Thursday, March 17, 2016

What could you possibly achieve of quality in a single draft?

In our work life how often do we turn in something that has never been revised? Like the title says, "what could you possibly achieve of quality in a single draft?" When I think about all of the tasks that are required of me as a superintendent they mostly all entail some level of revision. I never send out something that has not been revised. I am sure that is the same answer we see in most professions, but in the school setting we tend to be more concerned with quantity of work and not quality. This blog post will undergo multiple revisions and I am sure I will still have a grammatical error or two.
"Students need to know from the outset that quality means rethinking, reworking, and polishing." - Ron Berger
Perhaps this focus on quantity has more to do with the shear amount of standards or possibly the overemphasis on covering the text book. Lets face it, we will never reach a level of deep understanding for all of the standards. We can certainly "cover" all of the standards if we are okay with only surface knowledge. I have written extensively about the PLC process and the development of power standards. The development of power standards are liberating in a sense, because it allows us to really hone in on what we want students to know and be able to do. We of course still teach all of the other stuff, but we report out on predetermined skills and content that the team deems as most important.

It is difficult to focus on quality when we have the mindset to cover. If we are going to ensure all will know and be able to do these 10-15 things then there should be multiple opportunities to develop mastery. If we are to require multiple revisions then we need to provide quality feedback and that takes time. Ron Berger suggests that we should use their peers to analyze and provide quality feedback.
"There is incredible learning potential in looking carefully at student work together as a group." 
Berger shares three rules when using peers for feedback:

Be Kind - No sarcasm or hurtful comments
Be Specific - No comments like It's good or I like it.
Be helpful - Don't waste our time.

Berger discusses two types of critique he uses to provide feedback: Gallery critique and in-depth critique.

Gallery Critique is when the work of every child is displayed. Students look at all of the work silently prior to providing comments. The primary focus should be to provide positive feedback. Students are to select examples from each piece that impress them and discuss why.

In-depth Critique focuses on the work of a single student or group. Students spend a good deal of time to critiquing it thoroughly. This provides a detailed process of making the work stronger.

When you look at both of these ways to critique student work the first thing that comes to mind is the shear amount of time required. It is certainly something that you cannot do for every standard, but I believe it could be used in some way for our power standards. This type of critique  and focus on quality is an excellent way to develop mastery. When there is an audience and student work is no longer a private affair between the student and the teacher, the overall quality improves.
"Ideally the promise of good grades and the threat of bad ones will keep everyone working hard. In reality, it doesn't work this way. Almost every school gives grades and yet has no shortage of poor-quality work. Not only do grades not insure quality work or effort, but in many cases grades work against student motivation." Ron Berger
If you are questioning the quality of student work find time to read An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger.

How do you encourage multiple revisions and create time to do so?

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