When we harvest, we gather ripened produce. Often, we eat some right away and then process the rest - freezing, canning, preserving - so that we can savour the fresh flavours over time.
On the weekends, we like to go to farmers markets and load up on gorgeous fruits and vegetables. My family also has a small vegetable patch at home. Despite its small footprint, our harvest is plentiful, stretching from midsummer until early fall.
This year, I'm also caring for my mother's garden, which consists of herbs, berries, rhubarb, and a grape arbour. The abundant fruits and vegetables we are able to purchase at the market and pull from the garden, have inspired my final word of the #5Days5Words challenge - HARVEST.
- We can harvest ideas, assets and strengths.
- We can harvest strategies.
- We can harvest resources and materials.
We harvest ideas through our professional learning networks, social media, workshops, online learning opportunities, books, blogs, magazines and in conversation with each other. This type of harvest can be accomplished alone, but feels more powerful when learning experiences are shared with others.
In Learner-Centered Innovation, Katie Martin (@KatieMartinEdu) writes “Creating a culture of effective collaboration, which includes professional learning, means that schools must leverage the collective genius of all teachers and ensure that everyone is equipped and aware of the what, why, and how of any new initiative.” (Martin, 2018, p. 234)
I firmly believe that everyone has their own special gifts, talents and strategies to share, and it’s important to shine a light on each individual’s particular strengths in order to grow a professional learning community within a school, and within a district. Teachers can be very hard on themselves, and often don’t recognize the important knowledge they hold, or perhaps they feel that others fail to value their contributions to the team. This is where it is critical that leaders and/or facilitators deliberately surface these strengths and make them visible to everyone. There are many strategies that might be useful to achieve this outcome.
The easiest and most accessible strategy is discourse. We need to spend time talking to one another. Using an asset stance and providing precise descriptive feedback connected to the things we value helps educators to see themselves as part of a solution. They become agents of change and influence - a highly empowering stance.
Every time I work with a teacher, I learn something from them. I make sure to tell them what I learned, before leaving their classroom. It also helps to tell someone else in the school - another teacher, an administrator - in order to spread this learning just a little bit further.
When we collaborate and share ideas with one another in service of a common goal, we are supporting the development of Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE). John Hattie [@John_Hattie] describes CTE as “the collective belief of the staff of the school/faculty in their ability to positively affect students. CTE has been found to be strongly, positively correlated with student achievement. A school staff that believes it can collectively accomplish great things is vital for the health of a school and if they believe they can make a positive difference then they very likely will.” https://visible-learning.org/2018/03/collective-teacher-efficacy-hattie/
In a recent article in Educational Leadership, Hattie, Donohoo and Eells build on Martin's statement and urge us to see CTE as a critical aspect of successful schools. This year, I had the privilege of working alongside Jenni Donohoo in one of our secondary schools. The effect of the work with teams of educators on their collaborative stance and the increased confidence of participants are clear evidence to me of the following statement:
“Team members' confidence in each other's abilities and their belief in the impact of the team's work are key elements that set successful school teams apart.” http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar18/vol75/num06/The-Power-of-Collective-Efficacy.aspx
(Jenni Donohoo, John Hattie and Rachel Eells. Educational Leadership, March 2018)
Are you interested in learning more about Collective Teacher Efficacy?
Jenni Donohoo’s [@Jenni_Donohoo] blog post on the Learning Exchange provides further information about the key conditions which enable Collective Teacher Efficacy. https://thelearningexchange.ca/collective-teacher-efficacy/
This Tuesday and Wednesday, John Hattie and Jenni Donohoo will be facilitating an institute in Toronto. Follow @VisibleLearning on Twitter - you can be certain there will be a # to follow for the event. If you’re interested, here’s the registration information link: http://www.cvent.com/events/toronto-visible-learning-institute/event-summary-75ea0b2897b04b4eb2932834a2910cf2.aspx
To view free videos and webinars, follow this link: https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/resources/hattie
In a blog post entitled “Harvesting Strategies for Learning”, Sandra Herbst [@Sandra_Herbst], explains “The Strategy Harvest is a list of strategies that are “collected” by the facilitator and the learners throughout the session. These are the strategies that the learners have used – the ones that have invited them into processing, whether externally or internally. They can be listed on chart paper that is hung around the room or can be electronically posted on a shared document. Essentially, it shines the flashlight clearly on the learning approaches that have been employed.”
When we curate a list of powerful strategies, we are also noticing quality instructional moves. Just as we want students to be able to understand what quality and proficiency are, we can help all educators as well. Sandra says that students who struggle can’t name quality. They assume that smart kids have a secret they don’t have. We need to notice and name the learning for and with them. This can also be a problem for educators. Identifying indicators of quality instructional strategies with confidence can be intimidating.
Learning alongside Sandra over the past several years, I’ve experienced the power of Strategy Harvest in action many times and have come to make it a standard practice in any learning session I facilitate. As she points out in her post, we want to provide educators with strategies that might be helpful to use in their classrooms. By experiencing the inherent value in a particular strategy as a learner themselves, educators are far more likely to try it in their classrooms.
You can read the full blog post here:
In celebration of 25 years, the connect2learning team is sharing their top 25 strategies here https://www.connect2learning.com/resources/celebrating-25-years/
Bookmark this site and check out the resources page for books, pdfs and more!
Harvesting resources and materials involves more than just googling or getting new things. It’s about opening up cupboards and assessing what you already have. It’s about getting into the book room and the math room and the spaces for which no one wishes to claim responsibility. It’s about pooling what you have as a school community and figuring out what makes sense for sharing and distribution, together.
Two years ago, our learning focus with principals was representations and models in mathematics. We spent time using different tools and representing our mathematical conversations using different models. In my role as a system math facilitator, I also spent time in key schools, working directly with teachers and students to explore representations and tools. We looked at the power of a "10 stick" (10 linking cubes organized in two sets of 5 cubes of different colours). One school was very excited by the activities. They wanted to all have a 10 stick per child, but their linking cubes were just tubs of mixed colours. Their solution? Everyone brought their cubes to the library and they worked together to sort them. Each teacher then took enough of two colours of cubes to make the sticks they needed. Harvesting the resources available in the school and redistributing them to meet their current need was a win-win. Cubes were in classrooms, and in regular use. The principal and I enthusiastically shared this idea with other schools, with similar outcomes.
When harvesting professional learning materials, it’s helpful to think about how to curate them in order to encourage their use. One thing we did in my previous school was to create a display in the photocopy room of professional reading materials connected to our School Improvement Plan goals. A limited number of titles was on display at any given time, with a brief descriptor card, and a place to sign out the book. Recently, on Twitter, I saw another great way to share resources with each other:
Once the harvest has begun, we also need to do something with everything we’ve gathered. With food, we eat some immediately, savouring the rich fresh flavours. We might make a colourful salad, blend a soup, put things on the grill, or even bake a pie. The think you might notice is that when you are cooking, the very best flavours come from a blend.
In education, there’s a similar paradigm. Powerful schools and systems value diversity in schools and classrooms: divergent thinking, divergent experiences and divergent skillsets. A school’s education team will thrive based on the range of skillsets and experience among staff. Imagine that the staff each bring their respective gifts to the table, providing a wonderful blend of complementary flavours. The meal that results is way beyond stone soup!
My very best teaching years were spent working collaboratively with two other teachers. Between us, we taught Grades 3-6 French Immersion. With a common long-range plan, we co-taught weekly and constantly reflected on our daily practice together. We were very different, weaving our wide range of experiences together. What we appreciated is that when we team taught our three classes, the outcomes were unfailingly positive. We worked in concert, balancing energy levels, observing students, facilitating their learning. By harvesting our strengths and working as a team, we had a far greater impact on our students than we might have had alone. We also built common norms, routines and structures which the students could rely on from year to year, as they moved from one class to the next.
Our collaboration influenced our students and they also worked in concert. We helped our students to notice their respective strengths and watched them leverage the skill sets around them, when working on projects or grappling with problems. We shared materials between our classes and the students knew how to move fluidly between spaces, without disrupting learning. Valuing divergence empowered our learning community.
Katie Martin references three questions from Brandon Wiley in her chapter entitled “Meet Learners Where They Are”. In this chapter, she talks about effective coaching strategies that focus on growth, not compliance. These three questions apply to any learner:
Do you see me?
Do you know me?
Will you grow me?
When we can answer these questions about any learner in our care, then we will be able to help them to harvest their own strengths and bring them to our community's learning banquet. Because in the end, we want self-sufficient, powerful learners of all ages. Note that not everything we harvest will be fully ripe (see my end of season tomatoes in the photo, above, for example). That's ok. With encouragement and care, everyone will be ready to share the full flavour of their talents in time. A caring, supportive professional learning community, providing pressure and support towards a common understanding of quality learning and teaching will provide the environment that nudges even the most reluctant learner forward.