I just spent two days in a workshop by Dylan Wiliam on Assessment for Learning. The focus, in the end, was formative assessment and we were left to choose from a list of over 35 strategies to improve formative assessment in our classrooms. We were challenged to select one to three techniques to focus on and develop over the next year in our classrooms.
I am excited to try a couple of new techniques in my classroom (and report on them here), however, a message delivered in the workshop that continues to ring true for me is that teachers are doing the best that they can and they are doing a good job. After all, there isn't one teacher that is deliberately participating in activities that inhibit learning. All teachers, are, however, inadvertently applying techniques that aren't most effective in increasing achievement of their students. Additionally, the nature and role of being a teacher is constantly changing as students and learning styles evolve over the years. We have no idea what kind of world our students will actually be entering when they leave the workforce. We don't know what options for jobs they will have. There will probably be jobs and opportunities available to our students that don't even exist now. We don't even know what we are preparing students for! Given these variables, we as teachers, even the very best, always have room to become better and to find ways to most effectively help our students to progress in their learning.
If I focus each year on just three strategies for increasing learning I gained this weekend, I have ten years of improvement before me. And there are over 300 such strategies! How incredible it would be to have teaching learning time built into our schedules where we could learn about new strategies and plan to implement them in our classrooms. If we had the opportunity to reflect regularly, make adjustments, and constantly improve our teaching, imagine how amazing we would all be!
While yes, curriculum, methods of reporting (i.e. digital), web sites, technology, schedules, course offerings, etc. are all important, if I owned my own school, I think I'd focus on teacher development. Developing the best possible teachers who are always increasing their skills would make an incredible school. If teachers were constantly becoming more skilled the results would be better education, happier more fulfilled teachers, and students who are learning.