REFLECTION: 7 Questions, May 13, 2016

7 Questions to End Your Week - HW

OBSERVE: What pleasant surprises did I discover this week?

This week, I was invited to serve on a panel of visitors to hear and evaluate some serious design work for a school’s learning-and-play space called The Frontier. The designers, fourth graders at MVPS, have been engaged in a design challenge connected to observations and collaborative interviewing they’ve been doing with Preschool partners. Among four classes, they created six design solutions, and they presented to the panel for feedback and evaluation. The most pleasant surprise – the format of the panel and some insider information from the students and the teachers point to the enormous desire they have to implement a solution and make a significant impact. Their determination to see a prototype through to implementation is even higher than I’ve seen it before with other challenges. I am thrilled that these learners have such a strong sense of agency, desire to change the world for the better, and the will to persevere through the complexities of real-world projects.

REFLECT: What lessons did my work teach me that I could build upon next week?

Being present for support and collaboration on classroom challenges – like that described above – makes my work more fun and rewarding. What’s more, my immediate MVIFI team reached out to the Fourth Grade Team to ask if they would document the project for the archives on That simple ask is the least an innovation team can do to encourage, promote, and amplify the incredible efforts of the instructional designers – the Fourth Grade Team – and the solution designers – the student learners. Then, the work has an even greater chance of being seen and influencing others’ work. #IdeasWorthSpreading

FOCUS: Are my short-term efforts and long-term goals sill aligned?

Long-term goals are connected to amplifying the thought and action leadership of the MVPS faculty, staff, and students. The short-term efforts to be with the panel, to meet with the Fourth Grade Team the week before, to reach out for their archivable story…those efforts are very well aligned and important. I wonder why the Fourth Grade Team thought to reach out to me a few weeks ago – I mean, specifically why. How might I make certain that I am seen as a willing and excited collaborator and amplifier?

BE PRODUCTIVE: What could I have spent more or less time doing?

I love my office mates and the serendipitous collaboration and creative sparks that happen with them. I would not trade that. At the same time, we all have aggressive To-Do lists that often require more secluded work. How might we balance these dually important work modes and make sure that we are in-phase and out-of-phase with each other’s frequencies at the best moments?

HAVE COURAGE: How did fear and uncertainly affect what I did and didn’t do?

In an early-week meeting with a number of education leaders, I sensed that there is significant tension over the perceptions of “what’s on our individual and collective plates.” I totally understand such tension – one to be managed probably, rather than resolved. I think I still “fear” (not sure that is the exact right word) that this group of education leaders possesses yet the best level of shared understanding of whole-part-whole collaboration needed to move forward the “right” set of objectives to advance the big-picture ideas in the most coordinated ways possible.

CLENSE: What mental clutter can I clear?

I experienced a setback this week regarding the way an educator graded a paper/presentation such that the student scored the maximum point value for the desired learning outcomes and mindset demonstrations, but turned in the work late and had 15 points deducted from the single-score, reported grade. I am puzzled why more schools have not worked faster (is that the right word?) to disaggregate the numerous assessment gauges that are inappropriately lumped together into a single number and a one-chance-to-show-proficiency. That’s partly why I tweeted these two tweets recently:

Should I just let this emotional and mental clutter go? In talking to a parent, they expressed that they think such penalties are completely and totally fair. So, perhaps I just need to get over it. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm

BEGIN ANEW: What is the first logical step for next week?

Start crafting my own prototype of a week-long PBL lesson connected to observation journaling, recording and archiving observations, pooling such observations together with a team, and operationalizing the ways in which collected, curated observations can become fodder for PBL engagements. Also, continue to explore how we might better know about and collect the incredible PBL/DT work of the faculty and those “tribe members” at other schools.


NOTE: I am venturing into an experiment. I plan to use these 7 Questions to End Your Week as a discipline of regular reflection. I feel very strongly about reflective practice. As John Dewey has taught me, learning is not simply experience, but reflecting on experience. Additionally, I think we neglect a fundamentally important opportunity when we choose to assign “homework” as a school but fail to prompt reflections like these seven questions as a building habit in young (and old) learners. What if a menu of prompts like these, and others, became more integrated into the home learning that we expect from our students and colleagues at our schools? So, to explore this wondering, I am assigning the questions and prompts first and foremost to myself. And I have invited other members of my tribe to enter into this experiment with me. I cannot wait to see all that I/we learn.

3 thoughts on “REFLECTION: 7 Questions, May 13, 2016

  1. Bo, I have not read your blog in a while and I think it’s no coincidence that I read it today. I appreciate this reflection using the 7 questions. As far as the question as to whether we should lump all gauges on a car dashboard into one number for an assessment, do you think the mindsets and learning outcomes should be graded separately as some educators advocate?

    To me, lumping different aspects of an assessment together can provide an overall picture of many things such as the condition of one’s health or wealth, the condition of a car, a performance task, a project, etc… A single number or grade is certainly not the only indicator of how well the car is running or how healthy someone is. However, much of a car’s value can be determined by a number of “gauges” lumped together. If one wants to know specifics about why the car is valued at what it is or, in this case, why a performance task or project has a particular numerical score, all he or she needs to do is look at the breakdown of the number. Hopefully, the student could see this on a rubric.

    In regards to the 15% deduction you saw this student receive, many schools or school divisions have set policies for late grades which leave the teacher with very little leeway. I know MV Middle has a policy of deducting 20% for anything one day late so a 15% seems rather lenient. In my 12 years of teaching I have seen late penalties serve as powerful reminders and motivators for students. For the most part, students grow and mature and so begin to make better choices. They choose to complete their work on time. This is an important skill in the real world. Last thing about late penalties: I believe they also level the playing field. They seems like they can penalize the student who chose to complete his work on time because the student who turned their assignment in late had extra time to work on it.

    I’m the type of person who prefers to simplify things for my own understanding and for my students. Sometimes I think those who are not in the classroom are pushing for positive changes but are perhaps unintentionally making some things more complicated. That is part of the reason that these are great conversations we need to keep having in education right now. I’m happy you include parents on them like you did for this setback you experienced.

    Do you just need to get over it? I know that was rhetorical question you posed, but I have an answer. Ready?
    Only you can determine that. Even if someone has the answers humans have to come to terms with things in our way and in our own time.

    Thanks Bo!

    • Jenny, Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thorough comment. While I do believe that students should receive consequences for submitting late work, and while I do believe more sophisticated report-card systems (like many of those in Canada) should show “penalty” measures for such late work, I do not believe schools should continue to use grade reporting systems that lump a heap of different measurements into a single number. At that point the number doesn’t mean much to interpretation. For instance, imagine an 87 on a report card next to the Math subject. Does that child understand the core material at an 87% level? Or does the child understand the core knowledge and skills at a 98% level, but chose to neglect HW and so got averaged down? It’s impossible to know, isn’t it, unless the gauges are all visible on the dashboard?

      And I am so blessed that I continue to be in a classroom of students (iDiploma) even as I am blessed to be an administrator. That way I can be a practitioner/researcher/policy-advocate all at the same time with lots of hands-on optics. With iD, we use a dashboard in Haiku that allows for one to see the various gauges – there are no numbers that are created from lumping and mean averaging a set of various assessment parts. While we don’t pretend to have it all “perfect” by any stretch, that system certainly aligns better with the last 20 years of assessment research on grading practices that we know are best for learners.

      And my question was not really rhetorical. I do wonder if I should just let it go. Much of U.S. education does not seem to understand the need for change in this area. However, there are a number of schools and school systems that have moved to more robust, disaggregated reporting systems, and the users report much greater understanding and satisfaction with regard to being wise about the various dimensions of their learning.

      Thanks for the exchange! I always find co-reflection invaluable.

      • Thank you for providing more insight and explanation into your reasoning. It is wonderful that you get to continue being a teacher while being an administrator.

        I wonder if we should call the disciplines something different if we continue to lump many things into the average? Perhaps we should just show the breakdown of the grade rather than the average, as can be found on Power School or any grade book application? I definitely don’t have all the answers.

        I’m looking forward to seeing how the MV summer grant work on assessing the mindsets and PBL come together. I know our team of passionate teachers can take MV to the next level so learning is maximized for students.


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