Three more for the road…

Spring break is over today, and while it was magnificent in many delightful ways, I’m fighting off the “Sunday” feeling. If I were choosing an overarching theme for this year it would be “Contradictions & Paradoxes: The Professional Dilemmas of Mrs. Love.” Wait, that’s a title, not a thematic description.

Oh well. Whatever.

The featured image of our district’s calendar says there are ten more weeks of school. “Normally” I would be ending the voyage, the journey with my ELA students by argumentative writing, onto memoir, and bowing out by saying, “See? I told you that would go fast!” and they would look at me in amazement at my sorcery and augur skills.

But I’m teaching semester classes this year, and it’s a bit disorienting. I have to make connections faster, and it doesn’t give a lot of time to build history and the ‘inside jokes’ but we’re doing all right. I can’t shake this feeling that other teachers are passing me by, and I’m still bogged down by unimaginative and muddied conversations.

There are some ideas I want to capture, though, three big ones from readings:

I. This is a long article from KQED/Mindshift, but worth the read.

How Do You Know When A Teaching Strategy Is Most Effective? John Hattie Has An Idea

A Model of Learning

Here is my warning*:

Too often educators apply an incredible concept and then try to truncate it and make it fool-proof. Paradoxically, this ends of doing more long-term harm to students and teachers.




Growth Mindset.

Learning Styles.

And maybe Hattie’s Success Criteria:

For Hattie, most learning rests on student understanding of the success criteria for a learning task. Hattie calls this a “prelearning phase” because if students don’t understand what it will take to be successful, they often act blindly and without motivation. He says that students who are taught the success criteria are more strategic in their choice of learning strategies, and thus more likely to encounter the thrill of success that will lead to reinvestment in learning.

Success Criteria are magnificent as assessments. As Hattie states, it’s a pre-learning phase, which means pre-assessment. They are an ASSESSMENT. Repeat: AN ASSESSMENT. They are not guarantees of learning the first time. If they were, then a computer could write them and score students, and they’d all receive 100% every time. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? For some administrators, writing the success criteria is tantamount to its first name only: Success. But the second part, Criteria, is where the learning and teaching happen.

They can be used as:

  1. A student’s self-assessment
  2. A teacher’s assessment and information on instructional steps
  3. A means to articulate a goal or process
  4. A reflective tool: see Caitlin Tucker’s work: (I have years’ worth of student self-assessment and reflective pieces, but this is really good, too. Share and adapt!)

“Too often students may know the learning intention, but do not [know] how the teacher is going to judge their performance, or how the teacher knows when or whether students have been successful,” Hattie and Donoghue write in their article. When students understand how they will be evaluated they can also self-evaluate more effectively, a metacognitive skill that can help students become more independent learners.

How students gain initial content knowledge that they can then manipulate has long been a discussion among educators. Some argue students need to learn basic information before they can begin to use it. Others say students will learn information when it is critical to a problem or project they are trying to understand.

The Hattie/Donoghue learning model dives into that discussion, describing learning strategies that work best at the surface level, and those that help consolidate surface learning, as well as those that develop deep learning and work to consolidate deep learning. Lastly, Hattie and Donoghue deal with the idea of transfer, which broadly means being able to identify similarities and differences between problems and effectively apply previous learning to new situations.”

I have often wondered if our overemphasis on Learning Targets and Success Criteria stunt students’ true growth, that if they can parrot what they are, many students remain stuck at the surface level of learning. This is Hattie and Donohugh’s caution to us, and we should take heed. If the learning isn’t transferrable, then it’s not learning.

II. Jackie Gerstein Fills My Teacher Heart With Joy:

Just read it.

III. Cult of Pedagogy to the rescue (again)

4 Ways Microsoft is Making Learning More Accessible

Since we are a Microsoft-centric district, I shared this with the staff, too, and more importantly, will be sharing it with students.


P.S. And someday, I dream of this level of collaboration and professional growth:

Be The Change

but for now, I’ll just keep on keeping on.


*Warning is too strong. How about one of these?


auguring, augury, forecasting, foretelling,predicting, prediction, premonition,presaging, prognosticating, prophecy (alsoprophesy), prophesying;


apprising,informing, notification, notifying, tip-off;

advice, counsel, guidance,recommendation, suggestion, tip;

announcement, declaration