Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Evolutions of Libraries

The library has historically been the repository of knowledge, a place where you go when you WANT to learn something, a place with answers and resources. that is still true today, but today's libraries are in the crosshairs of change due to technology. Many have seen the trends and have made adaptations and additions, but is that enough?

I have known this for a while, in the back of my mind. As I look at the libraries in my district, I see many great moves that meet the needs of today's students and society. I have seen many changes at the local public library also. But are adaptations and additions enough?

This recently hit home to me when I took two of my sons to the public library. My kids were stoked, so excited all day, and bragging to their friends when I picked them up. My second grader even wanted to do his homework there. Did you hear that? WANTED! We arrived and while the second grader did his work, my 3 year old and I explored the board books and other activities they had for children. We had a blast and couldn't borrow enough books to read that night. Then my second grader finished and it was his turn to look around. He found many books to borrow that were of interest to him. But...

Then it hit. He wanted to find out about griffins. We searched on their catalogue, and found no resources. The excellent librarian was next. He asked her and she couldn't find anything specific except the subject of mythology, so we went over to the books and looked at the mythology books, checking indexes of those books for annotations of griffins. Great library and life skills and resources for a second grader to learn! After a couple minutes of that he found a book with a page about griffins. A win! He grabbed it quickly and off we went.

While this process played out over 10-15 minutes though, I was thinking that we could just go over to the computer search station and check out the databases. Or... I could just pull out my smartphone and search it right there and immediate resources pull up. That is the society expectation of knowledge, not the process of exploration but immediate finding and move on to doing something with the knowledge or on to the next topic. Not the ceremony appropriated to knowledge achievements.

Libraries are the halls of self-intended knowledge, and churches to those seeking public resources of knowledge. But as non-fiction books are printed, they are almost automatically non-comprehensive and nearing obsoletion, through no fault of their own. Society just has different needs and expectations.

So what will or should libraries be? If someone were to think up the concept of libraries right now, start from scratch, what would they look like?

At a recent technology meeting, a neighboring district explained how they are reshaping their library experience. Like all great changes in history, it is accompanied with a name change. Library? Nah... Learning Commons! Not a passive repository, but a place of action where folks come to, as the name Commons implies. Technology resources abound, but not necessarily supplied by the district. While there are district resources for technology use available, some were removed to make room for more flexible space accommodations. Comfy chairs, additional power outlets, movable furniture for group work; elements of paradigm change for new experiences and organizations.

So how should libraries look? What is the focus of their services both now and for the generation to come? What then is the role of the librarian?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Teacher Evaluation

Discuss how teacher evaluation is "a golden opportunity" to improve teacher and student performance?

Teacher evaluation is a "golden opportunity" to improve teacher and student performance because it provides a forum to discuss best practices in teaching and learning. Continuous learning and growth should be the purposes of evaluative procedures, not just for remediation purposes, but for extending practices. Evaluation allows for the meta-cognition of teaching to help formulate the "why we do" behind the "what we do.". Through this exploration is the opportunity to address deficiencies and to celebrate achievements, and establish a process for growth.

As Anthony Alvarado said, teacher learning is the key to improving student achievement. Students learn from teachers, so the more teachers know then the more students can achieve from their interactions with their teacher.

According to Danielson and McGreal, traditional evaluation models are flawed. What then are the “best practices” for supervision and evaluation to improve student learning?

Traditional evaluation models are flawed because of the evaluative judgments inherent in the process. The judgments can be inaccurate, inconsistent and not based on evidence, and may differ depending upon who is evaluating. These traditional forms of evaluation also do not differentiate for varying levels of experience and expertise. Danielson and McGreal recommend a differentiated approach to evaluations: new teachers are evaluated using criteria specific to their needs for growth; experienced teachers using criteria to professional growth initiatives; and teachers in need of improvement using criteria that establishes core knowledge and skills required for effective teaching.

Effective Instruction

What does the literature describe as the components/domains of effective instruction?
Effective Instruction takes on many shapes and forms, but essentially it is practices inclusive of challenging curriculum that both respect and engage learners. According to Danielson, the domains of effective instruction include planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. Planning and preparation encompass the foundational knowledge of curriculum, instructional practices and resources required for the lesson. The classroom environment domain encompasses the classroom management systems the develop a culture of learning. The instructional domain includes the active practices of communicating, engaging, assessing, and responding. The professional responsibilities domain includes the efforts towards continuous improvement and development of the class, the families, the school, and the profession through reflection, communication, and self-learning.

How do you know effective teaching when you see it?
To see effective teaching, first one must be knowledgeable of the curriculum, resources and relationships within the environment. from there, the evaluator can assess the instructional practices being employed and the reflective engagement of the learners within the context of the lesson. The four domains provide a framework for engaging learners in lessons where the taught-curriculum best aligns with the learned-curriculum, that translates into achievement based on the assessed curriculum. Through observing the process and building the relationships with the instructional staff, the evaluator can know effective learning because they can have appropriate knowledge of what is taught, see how it is taught, and reflect on the process based upon the results of formative and summative assessment to determine the learning.

In what way might the presence of teacher leaders require a differentiated approach to supervision?
As the authority of leaders moves along the continuum from bureaucratic, to personal, to professional, then to moral authority, the amount of differentiated supervision needed increases. At the bureaucratic level, all teachers are held to the same requirements, and evaluated accordingly in a directive supervision approach. At the personal level, there is an understanding and empathic approach that sees others more individually, thus taking into context the needs and strengths of the teacher in a directive informational approach. Further, at the professional level, not only are teachers viewed for their strengths and needs, but their ability to self-address those strengths and needs increases, requiring the evaluator to become more facilitator and collaborator within the professional collegial relationship. Lastly, approaching the moral level, the school community takes a flattened approach to the hierarchy of evaluation and supervision and looks not just to the classroom, but to the greater, non-directive, mission driven approach to the vocation.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ethical Issues of Moral Supervision

What are the ethical issues of moral supervision?
Supervisors, due to their position within the school, are in a position to exert great influence over the development of the learning community. They are in a position to determine the structures of learning and processes of the school. They have the responsibility to act with integrity demonstrating respect for the rights of others, act fairly with impartiality and sensitivity, and act ethically by making and explaining decisions based on ethical or legal foundations.

Nature and Obligations of Supervisory Leadership

What are the moral nature and obligations of supervisory leadership?

The moral nature of leadership is that of relationships with teachers and relationships with students. The relationship with the teacher needs to be respectful and based on trust, where both the supervisor and teacher can feel open for honest interchange. The relationship with the student needs to be based on the moral activity of learning, and the development of a community conducive to learning.

The supervisor has the moral obligations to promote a moral community, ideals and virtues of teaching, and the character of learning and teaching. In promoting a moral community, the supervisor ensures that institutional procedures do not become more important than the people being served. In promoting the ideals and virtues of teaching, the supervisor commits to practice in an exemplary way, practice toward valued social ends, develop not only one's practice but to the practice itself, and a commitment to the ethic of caring. In the character of learning and teaching, the supervisor promotes the relationality of learning, a dialogue between learner and the reality under study.

Sources of Authority for Supervisory Leadership

What are the sources of authority for supervisory leadership?

Bureaucratic Authority relies on roles, rules and regulations to support the authority of the leader. Supervisors provide descriptions of expectations and then manage others toward those ends, following the policy of "expect and inspect."

Personal Authority relies on the motivational skills of the leader, where others want to accomplish the vision of the school for the leader. This form of authority is usually associated with the large leaders and follows the policy of "what gets rewarded gets done."

Professional Authority relies on the expertise and skill of the leader to provide authority for decisions. Professional authority is based on the expertise of teaching and the respect that fellow educators have for the values and skills of the leader to guide the school.

Moral Authority relies on the shared values of the school as a community, where all of the staff feel responsible to the achievement of the vision.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Supervision and Evaluation

Similarities and differences between supervision and evaluation
Some may feel that supervision and evaluation go hand in hand, where supervisors perform evaluations and that evaluations are performed by supervisors. In actuality, the purpose of supervision is to coordinate efforts that contribute to student achievement. Evaluations are just one component of the efforts used to develop a culture of student achievement.

Evaluations are the activities that observe practice and stimulate change and development. Monitor and adjust. Observations and evaluations are not the sole responsibility of supervisors. To be most effective, evaluations should be from various roles, such as peers and coaches, and incorporate a varied breadth of environments.

Knowledge, skills, attitudes and values do effective supervisors possess
Effective supervisors possess knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that contribute to the effectiveness of the organization and it's ability to teach and prepare students. The supervisor develops a shared vision with the school. This vision is then promoted and reinforced, encouraging a culture where knowledge and expectations of the organization are known and lived by all. The culture includes elements of instructional development for effective learning tied to professional development for continuous learning. The leader manages the organizations resources, and collaborates with community for further resource development. Finally, the leader establishes credibility within the educational environment by leading with integrity and incorporating the larger vision of education.

Roles supervision and evaluation play in the foundation of a learning community.
Both supervision and evaluation are means to achieve an ends that encourage the vision and culture of the school. Supervision coordinates the efforts and activities that increase student achievement, and evaluations determine accountability to the culture towards that end.

When I served as assistant principal, I supervised many elements of the school, from recesses, cafeteria, discipline and assessments to staff. The supervision part of the role was like a quarterback on a football team, distributing resources and making sure people were in the right position. But evaluation was a large part of the position as well, evaluating instructional practices in the classroom, evaluating PBS data for school discipline issues, evaluating lunch and recess procedures for efficiencies. Supervision is responsibility and evaluation is accountability.