the wrong question to ask. Of course we should know what we are doing to be successful but a much more important question is:

‘How did you decide to do that?’

Mark is more interested in what the thinking process was which guided schools to do what they have done to be successful. In public education there are many things you could be doing in many different ways so it’s great to be able to look in detail at what’s guiding leaders’ thinking.

Mark mentions Dr. Alan Watkins’ work as useful in this area. His book, ‘The Secret Science of Great Leadership’ deals with physiology and then to emotions, feelings behaviour and then results. There are 6 different levels but in education we have been focussing just on ‘what are we doing?’ and ‘what results are we getting?’ In fact, in order to make significant change, we need to make sure people are able to think better and to feel better.

There are several different elements which need to be understood to encourage and sustain effective change:

  • Enlightened leadership which deals with professional learning
  • Professional and adult development – the understanding of what influences adults in terms of physiology thinking

2. Human Performance Technology is a model which has been around for a long time. Mark likes it because it differentiates between input, output and outcome data in a systematic continuous improvement model. Sometimes when Mark hears people saying they do systematic, data-based decision making, he doubts it because they haven’t had the chance to use the techniques of HPT.

3. Make sure the changes you are making start with an understanding of ‘why’. This is what Mark covered in his first kernel.

4. Mark likes the work of Ron Richhart and his ‘Creative Cultures of Thinking’. The Common Core is trying to get kids to think at a deeper level and Rickert’s work is about getting everyone – teachers, students and parents – to become creative thinkers.

Announcement

Diane Ketelle
Diane Ketelle

Our first Pivotal Popcorn guest, Dr. Diane Ketelle has published a book – ‘Tread Lightly, Lead Boldly’.

Master Teacher and Department Chair Kim Ray on building connections with students – POP7

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Kim Ray is Master Teacher and Department Chair at East Union High School in Manteca, California where she teaches ceramics. She has been teaching for over 20 years after trying to work as an independent artist. She still practices her art while being employed full-time. Kim believes teaching is the best job she has ever had and is still excited to go to work every day.

Top tips on how to make your students feel safe and valued as well as engaged in their learning

Kim Ray
Kim Ray

Kim likes to communicate a lot with her students. She touches base with each student every day by working with them individually which allows her to communicate her expectations repeatedly as well as getting to know them really well. She therefore knows about them, their families and how they are doing in other classes. This helps her to build up a strong rapport. It’s also important to talk to parents. Kim is available via email at any time for students or parents.

Kim shares her life experiences appropriately with her students and they do the same with her.

Kim stresses that she is not her students’ friend – she is still in charge but she builds trust in this way.

Another important factor is routine. Kim feels it’s really important that students know what they are going to be doing before they arrive in her classroom. She has taught the expectations of routine explicitly so that the students feel comfortable in class.

Humor is also really important to Kim and she believes it helps to establish the essential rapport she has with her students.

If you can share a little joke with your students it helps them to bond with you better.

All this means that Kim knows her students really well and so she can identify immediately if they are experiencing difficulties – and her relationship with them means she can offer help and support.

Shawne Kearney on How to Develop Excellent Classroom Management – POP 6

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
For this kernel of wisdom, Brandon speaks to Shawne Kearney who is a Master Teacher and New Teacher Support Provider and Mentor and is currently teaching 4th Grade in Sonoma State, California.

A teacher for over 20 years, Shawne also now teaches adults at Sonoma State University where she specialises in project-based learning and classroom management.

Tips for teachers for building positive classroom management systems

1. Pro-active classroom mangement

Shawne believes strongly in pro-active classroom management. She greets her students at the door, which is very important especially at the beginning of the year to help you establish a relationship with your students. Also important are:

  • Inclusion activities
  • Team building
  • Establishing common interests

Alongside this you need very clear procedures and routines – available in writing and practiced with feedback given.

Shawne Kearney
Shawne Kearney
Shawne believes kids want to do well but they need to have a target and they need to know what ‘doing well’ looks like, what it sounds like, what it feels like.

It’s also important to have clear consequences. Everyone, Shawne says, appreciates knowing the consequence  of a behaviour ahead of time. If a consequence is sprung upon someone, they are likely to get upset.

2. Setting students up for success

This is especially important for struggling learners – they should be able to participate on a level they feel comfortable with. Ask questions you know they can answer so they are not ‘put on the spot’. When you see they have a great answer, you can whisper in their ear and ask them to share it later when called on by you. This helps them to feel proud and good about themselves.

Shawne thinks it’s also important to modify work for struggling students. They often work slower but they still need to be able to finish the task you have set and feel success.

3. Teach collaboration and communication skills explicitly

Often, teachers put learners in a group and expect them to be able to collaborate and communicate – many adults don’t know how to do this!

Shawne recommends this video about students giving feedback to illustrate her point:

Austin’s Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work from EL Education on Vimeo.

Shawne teaches these kinds of collaboration and communications skills very explicitly in isolated lessons so that, when they get to those groups lessons like the one in the video above, they know what to expect.

Shawne sees this transferring into students’ social situations outside the classroom by about half way through the school year.

Bonus tip! Self care

Make sure you take care of yourself so you are:

  • Rested
  • Patient
  • Rejuvenated
  • Genuinely feeling you enjoy your job

Kids know if you are upset, angry or grumpy.

Shawne on Twitter