Posted on 09/05/13

Thursday, September 4, 2013

As teachers, we want to see engagement.  Yesterday, day two of our annual staff Orientation, we spent some time viewing videos of dance teaching in our programs.  As faculty gave their impressions of what we were seeing, we used words like, “risk-taking,” “engagement,” or “confidence.”  It was pretty clear that among us, we knew what the others meant by such language—we were reasonably sure that our colleagues were seeing what we saw.  At the same time, it was equally clear that if other, non-Luna teachers used those same words to describe their teaching we would have no idea if they would be seeing or meaning the same thing.  Back in graduate school, I learned about Lesson Study as a way to collaboratively assess value of curriculum and student work among disparate groups of students.  Of course, bringing together a group of educators who trust each other enough to argue, bicker and persevere until consensus is reached is an exciting, yet rare opportunity.  Thus, it also became clear that as we reflect on our teaching and learning, as well as the evolving understanding and experience of our students, it is important to go beyond those big important conceptual words that have been overused to the point of meaninglessness.  We need to get better at rich, descriptive language that conveys what we mean.  For example, when someone says students are engaged, in my mind there is a lot of energy in their faces and bodies, they may forget to raise their hands and instead shout out answers and more significantly augment their peers answers with, “yes, and…” statements.  There may be interruptions or overlapped talking, maybe even a side-bar or two, but it is because the question asked or the topic being explored has meaning to them.  Of course, this is a culturally- and aesthetically-biased interpretation of the appearance of engagement.  I know from my own teaching experience that I don’t always get to see engagement in glaring evidence—that students often take in, process and then respond to information in their own time and way.  So, maybe looking for engagement is not the best marker of success in a classroom? In any case, I’m interested in encouraging teachers to become more specific and descriptive about what they are seeing and how their observations support their interpretations of student learning. (preedy)

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