By: Virginia Ressa
Summer “vacation” is one of those things that non-educators sometimes misunderstand. Some people, even our family members, think teachers have three months off to lounge, sleep in and binge watch the shows we missed during the school year. We know differently. First of all, it’s not three months – it’s maybe two and a half after you factor in required planning and professional development days. But that’s not what I want to discuss today. I want to talk about how we use that time. Educators are also learners, using their time “off” to take classes to maintain their current license, earn a new license or an advanced degree.
What motivates us to continue our education and complete graduate classes?
What inspires us to engage in the learning process? To finish the vast amount of academic reading? And to complete the group projects that are so ubiquitous in grad school? I can tell you from experience, there are no rewards that give graduate students bonus bucks to spend at the university store when they complete the required reading. Rather than extrinsic rewards, we develop our own intrinsic motivations that keep us focused. We have ownership of our learning because we know why we are engaged in the learning. We know where we are going and what is expected of us.
Why don’t our students develop the same ownership of learning that we do?
Think about our K-12 classrooms and how we involve students in learning. Many of our schools and classrooms have rewards systems with stickers and bonus bucks in an attempt to motivate reluctant students. We try to provide extrinsic rewards because we have not given students the information and tools they need to develop ownership of their learning and intrinsic motivation. Teachers make the decisions about what students will learn and how they will be assessed. Teachers determine the timing of lessons and units of study. Teachers collect evidence of student learning. Teachers keep track of student progress. Teachers retain most of the control of teaching AND learning decisions, which leaves students as directed, passive participants.
As classroom teachers or grade level teams, we can offer rewards and privileges that might work for a short time, but rarely result in enduring motivation. Most of our attempts at external motivation fall far short of creating the engagement we genuinely want to see in our classrooms. What we are actually striving for, and what we experience as students ourselves, is ownership of learning. Student ownership goes beyond engagement and motivation, and empowers students with a sense of control and responsibility for their learning. Creating the conditions for students to take ownership of their learning requires teachers to work with students to set and communicate clear learning targets, collect evidence of their learning, track and analyze their progress, and provide opportunities for self and peer assessment.
We often see students engaged in classroom activities – they are busy, on task and focused. But if we stop to ask them what they are learning and why, can students articulate either? They may be on task simply to complete the activity before the end of class so they don’t have homework. Maybe they are on task because they want to earn a spot in Friday’s field trip. They may not know why they are doing an assignment, but have been provided with enough outside motivation to complete the assignment. Yet, research shows that when students know why they are engaged in a learning activity and understand how their learning will contribute to their long-term goals, they are more likely to be self-motivated and to reach their goals. In other words, students are more likely to be motivated to reach goals they’ve helped to set. They are more likely to keep working toward their goals if they can see and track their progress.
“Formative instructional practices involve students throughout the teaching and learning process. These practices – done well – enhance student efficacy and motivation to learn.”
-FIP Learning Modules
If you have participated in any of the Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) professional learning, you will recall it emphasizes four core practices: Creating clear learning targets, collecting evidence of student learning, providing effective feedback and supporting student ownership of learning.
The most critical element of student ownership and FIP is the creation of clear learning targets. Clear learning targets are the keystone in this set of practices because we cannot successfully implement the other practices if we do not have well written, aligned and easily communicated learning targets. Most significantly, clear learning targets provide educators with the key to empower students to take ownership of their learning.
This summer, Ohio’s teachers will have many opportunities to participate in professional learning. it is now easier than ever to learn about formative instructional practices. Free resources are now available on the Learning Management System (LMS). I’ve given you an introduction to student ownership of learning, but there are modules in the “FIP in Action” course that will help you to envision the practices in the context of content area classes. Once you have had a chance to take some time for yourself, visit the LMS and look at the many options available for improving your use of formative instructional practices.
Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.
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By: Julia Simmerer
Editor's note: This blog was originally published on March 22, 2018, but some things are so good they deserve another look! We are re-running the post so everyone gets a chance to read this staff favorite and educators can take advantage of the LMS this summer.
"The most important attitude that can be found is the desire to go on learning.” – John Dewey.
Everyone is born with a natural desire to learn about the world around us and an eagerness to thrive in the world. The motivation to learn never ends — it continues throughout our lives and our careers. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 87 percent of millennials say job development is important in a job. Essentially, we crave opportunities to learn and grow throughout our lives.
Today’s technology also has made us crave media that is available at our fingertips. With streaming video services like Netflix, we can watch movies anytime and almost anywhere. Internet-connected smart phones put the answer to almost any question right in our pockets. While an internet search can provide quick responses to basic questions, it isn’t the best method for developing our professional skills.
The Ohio Department of Education recently introduced a new tool that both helps educators meet their learning goals and is readily accessible anywhere there is internet. The Department’s Learning Management System for Ohio Education, or LMS as it is commonly called, is a free, online learning system for actively credentialed educators. By logging in to their OH|ID accounts, educators can participate in high-quality learning anytime — available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Department designed the current courses based on input from Ohio’s educators. The LMS allows districts to collaborate with each other through interactive discussion boards and activities. Each course covers specific skills that match an educator's job assignment. Traditional professional development courses in school settings offer “one size fits all” learning opportunities. This system allows users to select courses that are specifically relevant to their teaching assignments. The courses within the LMS also offer strategies that teachers can use immediately in the classroom.
Having spent several years as a classroom teacher, I recognize the benefits that free, online training brings to Ohio’s educators. Some of these benefits include not missing a day from class to participate, not needing a substitute teacher to cover your class and the flexibility to work from home at a time that is convenient for you. Now that I work for the Department, I appreciate that the system allows us to make sure everyone taking the course receives a consistent message and instruction — no matter where they are in Ohio.
To take a course in the system, educators sign in to their OH|ID accounts and select Learning Management System. From there, educators can search the Course Catalog. Some of the topics covered by courses in the system include:
- Instructional practices;
- Evaluating digital content for instruction;
- Transition services for students with disabilities;
- Educator evaluation systems;
- Instructional coaching;
- The Resident Educator program; and
- The OhioMeansJobs resource.
Participants can complete reflections and time logs throughout the courses. This allows them to potentially earn credit for working on their Individual Professional Development Plans. (Educators should review each course’s syllabus for the recommended procedure for submitting their work to the Local Professional Development Committee.)
Currently, the Department’s Office of Educator Effectiveness is offering the following courses:
- Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) for Teachers;
- Learning About the Ohio School Counselor Evaluation System;
- Ohio Principal Evaluation System (OPES): Essentials for Educators;
- Resident Educator courses;
- Formative Instructional Practices, (FIP) Series (seven courses available);
- Coaching for Self-reflection and Instructional Change; and
- Using the Ohio Standards for Professional Development.
If you have any questions about the LMS, feel free to contact Alison Sberna at Alison.Sberna@education.ohio.gov or (614) 369-4071. In the meantime, log in to your OH|ID account now and take a tour of the Course Catalog. Instead of “binge watching” TV shows, let’s do some “binge learning” on the LMS.
Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.
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By: Staff Blogger
Like many states, Ohio is examining the way it approaches juvenile justice. Specifically, the Ohio Department of Education is looking at how we educate students involved in the juvenile justice system. The quality and type of education students receive while in juvenile detention are just two areas where we are beginning to see steady improvement. The importance of educating students involved in the juvenile justice system is clear. Money spent educating students in the system is a good investment and leads to a reduction in recidivism — the number of people who return to criminal activity.
While all high school graduates may face obstacles, imagine how much worse the obstacles facing students in the juvenile justice system can be. According to the Ohio Department of Youth Services, 47 percent of students placed in juvenile detention facilities need special education. This percentage is much higher than those students needing special education in Ohio’s traditional public school districts. As of 2017, the Ohio Department of Youth Services added a variety of educational services that give students the opportunity to earn their high school diploma or GED or participate in apprenticeships. Research shows that individuals leaving the juvenile justice system with a high school diploma or a GED is the single most effective tool to combat recidivism.
For more than 10 years, there has been a concerted effort to decrease the number of juveniles in secured detention. The Annie E. Casey Foundation believes juvenile justice, “can be smarter, fairer, and more efficient… that thoughtful, comprehensive reforms can reduce unnecessary or inappropriate confinement, improve public safety, redirect public funds to more positive youth development endeavors, and, in the long term, improve the odds that delinquent youth become productive adults.”
That brings us to the question, what can we do in Ohio to make the Annie E. Casey Foundation statement a reality? In 2014, former U.S. Department of Education Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder promoted a set of characteristics for providing students with a high-quality education in juvenile facilities. In a broad sense, these characteristics included:
- Recruitment of qualified and dedicated staff;
- Curricula that aligns with the local district and promotes postsecondary school readiness;
- Proper funding for educational programs and support services;
- Effective transitional services;
- A trauma-informed staff and environment.
While these characteristics were for the nation as a whole, Ohio also created its own plan for improving juvenile detention education through our state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Ohio’s plan includes the creation of a position for a corrections state coordinator at the Department. Under the plan, each school district must have a local liaison who will act as a point of contact for juvenile justice education concerns. The plan also includes a commitment to improving juvenile justice education in the state of Ohio. Specifically, we are creating a strategy for improved communication and coordination between all stakeholders working with justice-involved youth and education.
While some detention facilities in Ohio have excellent coordination between the facility and local school districts, others do not. The plan calls strengthened relationships among those distinct systems. The plan incorporates relevant strategies such as trauma-informed practices and improved data collection and use related to children and youth in the programs.
In the past, the educational needs of juveniles placed in detention facilities were overlooked. Building relationships with juvenile facilities was not a priority for school districts. The districts may not even have been aware that the students lived in their districts because the students never officially enrolled in the districts.
This disconnect between detention facilities and districts also makes it difficult to transfer credits earned by the students. Imagine dedicating yourself to your studies for the first time in your life only to learn months later that the credits you earned in the juvenile facility are worthless in your home school district.
You can read more about Ohio’s ESSA plan here. Contact me, the Department’s new correctional education coordinator, with questions about correctional education for juveniles. Currently, I am working with correctional facilities across Ohio to make sure justice-involved students are receiving the same opportunities as students in Ohio’s traditional school districts.
Nicholas Demetriou is the Department’s correctional education coordinator. He has worked with at-risk youth in alternative learning communities as both a teacher and administrator.
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By: Steve Gratz
During the summer after my first year of teaching, I went over to my colleague, Jim Boyd’s, biology classroom and snooped around to see what I might be able to “borrow” to enhance my teaching — I was working on embedding more science principles into my agriculture curriculum. While I was rummaging around his classroom, I found a syllabus from his 10th grade biology class, and I realized it closely paralleled my sophomore class agriculture syllabus. However, it did so through principles rather than the context from which I taught. For example, Mr. Boyd taught cells: homeostasis, respiration, photosynthesis, mitosis and meiosis; and genetics: fundamentals, DNA, RNA, inheritance and expression. I taught AgriScience 200 (Animal and Plant Biology): genetics, anatomy and physiology, growth and development, reproduction, and nutrition. The parallels were uncanny.
Aside from spending a majority of that summer conducting home visits to students, I invested many hours rewriting the agriculture curriculum with my colleague Brad Moffitt. Brad and I graduated together from The Ohio State University, and we focused on embedding more science principles into our agriculture curricula throughout our teaching careers.
During the fall semester of my second year of teaching, Jim stopped down to my classroom and asked me about my curriculum. I quickly shared with him my syllabus from my sophomore agriculture class. He carefully reviewed it, paused and said, “No wonder your students know the answers to all my questions, you are teaching biology in your ag class.” This was sheer luck and not planned on my part, but it really motivated me to continue to highlight the embedded science in the agriculture curriculum.
In addition to teaching animal and plant biology, I also remember introducing gel electrophoresis to my students. Gel electrophoresis is a laboratory method used to separate DNA fragments (or other macromolecules, such as RNA and proteins) according to molecular size. In gel electrophoresis, the molecules to be separated are pushed by an electrical field through a gel that contains small pores. Of course, gel electrophoresis has evolved tenfold since the last time I was in the classroom. These are just a few examples life sciences embedded in agriculture.
The National FFA saw the importance of embedding more science principles in the agriculture curriculum. In fact, it created a recognition program for teachers of agriculture who brought science to the forefront. Brad (1985) and I (1986) were both recognized by the National FFA for outstanding work in agriscience. We both experienced increases in program enrollment because of the curricular change. However, we weren’t satisfied and set our sights on ensuring that our students could receive science credit through our agriscience courses. In Ohio, local districts control the awarding of credit, and we saw a handful of schools granting science credit for students in agriculture courses due to the embedded sciences.
When I started working at the Ohio Department of Education, I provided leadership to the agriscience initiative that was sweeping the country. At the Department, I immediately started working to ensure more students could receive science credit through agricultural education. I recall visiting with staff from the Office of Educator Licensure to determine the coursework agriculture teachers needed to become certified science teachers. After several meetings, we determined that agriculture teachers needed a physics class to receive certification to teach science. I reached out to Ohio State and arranged for a physics course to be taught on Saturdays to help agriculture teachers get science teaching certificates.
With the passage of House Bill 59, schools may now integrate academic content in a subject area into a course in a different subject area, including a career-technical education course. Upon successful completion of the integrated course, a student may receive credit for subject areas that were integrated into the course. Moreover, credits earned for subject area content delivered through integrated academic and career-technical instruction are eligible to meet the graduation requirements.
Integrated coursework benefits students by creating authentic learning experiences, deepening student understanding and creating space in students’ schedules for additional learning experiences. These experiences can include elective courses, College Credit Plus, work-based learning or other innovative educational practices. Integrated coursework mimics real-world situations and makes learning more authentic. Students are actively engaged in learning because the design of the integrated curriculum creates challenging, meaningful tasks that help students connect information.
Innovative school leaders who take advantage of the integrated coursework initiative really can change a student’s experience in and out of school. I’ve witnessed this as a teacher and by visiting schools across the state. Below are videos showing how schools have integrated different subject areas into different courses. The Department will continue to capture examples of integrated coursework as this initiative gains momentum.
Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.
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By: Guest Blogger
Throughout my entire life, my mom always pushed me to be a leader and not a follower, so I always hold myself to that standard. I believe that helped me get to where I am today. Today, I am very proud to serve as the president of Educators Rising Ohio. Educators Rising Ohio is a career-tech student organization that includes more than 1,000 students who wish to pursue careers in the education field. On a national level, Educators Rising includes more than 30,000 members. Career-tech student organizations such as Educators Rising Ohio have helped me and students throughout the state and country. I also am currently the captain of my football and wrestling teams, and I strive to push others in a positive direction. As president of Educator Rising Ohio, I look forward to further developing my abilities as a leader.
I would not be pursuing this field if it were not for Mr. Richard Wakefield. He is our lead instructor for the Heights Career Tech Prep Consortium Teacher Academy at Maple Heights High School, as well as our Educators Rising Ohio teacher leader. I took his career search class as a freshman, and I saw something in him. He is fiery and not afraid to challenge a student to do better. Where many teachers would throw in the towel, Mr. Wakefield keeps on pushing. He never stops. Mr. Wakefield saw something in me as well. He could see that I try to lead others. He could see that I am motivated by my struggles. When he asked me to join the Teacher Academy, he told me there is no better way for a man to give back to society than to become a teacher. He also told me that I could have even more influence because I am black, and there are very few black male teachers.
I have always loved sports and helping others. Mr. Wakefield has helped me realize that teaching and coaching would be a good career to enter after my football-playing days are over. I can see myself being a great teacher in the classroom and a great coach on the sideline. I can see myself using my talents and passions to change lives.
For now, as president, one of my first goals is to bring Educators Rising Ohio to more students. We are a student-led organization that not only teaches students how to become great teachers but prepares them for life as well. Educators Rising Ohio stretches students’ opportunities in life tremendously. We expose students to colleges and a multitude of careers and help each individual develop professionalism and character. By learning and applying these things in everyday life, success in life seems more attainable. From the beginning, children are always told to set goals and then take the necessary steps to achieve those goals. Educators Rising Ohio emphasizes that state of mind and immerses one in the field to get hands-on practice. Educators Rising Ohio prepares students for teaching and life. The organization also helps students develop relationships with people they would never meet otherwise.
Anyone who would like to join Educators Rising Ohio should visit this website. It is a great way to start your journey to becoming a teacher.
Antoine Holloway II is the current president of Educators Rising Ohio. He will be a high school senior in the fall. To learn more about Educators Rising, contact Angela Dicke.
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