Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Melbourne, Australia for the Thinking and Learning Conference. I attended two full day sessions by Professor Dylan Wiliam, the author of Embedded Formative Assessment. Professor Wiliam’s sessions are filled with copious amounts data, theory, and straight-forward fact versus myth. A much repeated phrase was, “Educators must be critical consumers of educational research.” He pulled apart Piaget, Vygotsky, Hattie, Danielson, and Marzano, among countless others. Even his own twenty plus years of information was thrashed about to prove that a great deal of research is “confidently incorrect”.
On day one we looked at data and considered these questions: How do we define highly effective teaching? Do teachers use educational practice based on relevant evidence of student success – or – just cool strategies that might be successfully replicated? Further, if teachers try a good strategy and it doesn’t work, do they adjust, modify, or ask for guidance so that it meets the needs of their students, or move on to something else? Finally, if the teaching was successful and demonstrated good results, are teachers reflective? What proves they were successful? Why did it work and, more importantly, how can it work better? What about the students who didn’t make appropriate gains? Finally, good, bad, or otherwise, was the learning and knowledge shared with other teachers? Which brought us back to…teachers using/seeking intentional educational practice. Whew! It was a lot to consider before lunch.
After lunch we examined all that was left standing. The empirical evidence that demonstrated, over and over again, which factors correlated to best practice for teaching, learning and student achievement. He connected these factors to all of the questions posed that morning – which I appreciated. Professor Wiliam then discussed missed opportunities, challenges, and other circumstances that hinder the teaching and learning process. I appreciated his candor. He looks critically at education, but believes it can improve. A week later I am still processing it all, but I feel enlightened, inspired and empowered (as illustrated in my 20 minute(!) vlog below). Day two? I won’t be doing another vlog, but will post my findings soon; the PDF’s are already with the others.
Here are my big takeaways from the Leadership for Teacher Learning Institute. On the right, under Explore, you will find these listed out with any links, pdf’s, and resources I mention in my video under the heading: Thinking and Learning Conference. For those who want to fall even deeper into the rabbit hole, I also included a link to ALL of the presentation PowerPoint PDF’s from the conference. Just in case you needed some summer reading! Cheers!