Reasoned Understanding of Evidence #sol17

Reasoned Understanding of Evidence

Rainer-Weiss-1280x720

October 10, 2017

Last week,  Rainer Weiss, the chair of the physics department at MIT won the Nobel Prize for Physics.  This probably isn’t that much of a surprise, though Dr. Weiss said his chances were about 20%,  MIT has had 32 Nobel Prize winners.

What struck me in Ray Weiss’ interview on NPR was that he said what was important was the reasoned understanding of evidence.  A happenstance that Dr. Weiss fears is in jeopardy.

I was thinking that day (last Tuesday) and the days that followed about what a reasoned understanding of evidence might be.  I think of it in light of the fairly substantial amount of evidence we collectively collect regarding students in the fall of each year and in the shadow of examining that data together in our teams.  What does it mean to have a reasoned understanding of evidence?  As literacy professionals we looked at the words reasoned understanding and we take them to mean  comprehension of evidence based on well thought out logic and good sense.

We are fortunate at our school to take the time to carefully construct understandings of the assessment measures,  the results of those assessments, and importantly triangulate that information with what we have found out in other ways:  observation, practice, and other assessments.  We triage results and take the time to return to reflection, recording, and more conversation after our initial meetings.

In the best scenarios and honestly often,  we come to a new understanding of students and a new plan for moving forward, considering what might be the bedrock skill to begin with, miraculously considering all of the variables of planning, grouping, materials, motivation, and sometimes, sheer will.

I read last week that teachers have to make more decisions during the day than brain surgeons.  Some estimates are 1500 decisions.  But these decision,  how to group students, what to instruct whole class,  what to revisit, what goals to set, what questions to ask,  determine the instructional underpinnings of the students in our view.

So when I meet with teachers over the next few days, weeks, months, years,  as a coach and a collaborator,  I want to be a catalyst, a cheerleader, a co-conspirator, a sounding board.  Rai Weiss had a long struggle to that Nobel Prize.  He dropped out of MIT one time and his research on gravitational waves spans 30 years peppered with missteps and false starts.  We might have similar missteps and false starts, however we’ll start together. I want us to say together what Rai Weiss said when he was interviewed last Tuesday after he made that reasoned understanding of evidence,  ” It’s very, very exciting that it worked out in the end.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.10.00 PM Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating, maintaining and inspiring this platform.  You can read some amazing slices of life here.

 

 

 

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A Lesson Learned in Time #sol17

testSo make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time   Green Day

April 4, 2017

This is state testing week in fourth grade.  I have had my own little bunch to proctor, so it’s given me a little bit of technology free time to think as I watch the students work through the ELA assessment.  This all led me to contemplate scaffolds vs. rescuing,  student agency and the like at 11:30 or later last night.  I’m the one with test anxiety.  So in my fitful near sleep I hear Green Day do this.

Green Day  singing Camp Town Races to the tune of Good Riddance.  

The actual words to Good Riddance are these:

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I hope you had the time of your life

Green Day was singing Camp Town Races,  I was hearing Good Riddance.  Green Day has probably sang Good Riddance more than 1,000 times so adapting the Camp Town Races lyrics to the Good Riddance score might not have been difficult for them.  Our students daily have to adapt what has previously been taught to new experiences.  And they do.  With or without us,  they continue to learn.  Some of what they learn is adaptive behaviors.

So when presented with the challenge of a generic grade level assessment taken on a computer, can they remember the tune and adapt it to new lyrics.  It seems easier than it might be.  Memory might make this task more difficult.

As I watch them working through the test questions, I think about the opportunities that we have given them during this year to ‘wallow in it’.  To get down into a problem and think their way out.  I begin to ask myself questions about my instruction.  Do I let them sit in it?  Do we work for their questions instead of answers to mine? During this year,  I’ve read many books and articles about scaffolding and rescuing.  Who is creating the space for students to think?

So here’s the question for us.  What do we do every day to prepare students for ‘the test’?  The test of new situations, problems to solve, new learning.