The role of the faculty in the post-LMS world (opinion)

However, working outside the LMS, well-trained instructors will be able to do far more than meet the minimal requirements for moving college courses online...

Source: The role of the faculty in the post-LMS world (opinion)

I don't work at a university, but we're in the process of moving teachers into using Canvas in our district, so this resonates. I see two groups of people:

  • those who already had material online and are struggling to work backwards (essentially) to fit items into Canvas.
  • those who have nothing online and are struggling to make sense of what works well digitally and what doesn't.

The LMS is a weird stepping stone. I've had materials online for years, so I don't like the constriction an LMS brings to what I've done in the past, but I do appreciate the streamlined data I can grab from the system (I need to write more on using Outcomes in Canvas later...)

For the second group, it's a great intermediate step and I'm already seeing people look for more online on their own. They want to push the system now that they understand it more. They're seeing the benefit if using the Internet as a whole and not limiting their courses to the flow in Canvas.

Striking the balance between structure and variety is difficult. I'm not sure the LMS will ever completely go away, but I can see the influence waning as skills develop and alternatives becoming more accessible to teachers.

If We Don’t Allow A Redo, What Are We Teaching? – The Teacher And The Admins

Whatever the reason, he was afforded the opportunity to learn and apply. It hasn’t come easy, but that’s the point. Giving a chance to redo isn’t about being easy.

Source: If We Don’t Allow A Redo, What Are We Teaching? – The Teacher And The Admins

Still in my standards-based grading vein, this is inevitably the biggest sticking point for teachers I work with.

"What do you mean they can retake the test for full credit?"

Mentally, we can agree with the argument that redoing work or retaking tests makes sense in the scheme of student learning. The hold up, I find, is more with the work involved in making those opportunities reliable and valid more than the mental exercise of finding value in the habit.

There are ways to allow students to reassess work that does not include sitting an exam again, which opens more possibilities for authentic learning and demonstration of mastery.

Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Three Grading Practices to Avoid

Remember, though, that grades should not be used as rewards. Nor should they be used as affirmation, compensation, or validation. Grades should represent an honest report of evidence at this moment in time, nothing more. If we make them something more than that, we undermine the student’s maturation and any useful purpose for grading.

Source: Fair Isn't Always Equal: Three Grading Practices to Avoid

I'm working with several teachers on moving toward standards-based grading and we're starting to have conversations about grades themselves. I ask how they feel about zeroes, extra credit, completion, and makeup work. This article is a great primer and/or followup to those initial meetings.

Lesson Idea: Learning Objectives

Jessica Till asks a good question on Twitter:

and Graham's response stood out to me:

Turning this around (also mentioned by Will Dunn later in the thread), what would happen if we taught a lesson or went through an activity without positing the objective and then have students state the learning as an exit ticket or closing discussion. What insight could we glean?

Intentions are important, but implementation is harder.

H/T to Darren Burris and Dan Meyer for showing up in my timeline.

The Psychology of Classroom Discussions

I've never heard of the Asch Experiment, but this video is worth watching.

Kaplinsky's article gives some good classroom ideas on how to avoid groupthink in student responses, even highlighting the Desmos teacher view to anonymize responses (which also works outside of math.

During student teaching, questioning was the first thing my training teacher worked on with me. I was prone to asking, "Who knows..." which left the door open to zero responses. Moving to direct questions, "What is...?" or "How does...?" removes escape. I also recall another great post (I can't find it now) about leaving uncomfortable silence after asking a question. Letting several hands go up in the air allows for discussion as you can call on more than the first student.

Mixing Kaplinsky's ideas with leaving room for responses is a great way to help students feel comfortable with replying, even if they disagree with others.

Read the original article here.

Yes, Relationships Matter

Yes, Relationships Matter thumbnail

I'm in some grad classes right now and in one, we were assigned to discuss, "Does building relationships with students really matter?"

Prior to the discussion, we watched Rita Pierson's TED talk and read two articles: The Post on differences between white and black poverty and a piece from mic.com on white poverty in America. (Both links are to annotated copies of the articles.)

My unedited response to the discussion thread is below.


I must admit, I've started and restarted this post several times this week.

Of course building relationships matters. If we neglect to build relationships, we are missing a fundamental aspect of teaching and learning. Regardless of culture, our species is reliant on relationships with other members. We are predisposed to bond with other people from birth through death. Teachers are in the unique position of spending more time with students than anyone besides their parents, which leads to relationships in some capacity.

Fostering positive relationships will help lead to emotional and mental stability that students, especially students of poverty, are often lacking. We get into dangerous territory when relationships become the only support mechanism for the poor instead of improved services and social programs. In the Post article, the plan to open affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods is only hindered by the free market and social biases. There is nothing stopping housing developers from lowering rent other than their own bottom lines. Poverty can be combated with solid public education, but to really change the landscape of American poverty, we need larger social change.

The support offered by teachers is critical, but so is support from school counselors and social workers. Since those services are underfunded (or nonexistent in some schools) teachers are left to figure it out on their own. Recently, the 'grit' narrative has taken hold, which is can lead to less obvious, yet counterproductive, results. Jensen (2016) and Kidd (2013) note that most poor families work more than their wealthier counterparts, so teachers encouraging students to get through their issues with perseverance and a belief that they can do better with harder work perpetuate the misconception that the poor are lazy. Students already working hard will be reluctant to form genuine relationships because grit places the blame back on the student, not by recognizing root causes.

Building positive relationships takes more than goodwill and a focus on mindset. Seeing students as people with real needs and real challenges is critical. Recognizing that our life circumstances do not reflect many of our students' builds empathy and allows bonds to form.


Featured image is December, 2009 flickr photo by bennettscience shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license