Philosophical Underpinnings: From Reflection to Transformation


Here is my philosophy of education from about 6 years ago when I was the Principal of Yarrow Elementary School. I feel that it continues to fit with my current thinking – with a few adjustments. I have had the opportunity over the past 6 years to work with a wide range of very thoughtful educators who have impacted and continued to shape my thinking.

The changes that I would make today are explained at the end of the piece.

2010 Philosophy of Education
Teaching affects learning. The better we teach, the better our students will learn.
I believe providing teachers and staff with the best tools to teach is of paramount
importance if we expect our students to learn to their potential. These tools
include best teaching approaches, assessment strategies, available resources
including technology, and collaboration.

Connect, Process, Transform, & Reflect are four steps required to teach powerful
and effective lessons – to any age group, regardless of curriculum. Students
need to connect to the lesson and realize their learning goal so that they are
motivated to learn more. Secondly, they need to be taught skills and strategies to
process the information presented to them so that they can make sense of the
new material. In step three, transform, the students need an authentic
opportunity to apply what they have just learned in a new situation. Finally,
students (and teachers) need to reflect on the lesson to assess whether the
learning goals were achieved – or not.

Key to powerful teaching is authentic assessment. Formative assessment tools
must be used with students to not only figure out where to begin instruction, but
also to monitor if students are understanding the concepts and ideas being
taught. These “tools” can range from classroom observations to more formal
assignments or tests. I believe all assessment is formative – until the students
“get it” at which point it suddenly transforms to summative assessment. How else
can we ensure success for all students & teachers?

We need to discard the idea that covering curriculum is good enough. Textbooks
are not the backbone of an educational program – differentiated instruction is. In
our educational reality textbooks are only one type of resource. Progressive
teachers use a variety of resources to create appropriate and effective programs
for their students.

Technology is an important and powerful tool that we as educators need to
understand and utilize to enhance learning – not replace instruction.

These questions by Rick Dufour are starting points in learning conversations:

• What do we want our students to learn?
• How will we know if they have learned it?
• What will we do if they do – or donʼt learn it?

Educators, collaborating in the use of best teaching practices and authentic
assessment, can precipitate real change in learning; change that excites and
motivates both the learner and the educator.

2016 Enhancements:

1.     I have added a couple of questions (in bold italics) to Rick Dufour’s original. It now reads:

a.     What do we want our students to learn?
b.     How will we scaffold the teaching so that students can learn?
c.     How will we keep the learning engaging and applicable?
d.     How will we know if they (our students) have learned?
e.     What are we doing for those students who did not learn?
f.      What are we doing for those who did learn?
g.     How will we do all of this in a practical and replicable fashion?

2.     I would add a piece about RTI (Response to Instruction) as a tiered approach to teach and support all students both academically and socially. We have much work to do in order to create a strong base of Tier One “High Quality Instruction” for all. The ideas and practices around Deeper Learning resonate with me and are moving our system in the right direction.

3.     Balance. I would add a piece about balance to my philosophy. I believe in a balanced approach to instruction and assessment. Simply put, there needs to be a balance between skill work, fluency, comprehension and communication in all curricular areas. (See  Universal Lens Model P.L.A.N. For Better Learning)

4.     I have adopted the term “evidence based” to replace what I used to call “best practices”.

5.     I would expand upon the importance of Performance Standard type assessments.

What have I missed? Please feel free to comment and add your thinking.









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