By Harry Tuttle, CIO Advisor
Many teachers consider faculty or department meetings a waste of time. They often complain that a memo could have given the critical information, that a person talked to long about nothing, or that they had better things to do that would help their students. An administrator can transform meetings so that teachers move from being passive consumers to active producers.
Instead of having someone talk about ways to improve student learning, have the teachers group together by subject area and go to a designated room. Each subject area group can think of the students’ major learning blocks in their curriculum and have the team suggest specific strategies that students can use to overcome those blocks. The principal, curriculum leader, librarian, or technology integration specialist would have set up a private subject area curriculum wiki such as pbworks for this group. Someone in the group will word process in the wiki each learning block and the strategies that the teacher suggests. For example, a teacher may identify that students often have trouble in finding evidence to support a position such as in a Social Studies Document Based Question (DBQ) in which students have to find references from historical documents to prove a certain statement. A teacher may offer that she has students identify the key word in the original statement in a red highlighter and then has students highlight in red that word or any synonym each time it appears in the document. Usually the highlighted words become the key to the students finding sentence that provides the necessary evidence. If any teacher has a video, website, podcast, etc that he/she uses, he/she can give that link to the recorder. The recorder lists the learning block and all the strategies that directly help students overcome that block. At the end of the faculty meeting, the teachers end up with a large variety of strategies that can help students as they encounter difficulties in their learning.
Furthermore, the teachers can check the subject area wiki anytime to remind themselves of the new strategies that their students can use. The teachers can add more as they counter additional learning blocks and figure out effective strategies to help their students. The wiki becomes a living document that offers teachers useful student learning strategies.
Harry Tuttle has been a classroom teacher, a technology integration teacher and a director/coordinator of K-12 technology in two districts. He focuses on improving student learning. Check out his formative assessment books at http://bit.ly/Tutbks.