Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reflecting on our own school experiences.

I recently attended a conference in which Charlotte Danielson was the afternoon keynote. Charlotte discussed the details of her framework for teaching. She also discussed her views on the overall evaluation process. While the session had a number of key points that were shared there was one topic that I believe is worth sharing. 

The Danielson framework for teaching is made up of 4 domains.

Domain 1 - Planning and Preparation
Domain 2 - The Classroom Environment
Domain 3 -  Instruction
Domain 4 - Professional Responsibilities

Charlotte presented the following question to groups of teachers during professional development sessions. " If you were to walk into a classroom, what would you see or hear from students or the teacher that would make you say, this is good stuff. I would want my child in this class? "  When presenting teachers with this question almost all of them would provide examples from Domain 3, instruction. They would site things like engaged learning, discussion, collaboration and assessment.

She would then ask a group of teachers, "Think back to when you were in school.  Remember a teacher or class that had a positive impact on your. What is it about this teacher or class that had an impact on you? Why was it so great?". When presented with this question almost all of the teachers listed attributes that would fall under domain 2, classroom environment. They would list experiences such as respect and rapport, a positive learning environment, a teacher who cared and the overall relationship of the teacher with the students.

This simple exercise in reflection reveals a lot. In our pursuit of increasing student achievement we tend to focus on instructional strategies, interventions, curriculum, formative and summative assessments, and the lesson framework. While these are all important and essential, is it possible that we are not placing enough emphasis on the classroom environment? Should we be working with teachers and supporting teachers to be more supportive and caring. Should we be working to build better rapport with students? Does the rapport we have with staff and the culture we establish in our buildings have a direct impact on the classroom environment? Can a school or district wide initiative to improve the relationship between administration and faculty and faculty and students impact student achievement and move us to the level of success we are striving for?

My thoughts in this posting are general observations related to teaching and learning. While this is an excellent topic for reflection it is not necessarily specific to my current district. I believe this is an area that all schools can benefit from exploring.

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