July 31, 2011

Take the Results Only Project challenge

The Results Only Project is an education movement. Project participants are asked to commit to any or all of the following ROLE strategies:

Creating Results Only Learning Environments all over the world is a major education reform movement that needs dedicated, progressive-minded teachers and administrators.

Join the Results Only Project today.

Please commit by commenting on this page.

July 30, 2011

My online Reform Symposium presentation is today

If you are interested in results-only learning and narrative feedback, don't miss my online presentation at the Global Reform Symposium, today at 2:00 PM EST.

I will speak for 30 minutes about crushing the ABCs, and I'll take questions at the end.

You can watch from the comforts of home or any place with an Internet connection.

Just click the link below, and you'll be taken to the room to view the presentation and hear me speak.

Click here to see Mark's presentation (note: you can enter up to 30  minutes prior to the presentation)

Also, the virtual room does not support Java, so iPads won't work (sorry).

July 27, 2011

Think grades aren't a hot topic? Think again.

I went looking for some opinion on narrative feedback over grades, so I posted a simple debate on the TED.com conversations site.

The results are remarkable. Check out this amazing TED.com debate linked here.

July 24, 2011

Five steps to a problem-free classroom

An acquaintance read my ASCD blog post, “How to stop discipline issues forever,” and she said that she was intrigued but also perplexed. “You say you eliminate control and create engaging activities,” she said, “but I don’t see exactly how you eliminate discipline issues.” After some consideration, I decided to follow up with these steps for creating a classroom that is completely free from discipline issues.

Five steps for creating a problem-free classroom
1.      Throw out all rules and consequences – stop posting “Do and Don’t” signs in your room, as these only mean that you are in control of the students, which they hate. Discuss mutual respect with your students, but don’t con them into outlining expectations; this is just assertive discipline disguised as ROLE teaching. Explain that there is no need for rules in a learning community built on mutual respect.
2.      Replace control with freedom – ignore the insignificant rules that most schools have and give students real autonomy. When Rachel says she has to use the restroom, let her. Avoid ridiculous X-hall-passes-per-quarter or remain-in-your-seat-at-all-times policies, as these are further signs of control (they are also rules, which you need to throw out). If a student asks to retrieve a book from his locker, let him. Gently emphasize how much you value his presence in the class, and locker trips will quickly dissipate. Let students choose some learning activities and some collaborative groups. Freedom is the guideline here. Students value it.
3.      Never punish – you will lose all credibility with students, the second you begin punishing them. ROLE teachers simply do not give consequences. If a student is disrespectful or disruptive, most likely you are doing something wrong. You’ve said No to a simple request, you’ve removed a freedom, or your class activity is boring. It’s really this simple. Rather than punish a student for your shortcoming, it’s always better to talk to her one-on-one and explore the problem and its solution together (see step 4).
4.      Build rapport – everything you do either builds or burns bridges with your students. Sarcasm and yelling never work. What you may think is a harmless joke may irreparably damage your relationship with a student. The “bad phone call” is also a problem. Work daily to build rapport with all students, as this will minimize even a typically-disruptive student's desire to be a problem in your class.
5.      Emphasize results-only learning – in addition to year-long projects, narrative feedback and the elimination of all other traditional teaching methods, what creates a thirst for learning is intrinsic motivation. This has to be coached all year. Remind students often that results-only learning is about intrinsic motivation. It is students choosing how they demonstrate learning and taking part in self-evaluation. This constant emphasis of the ROLE will help fan the intrinsic motivation that already exists in students, and the more they understand this, the more they’ll embrace learning and lose interest in disruption.

July 23, 2011

Yes, discipline issues really are nonexistent in a Results Only Learning Environment

Courtesy Theapple.monster.com
Reviewers of my yet-to-be-released book, ROLE Reversal: Results-only Learning Is Changing Education as We Know it, recently posed a variety of questions and statements about ROLE strategies. One said: "It’s almost unbelievable that there are no rules and no discipline issues." Substantiation of this was requested.

So, I thought about this for some time, wondering how I might substantiate the assertion that in spite of having no rules and no consequences in my results-only classroom, there are no behavior problems.  I could get a quote from a principal, verifying that I never refer students to the office for disciplinary action, but this wouldn't say anything about any consequences I might give in the classroom. After some consideration, I decided to go a different way.

First, let me clarify what I mean by "no behavior problems." I mean "problems" in the traditional sense of word. In other words, I do not have major disruption -- students being disrespectful to me or peers, throwing objects across the room or fighting. I get plenty of what some teachers consider discipline problems, however. My students are often out of their seats, chatting and even using electronic gadgets that may be banned in most classrooms.

Behavior issues are a matter of opinion
One thing that separates ROLE teachers from traditional teachers is how behavior is categorized. Teachers in favor of control will say that cell phone use or students talking and moving without permission are major discipline problems. The ROLE teacher embraces these behaviors, because the results-only classroom is a workshop setting that encourages autonomy and constant collaboration.

So, when someone is shocked to hear that I have no behavior issues, my first response is to suggest that my view of discipline is different from that of traditional teachers, who might argue that I have many problems, due to what they may perceive to be chaos. I say that I have no discipline problems, because my students are not disrespectful and are never disruptive in the classic sense of the word.  I never have to punish a student, nor would I consider doing so.

Most disciplinary issues begin with bad teaching  
In the past, I punished students for talking to peers, because I saw this as disruptive to the constant lecturing I was doing. When students refused to complete a task, I removed them from my room. What I didn't realize then was that the problem wasn't a disrespectful or disruptive student; it was a boring worksheet or textbook assignment, which did not offer autonomy or ignite a thirst for learning.

In addition to clarifying behavior issues, I decided I would allow my students to substantiate my assertion that there are never any discipline issues in my class. Last  year, I polled students at the end of the school year about result-only learning strategies. One question was about behavior. I asked them why they believed there were never any discipline issues in class. Eighty-four percent reported that the ROLE encouraged a desire to learn over a desire to be disruptive. 

So, without any empirical data to substantiate my claim of no discipline issues, I will again assert that there are none in a ROLE. It has nothing to do with me being a great teacher. It's about a 21st century learning environment that fans intrinsic motivation and keeps students so engaged in learning that disruption is not considered. 

Imagine how much learning would take place, if all of what you consider to be discipline problems vanished forever.

Discuss results-only learning on Twitter

As the drive to get more teachers to convert their classrooms into Results Only Learning Environments, I have decided to keep the discussion going on Twitter 24/7.

I've created a new Twitter hashtag to drive the discussion. It is #resultsonly.

Although I would never attempt to compete with major Twitter discussions like #edchat, I am considering having a #resultsonly chat, maybe twice monthly to start. We would discuss results-only concepts like the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of homework, worksheets, year-long projects and testing, classroom management in a ROLE and narrative feedback over grades, to name a few.

I'll keep you posted on when the #resultsonly chat will take place. Meanwhile, please move the discussion forward by adding the #resultsonly hashtag to any tweets that you believe are about a ROLE and how it functions.

And don't forget to spread the word on your blog and, of course, on Twitter.

July 22, 2011

See narrative feedback up close at the Reform Symposium Conference

Don't miss my presentation at the global online Reform Symposium Conference. I'll be presenting on Saturday, July 30 at 2 PM EDT.

The Reform Symposium is a remarkable event that features 12 keynote speakers and more than 65 presentations from amazing educators from all over the world. Best of all, you can participate from any place with an Internet connection.

Learn more about RSCON3 here.

July 20, 2011

Year-long projects can revolutionize learning

A Results Only Learning Environment is built on the year-long project. Calling the ROLE a project-based class, though, is a bit of an understatement. Most project-based classes use projects as assessment tools, which is a much better way to evaluate learning than tests and quizzes.

The ROLE, however, uses multiple year-long projects as a way for students to exhibit autonomy and to create a thirst for learning, along with evaluating mastery. The year-long project encourages students to set an end-of-project goal, along with checkpoint goals. These goals give students a sense of forward motion -- a desire to see their projects grow.

The teacher becomes more of a facilitator/coach, providing a menu of activity choices, mini-lessons and constant narrative feedback. Students use the feedback to make changes and additions to the projects, in order to master all learning outcomes.

The year-long project is ideal for any learning environment, even the bureaucratic classroom, in which teachers are currently forced to reside. Although most teachers hate standards, the year-long project makes it easy to meet them, because any well-designed project will encompass all of the standards.

Watch for future posts with examples of meaningful year-long projects.

July 15, 2011

ROLE students outperform peers on standardized tests

People who understand a Results Only Learning Environment know that it abandons traditional teaching methods -- lecture, homework, worksheets, multiple-choice tests and grades. Still, many wonder how students in this progressive system will perform on standardized tests.

Teaching in a results-only classroom, abandoning all test-preparation practices, 84 percent of my students passed the Ohio Achievement Assessment last year. Although this may not be seem impressive at first glance, my ROLE students outperformed their peers in traditional classrooms, and I never taught to the test or used test-taking strategies.

Minority students in the ROLE performed far better than in previous years, when I used traditional methods. Seventy-seven percent of African Americans in my class passed the test – 13% more than the prior two years combined. Even more astounding is that 62% of the black students at my school who failed the OAA were taught in traditional classrooms by traditional teachers, who spent a good portion of the school year teaching to the test.

These comparisons are in no way meant to create a competition. I have no interest in winding up on top of a standardized test numbers game. The statistics only serve to illustrate the effectiveness of results-only learning.

Most teachers spend day after day deciding how to apply state standards to activities, so they can get their students to pass a high stakes test. Many teachers use parts of dozens of class periods throughout the school year teaching test-taking strategies – a fruitless endeavor. Although most will say that teaching students how to take a test helps them do well, there’s very little empirical data to support this supposition. And, of course, there’s my own data against teaching to the test. During the two years prior to creating a ROLE, I labored feverishly on test-taking strategies with my students, only to see 26 percent of them fail the test.

The best of both worlds

The central point here is that students in a Results Only Learning Environment will perform at least as well on standardized tests as their peers in traditional classes; they will do better, if they try, in most cases. What’s most important, however, is not the correlation between results-only strategies and test achievement; rather, it is that students in a ROLE will learn far more than students in traditional classes, while performing at least as well on standardized tests.

The results-only classroom presents the best of both worlds – real learning coupled with the state’s misguided perception of achievement, as demonstrated by high stakes test results.

As long as the insidious test exists and school administrators are forced to see it as the be-all and end-all of learning, teachers have to get their students to pass it at acceptable rates. Real learning no longer has to be lost in the process, though. The Results Only Learning Environment has proven this.

July 13, 2011

Educating parents on high stakes testing

One problem, among many, with government-mandated, high stakes tests is that many parents simply don't understand the deleterious effect these tests have on education. A thoughtful discussion about tests erupted at John Merrow's blog post about cheating.

One commenter, "Washington DC Parent," suggests that her child's teachers lend no credence to the test, explaining that it's not a good measure of her child's ability. She is convinced, however, that the tests did "accurately measure the struggles my child has been having and that have been dismissed by her teachers."

This got me to thinking that teachers need to do a better job education parents on just how bad standardized tests are. Perhaps responding to blog posts like Merrow's and posting to our own blogs is a good start. Here is my response to Washington DC Parent:

Dear Washington DC Parent, I’ve been teaching for 18 years. Let me tell you that the test is the worst way to measure achievement, regardless of what’s happened with your child. I don’t know your child’s teachers, but I do know that judging your child on how many times he/she recognizes that A, B, C or D is the correct answer to some convoluted question is a short-sighted way to evaluate academic progress.
With all due respect, there’s no kind of test, whether you administered it or a school did, that is accurate at measuring achievement. There are far too many variables involved in learning that are not considered in tests written by people outside of the arena where the learning takes place. Students demonstrate learning over long periods of time in many ways — not in one sitting, coloring in bubbles.
Some of my students score “advanced” on the Ohio Achievement Assessment. Many are no more advanced than students who score “proficient.” Some students test well, while others freeze, panic or get distracted during a 150-minute assessment that they may see as meaningless. I’ve known many excellent students who fail our high stakes test, only to confess the next school year that they simply didn’t try. “I don’t see the point,” a student once told me.
While I don’t know your child’s teachers, I can guarantee you that good ones can tell you how much your child has or has not learned without ever putting a multiple-choice or short-answer test in front of him/her. What’s needed is an entire school year filled with multi-faceted projects that are built throughout the year and constant two-way narrative feedback between the student and the teacher, which allows many opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of skills.

I also advised this parent to share results-only learning methods wither her child's teacher. If we get parents spreading the word about progressive methods, maybe together we can end the lunacy of high stakes testing.

July 12, 2011

Why aren't we using gadgets in class?

According to the PEW Internet & American Life Project, teens aged 12-17 are using gadgets like mobile phones and iPods more than ever. A key to a successful Results Only Learning Environment is to give students choice in how they demonstrate mastery of learning outcomes. With autonomy, students develop a thirst for learning. Since the data is from 2009, it seems likely that these numbers are now much higher.

If 75-80% of our students love using cell phones, iPods and other gadgets, why aren't teachers using them in the K-12 classroom to enhance students' intrinsic motivation?

July 11, 2011

Narrative feedback - preview my Reform Symposium presentation

Here is a powerful look at narrative feedback and how it can crush number and letter grades and forever change the way you teach. I'll elaborate on this during my online presentation at the Reform Symposium on July 30.

July 7, 2011

What exactly is meaningful feedback?

In a recent #edchat on Twitter, the discussion of grades turned to one about assessment, and the word "feedback" came up. While lots of people really liked the word, I sensed that some didn't truly understand it. Here is an excerpt from my book, ROLE Reversal, about narrative feedback:
"To thoroughly understand the effect of feedback in place of number or letter grades, let’s begin by considering one large activity or project you might assign. If your class has 1,000 points in a grading period, this project or assignment might comprise 200 of those points, or 20 percent of the final grade. Keeping in mind that the most important goal of the activity is learning, you’re going to eliminate any points, percentages or letters that you previously attached to the assignment. Instead, you will get feedback from the students about the project, and you’ll provide feedback during the work and after it’s completed. What makes this system so successful is that it leaves final judgment in the hands of the student, and it provides a legitimate opportunity for learning. Since feedback is narrative, a teacher can explain exactly what a student needs to do to demonstrate that she has met an objective. Sometimes the feedback is a question that the teacher asks. The student’s response is also feedback – the kind that helps the teacher provide follow-up lessons, which allow for mastery."

Real examples of narrative feedback with connections to mastery learning are coming in future blog posts.

July 6, 2011

Edchat teachers tackle grades and feedback

In a remarkable discussion July 5 on the Twitter hashtag, #Edchat, teachers debated the value of grades. As you can see in the image below, a screen capture of part of the chat, the debate quickly turned from the value of grades to useful alternatives, such as narrative feedback.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how many teachers want formative assessment and feedback, over points and grades.The chat made me wonder, though, if so many educators want to eliminate grades, what's stopping us?

You can read the entire chat at this link.

July 1, 2011

Share your progressive methods and experiences

As research for my new book, ROLE Reversal, continues, I'm looking for educators who have experiences with the kind of progressive methods that are used in a Results Only Learning Environment.Consider the following questions:

  • Do you teach in a workshop environment? If so, how does it differ from what your colleagues in  traditional classrooms are doing? 
  • Have you eliminated rules and consequences to any degree at all? What is the result?
  • Is your class project-based? What is the impact of this method of teaching on standardized tests? Do your students perform better than their peers in traditional (homework, worksheet, grades) classes?
  • Have you eliminated traditional tools, such as homework, worksheets, bell work, multiple-choice quizzes, etc.? How has this affected your students' attitudes toward learning?
  • Have you eliminated number and letter grades? How do you evaluate learning?
  • Have you eliminated rubrics?
  • Do you use narrative feedback? Do you allow students to make change after your feedback? What is the impact of this on learning?
  • Are your students involved in evaluating themselves for report card grades? Can you explain the procedure and its value?

Please take time to comment, and subscribe to comments, so we can get a lively discussion started on these important topics.