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Archived Principal Message

Principal Message: February 2014

 

Michelle Speight, Principal Glendale SchoolWe feel it is necessary, once again, to deny the assertion that learning, and how we learn, is a process that cannot be seen, that cannot be activated and observed, leaving the school with the sole task of eliciting learning and then verifying it after the fact. What we are interested in is precisely an attempt to see this process and to understand how the construction of doing, thinking, and knowing takes place, as well as what sort of influences or modifications can occur in these processes.”

~Vea Vecchi

School Development Planning at Glendale School

  • How can our school improve intellectual engagement?
  • What is the link between intellectual engagement, documentation of learning and academic achievement?
  • How can documenting our work in Inquiry support the improvement of intellectual engagement and academic success?

Our work across the Calgary Board of Education continues to focus on student learning experiences as key to building a highly responsive and flexible school system.  In the fall, teachers worked to examine last year’s Provincial Achievement Test data, Provincial Accountability Survey results, and our school-based Tell Them From me Survey results to better understand our students and the impact that teacher practice has on academic success.

Based on the data story of Glendale and the direction of *Alberta Education’s Inspiring Education Document” which focuses on creating a K-12 education system that seeks to foster Engagement, Entreprenerial Spirt and Ethical Citizenship, teachers have chosen to focus on improving intellectual engagement and to measure this work formatively with the use of documentation of learning. (For your information, our school development plan can be found at found at http://schools.cbe.ab.ca/b143/sdp.htm) The theory of practice in our school development plan is anticipated to ultimately result in an improvement of student academic success.


Having performed a synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses related to student achievement,Dr. John Hattie, Professor of Education and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, concluded that when the learning of teachers and students is made visible, student achievement increases (2009, 2012).  The strategy of making learning visible accompanied by ongoing documention of this learning, means many different things to different people.  At Glendale School, the primary features of documentation as practiced in our inquiry-based learning environment “is a focus on how and what children learn. This focus is reminiscent of careful listening; thus, documentation, in many ways, is visible listening.” (Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2006) Even though historically, schools have tended to separate the "how" from the "what" of learning, the research suggests that the two are integrally linked.
According the Harvard Graduate School of Education, some of the elements of documentation include:

  • Conducting careful observations
  • Developing questions and tentative answers about how and what children are learning
  • Collecting evidence of individual and group learning
  • Interpreting observations and evidence in relation to question(s)
  • Inviting others' interpretations
  • Using the information to guide future teaching
  • Starting all over again (the “adjustment cycle”)

Documentation can take many forms including the use of photographs, sketches, drawings, anecdotal notes, quotations from teachers and students, videos and audio tapes, responses from students, connections to curriculum and reflections on the learning process. This documentation is created by teachers and students  throughout the learning process.


Linking Intellectual Engagement to the Documentation of Inquiry-Based Learning
To support our school development plan, our teachers’ work in professional learning days and on Friday afternoons will focus on the following questions:

  • How can our school improve intellectual engagement?
  • What is the link between intellectual engagement, documentation of learning and academic achievement?
  • How can documenting our work in Inquiry support the improvement of intellectual engagement and academic success?

As teachers who greatly value the process of inquiry-based learning, our teachers see documentation as a research tool. Together we will carry out research on learning which includes both teachers and students.  In this process we reflect daily on the ways that we learn and acquire knowledge. Carlina Rinaldi, the former director of the municipal early childhood centres in Reggio Emilia, Italy, suggests that “pedagogical research can be understood as the interpretations and reflections around the research of the children and with the children."
As our practice and understandings develop in the area of documentation of learning we will likely generate many ideas about what it is and how it relates to the inquiry process and intellectual engagement in learning. Parents are an important part of this  journey and as we start to shift toward documenting the process rather than the products of learning, we look forward to your ongoing feedback and invite you to ask us many questions along the way!

Sincerely,
Michelle Speight
Principal, Glendale School
mmspeight@cbe.ab.ca

Archived Principal Messages