Monday, March 5, 2018

Got Veggies?!

There I am, rolling through the grocery store, with my li'l 2 year old Owen tucked away in the front of the car cart. We spend the first 15min of the shopping trip with a series of, "No, hunny...the bananas need to stay on that shelf" and "Oh! Please don't hit the soup cans with your Spiderman toy," followed by, "Yes, those are cookies but no samples for us today!"  (Seriously, why do I continue to put my toddler in a moving device so close to the merchandise!?! oyi!)

By the time we make it to the dairy section, he is starting eye-level with a cardboard showcase of $0.88 Hot Wheels cars. Super!  Seeing as my husband and I are currently in over our heads with potty training though, I thought, "C'mon, Sarah... just let him pick one out and use it as a reward for pooping in the little potty this week."  So, I caved.
"Ok, Owen. Do you want to pick out a toy car? You can open it when you go potty this week!!" He leaped out of the car cart all Dukes of Hazzard style, carefully selected a green road racer and held onto it tightly until we paid for it.

The whole drive home, I thought about the way his legs catapulted over that "car door" to go pick a toy car. And in that moment, I trusted him entirely to choose one that he would play with after we left the store... one that would motivate him to use the toilet and also fuel his play time. So why didn't I let him pick out his own veggies from the produce department? Or his own yogurt from the dairy section?  It's the same concept, right!?!?  Lots of colorful things on shelves organized in rows... why was I comfortable with him choosing a toy car (that he didn't NEED) but not produce (that he DOES need) to fuel his body?!?

Then it dawned on me....we do this all the time as educators (of our kids at home and of our students in class), especially in a Project and/or Problem Based Learning Classroom setting.  Why do we let students choose the format of their final product (a video, slide deck, etc.) but we aren't as comfortable with them choosing their learning pathway (viewing a video, having a convo with you, reading an article + a convo, etc.)!?

I love how a similar conversation regarding student voice and choice unfolded in this Buck Institute for Education (BIE) google hangout conversation among some of the BIE National Faculty members. Specifically, here are some of the best practices and tips they share on their PBL blog:

  • Consider the purpose of giving students voice and choice; why are you offering it? Would it be done in a comparable real-world project? Don’t offer it just because they ask or it’s what you think you’re “supposed to do” in PBL.
  • Voice and choice should be limited at times, just like in the real world, where we often work under constraints. For example, adults can’t always choose their own work groups. Or think of an architect who is constrained by budgets, building codes, location, and client preferences.
  • Too much choice can be paralyzing for students, so provide scaffolding. Especially for students who are new to PBL, some structure is needed, and you can always given them more freedom. For example, instead of allowing totally wide-open choice of products in a project, have them pick from a list.
  • Create a list of product options with students, so they won’t feel like they’re being over-directed by the teacher. And as Jennifer Klein notes, the divergent thinkers in your class will come up with 15 options you had not thought of! (Mike said he sometimes tells students what they can’t do – e.g., “no slide presentations” if they’ve become too common.)
  • Find out what your students are interested in; conduct a survey or inventory at the beginning of the year.
  • If you’re new to PBL, create opportunities for voice and choice before you launch projects, too. This allows students to understand what it means to have voice and choice and learn how to exercise it – and helps build a culture conducive to PBL. These “practice runs” also allow teachers to experience what it’s like (if they haven’t done so in the past) to give up some control over the classroom.
If we really want to create opportunities for active exploration for our students, then they should have their voice and choices heard for things that motivate them AS WELL AS experiences that nourish their core. We need voice and choice in a way that is not just exploring formatting options for where they will apply their learning, but also done in a way that supports their exploration OF the learning that will later be applied in a certain format.

Peace, love, and produce,

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What's equal is not always equitable

In my last post, I shared a personal "flashback" about a moment of time that has shaped the way I empathize with students and value student voice in their learning experiences. What I didn't share with you (for fear of a lengthy, mega-post) is how that experience also fueled my passion for differentiated learning experiences.

Being a twin is certainly one of the first stepping stones on my journey towards understanding and longing for equity in our world...certainly in the world of education. (Also note, that when talking about "equity" here, in it's most brief definition, I'm referring to "making sure every child has their needs met, every day.")  Whether it was getting the same toys as my sister, wearing the same clothes, or receiving an education that was "good enough for one of us, so it must be good for us both," I couldn't help but think..... "but we aren't the same person!" Don't get me wrong, "twinning" is awesome, but it's also not everything. You can put us in the same looking outfits, but sometimes...we still need different sizes! You can give us the same toys, but we'll play with them differently because our brains & imaginations are at different places. You can engage us in the same curriculum, but we'll need different supports to accomplish the learning goals since we each connect with the information in our own way.  We deserve more than copy/paste support (or gifts, or praise, or whatever)!!!

You may wonder why I often become so "energized" by the topic of how you're REALLY supporting each and every one of your students. Well, that's why.... I don't want the students in your class to be treated as "well, their twins so the must like the same things."  This is also why I refuse to teach through any other method than PBL/PrBL. Intentional planning of both Project and Problem Based Learning unit designs AND facilitation notes rely on a teacher's creative thinking for different approaches of lesson delivery (otherwise known as "scaffolding activities").

The first phase of PBL planning is to "begin with the end in mind" by identifying the standards and skills you want students to uncover through their research. Knowing these standards and skills helps us design the project scenario... what problem of practice will necessitate students investigation of these standards and skills? The next phase of designing is where "differentiated planning" takes place... creating the path for how you'll move through the project from beginning to end. We all have our "bag of tricks" teaching activities that we've used to teach a certain standard or skill. It's worth noting this under the "method" portion of this project mapping tool. But I would challenge us to say, "If I stop there, with one idea, I will be delivering a copy/paste learning activity to all students...regardless of individual need." And THAT'S where (for me) the final two columns come into play.


The topic of "differentiation" often scares us as educators, because many of us hear that word and think, "😧 !! I don't have TIME to write 30 different lesson plans to teach the same general standard/skill to the 30 students in my class!!!" But that's not what we're asking you to do!!  What we're asking is that you use your initial scaffolding activity idea(s) as a baseline to THEN think about the items in the last two columns of this project mapping tool:
  • What barriers or missed opportunities might your students face when participating in the scaffolding activity you identified, or in the general learning environment?
  • What alternative media, materials, and methods might you offer to make the scaffolding activities more accessible to all students?
The support students need (whether they are ELL students, students with documented special needs, students performing at advanced learning levels, etc.) HAS to be at the forefront of our scaffolding activity designs, or by default, we will implement the "one size fits all" teaching strategy, even if we know in our hearts that isn't true.

"Thanks for the nudge, Sarah, but I don't even know what that means or what that looks like?!" No problemo! Here are some resources to help you out while you map your projects so that you aren't creating multiple scaffolding activities, but rather, variations for each activity:
  • Collaborate with your colleagues!  - Talk to your intervention specialists, instructional aides, or student teachers for help during your planning phases! Don't have any of those folks in your building?! REACH OUT TO ME! I'm happy to help!
  • Examples of UDL Solutions - divided into three segments, addressing the three brain networks: recognition (what we learn), strategy (how we learn), and affect (why we learn). For each, Form 3B on this website offers examples of technology-based tools, media, and methods as well as instructional strategies to expand your repertoire and engage more students. Note that the appropriateness of these solutions and options depends upon your instructional goal. Providing scaffolds such as spell checkers for writing or text-to-speech for reading is appropriate only if the goal of a lesson is focused on process and content, not on writing or reading mechanics.
  • Suggestions for accommodating learners with both different learning challenges AND those with different strengths and interests:
Get to know your students. Get to know their needs. Get to know the barriers or strengths/interests that are creating missed opportunities in their learning. Get uncomfortable thinking outside the box for how to support them in overcoming those barriers. Get to know those in your building that might know ways to support student needs that you don't. Get ready to celebrate an enhanced culture of learning in your classroom... for the connections students will form with you and the content and level of engagement among learners as a result of appropriate levels of "challenge" for every student, every day.

Peace, love, and one size can't fit all,

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

This is Us

I'm sure you've heard of all the buzz around the show, "This is Us." (OR maybe you were too tired to watch the "big episode" after the Eagles accepted their trophy Sunday night?!? hmm...) In case you're unfamiliar, here's how would like to catch you up on the plot summary of the show:

"The Pearson family's generational story unfolds in this emotional drama. In moments of love, joy, triumph and heartbreak, revelations emerge from parents Jack and Rebecca's past, while triplets Kate, Randall and Kevin discover deeper meaning in their present day lives."

You see, the power of this show lies in the family's flashbacks which show us the way the kids were valued, supported, and interacted with when they were young. Through reminiscing on the past, the creators of the show are able to demonstrate the impact their childhood has had on their current life as adults.

I can't help but wonder, "what if we were all charged with telling the 'story of us'? What shaped you? What significant memories from your upbringing have influenced what you stand for, believe in, and how you function as a member of society today?"

While visiting a school last week, I was talking with a teacher about a recent conference she had regarding two siblings... same grade level but one participates in 'gifted & talented (GT)' courses, while the other does not. The girls' parents were advocating for their daughter who did not take GT courses to be retested as they felt she was demonstrating a different set of skills at home than what was being articulated by the teachers at school. As the teacher was telling me this story, I noticed my ability to listen was shifting a bit... I was having a "This is Us" moment, and decided to share that with the teacher also....

I have a twin sister, Molly...she's awesome!

In second grade (which is where my flashback took me,) she and I tested into an "advanced" track (because clearly your knowledge as an 8 year old should determine your path for the future....sorry...soapbox...I'm stepping down now...)  One of us DID test into the "advanced" program while the other did NOT. I don’t remember much about that process, but I remember my dad sitting in the room saying “ if the path for non-advanced kids is good enough for one of my daughters, it will be good enough for both of them.”  My parents knew they didn't want one of us "not feeling good enough" and didn't want the other secluded into a learning track determined in second grade. Sure, at times I’ve wondered what our lives would have been like had one of us been placed in that track. We might have had entirely different groups of friends, the one who tested into the advanced courses probably would not have had as much exposure to the other 297 students that where later in our graduating class, and I’m almost positive we would’ve learned to place a different value on education than what each of us have today.

This personal memory caused me to ask the teacher if anyone had talked to the girls yet about how they were feeling knowing this was their reality... one family, one household set of core values about education, a sisterly bond I'm sure, and yet both experiencing a different pathway for learning. The conversation unfolded to thinking about the factors which may, or may not be, causing the girls to (re)act a certain way to conversations about school while at home, and not just about an issue of test scores documented in the front office. Sure, the conversation with the parents still needs to happen, but with empathy for these two students at the forefront of the conversation, I'm inclined to believe the result of the next conference may look/sound/feel a bit different than the first meeting.

So I ask you again, "What if we were all charged with telling/reflecting on the 'story of us'? What has shaped you? What significant memories from your upbringing have influenced what you stand for, believe in, and how you function as a member of society today?"  And as educators specifically, what charges you to do what's in the best interest for your students?

Peace, love, and flashbacks,


P.S. While my parent's decision in this moment shaped the way I empathize with students and value their voice in learning, it ALSO created a strong desire in my heart to ensure teachers differentiate instruction to meet the needs of ALL students.... more on that in the next episode! 😉

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Right on Track? or On the Right Track?

My sister is now two weeks into her college internship for her major in Landscape Architecture. Knowing this is a new adventure for that she was (naturally) apprehensive about, I decided to get her out this weekend and see how things were going. Her first reflections were "It's alright. I'm doing small things/tasks that they give me until I get adjusted to the office." (Also note that they told her it's been 4-5 years since they've worked with an intern so they're reacquainting themselves with that world too.)  Then I asked her, "What are you hoping to get out of this experience and did you tell them what that was?" She knew that the one thing she hadn't experienced yet in her college coursework was seeing a project through from beginning to end... for example, when the Architecture firm got the bid all the way through raking the last piece of mulch (or whatever the last piece would be) when finishing up on a site.

We spent a chunk of time talking about the work she was tasked with completing when she arrives at the office Monday morning, which happens to be the start of a project that she was hoping to experience! Here's a snippet of the conversation that has stuck with me:

My sis: "We know we have a circular playground to design and they want it to be jungle themed. My boss asked me to make a call to a playground equipment company on Monday to get costs, sizes of equipment, and things like that. But this is the first project I'm doing for a business and what I wanted to get out of the internship, so I don't want to screw it up!"
Me: (smiling to myself because this is exactly the type of feeling we put our students at the beginning of a PBL/PrBL know...because we're on a mission to bring AUTHENTIC experiences into our classrooms. Also knowing we bring that healthy level of stress to students knowing we'll be there to support them through the process) "Since they haven't had an intern in awhile and I'm sure you've proven yourself capable up to this point, it's possible they've forgotten that they need to support you in this project adventure too.  I also know you well enough to know that if your boss says 2 days later, "Gosh, I wish we would've asked them about _____" that you'll take it personally as if you didn't do your job well, even though you did and he just happened to have an afterthought."
My sis: "Very true, but I know he's busy and don't want to make him sit by me while I have this call. I know I want to write down things to ask before I call them anyway, maybe I'll have him look those questions over before I call." 
Me: "Good idea...maybe you ask him to give you feedback on those questions and/or sit by you during this call, in case there's something else he knows you might need information on later. Best case scenario, he'll do both. Worst case, you'll at least have feedback as support to reassure yourself going into that call."

And now I'm here, sharing this with you because it has so many implications and connections to our work that we design for students every day! This is the connection I'm going to land on making this week..... the need for assessments embedded in a project, which are supported by giving our students immediate feedback on their performance to create revision and/or reassurance that they are on the right track for project completion.  At New Tech Network, we call these "performance assessments" (I know.... really creative, huh?) ;)

In the project my sister will be working on tomorrow, you can already see it unfolding in this way:
  • Project Launch - The scenario she's working in: circular playground, jungle themed, $x budget presented
  • Benchmark 1: Comparison of products from various playground equipment companies
    • Performance Assessment at this phase/benchmark of the project (i.e. a thing her boss might assess to see if her performance is on track towards completing the final product in this project)- a written statement of which company she proposes they go with for purchasing the equipment and why she's opting for company "x" over all of the others. (a li'l compare and contrast, if you will)
    • Scaffolding to support the research/learning necessary for achieving/completing this benchmark: 
      • (to support Oral Communication) Student generated script to use when calling each company
      • (to support Agency) A graphic organizer to accompany the script (perhaps a table of some kind) for students document and organize their findings
      • (to support Knowledge & Thinking/ Content) 
        • A small group conversation about equipment might fit the theme and the space provided (talking about area, perhaps)
        • A guided practice session for calculating possible costs, dimensions of equipment that would fit within budget and the given area
      • (to support Written Communication) An exploration of other comparisons from companies on previous projects, so students would not just be given "writing expectations" but would experience/see/visualize an industry standard. They could then do a deconstruction, perhaps of what they've seen in the companies previous projects before writing their comparison statement (i.e. the performance assessment)
  • Benchmark 2: Selection of equipment by company "x"
    • Performance Assessment - no idea what my sister's company will ask her to submit to show she's "on the right track", but I could see how a visual sketch, a mock up of some kind, or a written statement would be useful as a way for them to ensure she's taken into account the size of the playground, the theme desired, and the given budget. (you know...all the things presented in the entry document because that's what performance assessments are...they're just opportunities for checking in on how you're meeting the goal of the project)!  Maybe, this could be a chance for students to individually submit a written assessment piece to demonstrate what they know and think about the layout of the playground.... an individual assessment of knowledge and thinking!!! Which means the IAKT was introduced a LONG time ago through the project launch, but students are individually submitting their written sense-making now, after all of this support, research, reflection, and revision! 
    • Scaffolding - certainly, in order to meet this benchmark and complete the performance assessment there should be support such as: interacting with the client for additional input their needs/hopes, support for accuracy of calculations (both financial and area), creating graphic representations of area, etc.
  • Benchmark 3: Pitch to the client of designs and cost (because it's important this happens before construction takes place)
    • Performance Assessments & Scaffolding would exist, but sake of this now turning into a Project planning form, I'll spare you thoughts here...
  • Culminating Event & Presentation: The Creation of the playground
    • Of course there would be scaffolding here also to support the time between "pitch" and "creation", but again...I'm going to spare you another 10min of reading. You're welcome.
  • End of Project Reflection: (since students have been reflecting through the project as they revise and refine their work at each benchmark as a result of their performance assessment), this would be a great time to think about "how did I become a better learner/ performer/ collaborator/ advocate for myself throughout this project?" and establish a plan for how they know they need to "show up" in the next project to help them navigate the project flow from benchmark-to-benchmark.

I suppose I just get this sense from teachers at times that either "students just do whatever they want in PBL units " or "There's too many things happening in a project that are disconnected" and it shouldn't be. It should be seamless. Students shouldn't be able to progress unless they're learning ON BEHALF OF THE PROJECT GOAL, and they should be receiving regular support along the way towards benchmarks/check-in points to reassure them that they aren't going to be left floundering until the final presentation/culminating event happens. 

My challenge for you this week is to look at your upcoming project designs and ask yourself, "How is it all woven together?" and "What am I intentionally designing along the way to make sure my interns students aren't left wondering if they're on the right path towards project completion?"

Peace, love, and authentic learning moments,

Monday, January 15, 2018

So much to do, so little time...

As I was on my way home from an incredible week of learning with colleagues, I had my growing to-do list swirling in my head. (Which was obviously growing after a week away). As I arrived home, my husband (who thankfully kept himself, the kid, and the dog alive for the week) and I looked around at the clutter in our home and had a similar swirl of "how are we ever going to clean all of this up?!"

And then I realized that we are asking the wrong question! Instead of "What should I tackle first?" we need to start asking, "What can I do differently do maximize my time?" A prime example is the amount of time I waste spend picking up Owen's toys and putting them back on the shelf in a reachable, yet somewhat presentable fashion. NEWSFLASH...if you're frustrated with the results, then you probably need to change some behaviors! So, we're trying the "toy bin" approach now instead of open shelves.... because truthfully, I just want him to be able to access his things and learn to pick them up. At the age of 2, I don't really care if he learns how to make them presentable as he puts them away.  (Side note: this is the mind-shift I realize I made as a Math teacher from a traditional "by the book" approach to PBL/PrBL. I was so frustrated that students weren't "getting" the problem solution methods I worked on with them TIRELESSLY! But, when I changed my approach and, specifically in PrBL, realized that the outcome I was really after was a correct solution and awareness of various ways to solve a problem...I didn't actually care how they solved it. If they wanted to toss the toys in the bin, GREAT! If they were the "put them neatly in rows" kind of problem solvers....SUPER! or if they just wanted to take an hour figuring out what they preferred...THAT WAS OKAY TOO! It wasn't about memorizing an approach...MY approach that I was trying to cram into their heads. It was/is about knowing that it was a new option to try out but there are other ways too.)

If insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," then I'd say I was a bit insane in my expectations! Actually, I'd even venture to say that we all are in some area of our lives, and we can often detect it through the phrase, "I have so much to do and not enough time to do it!" So... what's the source of frustration? What are some alternate ways of approaching that thing which is frustrating you? I know it won't be comfortable at first, BUT... choose one of those new possibilities and try it out! Give it 30 days....long enough to make it a habit and allow you to see if your approach was part of the frustration (or perhaps understand that it might be something else.)

Last week, I shared some thoughts with you about goal setting (achievement goals and habit goals). To get more in touch with where you're spending your time, I thought I'd offer up this weekly review/reflection:

  • My Biggest Wins this past week were:    (list your top accomplishments for the past week)    
  • After Action Review
    1. Review the things you said you'd need to accomplish last week to reach your goals. How far did you get?   _________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________
    2. List Lessons Learned from the week. What would you do differently or better? 

    3. How will you adjust your behavior going forward?  ____________________________ _______________________________________________________________________
  • New Weekly Big 3: What must you accomplish this week to reach your goals? 

Peace, love, and adaptations,

Monday, January 8, 2018

Are you better today than yesterday?


Happy New Year everyone!  I believe all of you (i.e. all of the schools and instructional coaches I support) are officially back in school today, so I thought I’d kick things off with a little goal-setting contemplation. You see, my husband gave me a Full Focus Planner as a Christmas gift this year and (being the organizational nerd that I am) I was pretty excited to see the assistance this book had to offer for accomplishing my goals. Specifically, I appreciate the way each day of the daily planner encourages you to write down what actions you’ll take that day IN SERVICE OF YOUR GOALS. You know, so you have no other choice but to accomplish them!?  It put into perspective for me, though, why it’s so critical to clearly articulate your goals. Without the initial clarity, how will you know what you’re striving to accomplish each day!?

So, I thought I’d share with you a little look into the structure this one planner uses (you can view the 14min video here on how the creator of the planner, Michael Hyatt, fills it out as well). I appreciated the nudge to acknowledge when I had an “achievement goal” versus a “habit goal.”

Achievement goals (which focus on a one-time accomplishment) might be:
  • Incorporate one community partner (that isn’t a personal friend or relative) into a PBL/PrBL unit by March 1st
  • (For NTN educators) Give student’s feedback using audio/video with the “Feedback tool” in echo on three student submitted activities on my first project of the new semester.   
  • (For NTN educators) Earn the “New Tech Implementer” Badge by April 1, 2018.

Habit goals (which focus on maintaining a practice) could look like: 
  • Observe another colleague’s classroom for 10min, once a week, during a planning bell.
  • Take a daily 5 minute walk with my co-teacher at lunch
  • (For NTN educators) Complete one NTN Badging “accomplishment” per week

Then, as in true NTN fashion, you articulate your “why” behind each goal. Why is that goal important to you? What’s the motivator? Side Note: This actually had me thinking about how frequently (or infrequently) when have students articulate the motivators behind accomplishing their project goals as well. Examples to goals named above:
  • I’m tired of artificial or fabricated project scenarios. I want my students to engage in learning that supports a real dilemma in the community! I also want to challenge myself professionally to begin networking in the community.
  • It takes me FOREVER to give 150 individual students (written) feedback on each assignment so I usually give up. I don’t want to be a feedback-quitter and I want to give time-efficient feedback
  • We have a lot of unique teaching styles on our campus and I want to learn from our own staff. I want to know how to support a specific student that seems to respond well to Mr(s) ______.
  • I want/need to get to know my co-teacher outside of our classroom. I need a “pick-me-up” before entering 5th bell!!
  • I want to be able to participate in staff conversations about PBL/PrBL . I feel like I’ve done the same projects over and over and I’m ready to improve them! I want to earn my Professional Growth Points without scrambling to collect them at the last minute!

Next, identifying your starting points to the work. They don’t have to be super specific next steps (your students never come up with detailed ones during the project launch either)! BUT, name what will get you started on your journey. Examples:
  • Ask the other teachers if they know someone in the field of ______ (related to my project scenario) that I might connect with.
  • Watch this 5 min. video to learn now to give audio and video feedback in echo.
  • Enroll in the NTN Badging Course in Echo (i.e. the NTN Learning Management System).  Choose one “accomplishment” to complete this week..the “Project Design Level 1” looks like a good one! ;)
  • Decide what I want to see in a colleague’s classroom.  Ask a colleague if I can sit in for 10min to observe ____.
  • Ask my co-teacher if they’d be up for a walk & talk between lunch and 5th bell.

Finally, after naming what reward you’ll give yourself for achieving your goal and/or building your new habit, then get after it! What are the top 3 things you could do each day that will help you accomplish those goals? Write it down (or email it to me if you’d like an accountabilibuddy!) As per my husband, “commitment is what you do when no one is looking” which is following through is the hardest part….also why he chose this gift for me. We started last year with a goal to declutter our home, room-by-room. And as soon as his students went back to school and I started supporting all of you again (it might have been January 4th), we didn’t get beyond the kitchen. And by June, even that was a wreck!

So, I ask you…. What do you want to achieve professionally over the next 6 months (until early June)? What do you want to get better at over the next 6 months? And how might you/we make that happen?!   I’d also love to know how you support your students in setting their own learning (perhaps “habit”) goals this semester, and for sure…how do you support their ability to name and accomplish their project/problem goals?   Don’t be a hypocrite and ask them to do it without ever practicing goal-setting and attainment yourself! Let’s find a structure that works for you!

Peace, love, and lots to say after 2 weeks away!


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Did somebody say....waffles!?

I had a really great question come my way last week regarding (1) collaboration, (2) accountability for learning in team work, and (3) purpose for students working together in a project. ‘Twas a nice li’l conversation which has clearly continued to sit with me throughout the weekend because it was triggered again during my breakfast hour today at Waffle House. Yep. Waffle House is now the inspiration for my weekly emails/ blog posts. Stay with me....

Jared (my hubby) and I sat down at the counter and watched three men call out orders and take responsibility for making whatever food was at the station they were assigned to. There seemed to be a guy in charge of grains- waffles/bread/hash browns, another on eggs, and a third on meat.

It. Was. Seamless! I ordered a sausage, egg, hash brown bowl (in case you care) which required all three cooks to work together towards a shared goal... satisfying my stomach! Each of them not only completed their job, but completed it to quality (as measured by the fact I overate and didn’t have to send anything back. #sorrynotsorry ) To be more objective in my assessment, I’ll ground their team performance in our NTN team collaboration checklist (this is the HS checklist):

I could easily check off every item from this list as observed from this one interaction, except their ability to "regularly revisit the norms to assess their effectiveness." This one time observation of their team work didn't allow me to see "regular" revisiting of their norms. When I breakfast was ready, the team said "order up" almost in unison, which to me is evidence of "passionate ownership" and I even had a chance to see how they engaged in conflict resolution together. (Keep reading.... )

Jared’s hash brown bowl was (reportedly) equally as delicious, but there was a problem in its delivery. The guy working on the meat station only made one sausage patty rather than the two they are supposed to have. The guy at the egg station said, "2 sausage per bowl, not just 1." The guy working grains hustled to the freezer/refrigerator, grabbed the sausage, gave it to the meat station guy and he put it on the griddle. There was clearly an understanding of when to step in to meet goals if needed...i.e., a plan for conflict resolution. The result? They delivered my bowl and waited an extra minute or so for the sausage to finish cooking before they could deliver the completed product to the table.

You see, the behaviors and interactions... the collaboration... of the team still produced a quality product. Even his individual behaviors which allow him to collaborate with the team were in check. To be more objective in my assessment of that individual cook, I’ll ground his performance in our NTN individual collaboration rubric (this is the HS rubric).

As an individual contributor to this collaborative experience, he was able to build on the thinking/work of others, equally participate in the completion of the task, and follow the processes the group had in place with respect to others. As his teammates informed him of the correction to make, he used his role in accordance with group norms to perform quality work that contributed to group success.  

So, in both places (individually and as a team), collaborative skills seem to check out! But Jared's bowl was made incorrectly when it almost came off of the line. Which outcome was lacking in proficiency then!? When really paying attention to the challenge (using only 1 sausage patty vs 2) it was a misunderstanding of knowledge and/or application of knowledge (i.e. Knowledge and Thinking). Also note, it would be worth celebrating this employee's agency in the domain of "seeking feedback".

There ARE some moments when our student teams can’t produce the finished product on time due to either the collaborative behaviors OR knowledge acquired of individual students, but allowing space for each individual to grow AND demonstrate where his/her knowledge and  thinking is applied allows him/her to have opportunities for refinement (just as this cook did). The way students (inter)act collaboratively as individuals certainly serves as a foundation for their application of content. This is why consistently using the NTN rubrics is of such great value also. Using the rubrics regularly allows both you, the educator, and the student to familiarize yourselves with the language of the various rubrics to ensure your teaching & assessment practices are aimed at the actual growth area, and not the perceived one (which here, could have easily been seen as collaboration because one team member slowed the product from being completed, but not because of their collaborative skills. Rather, knowledge and/or thinking delayed the product creation process).  

Peace, love, and I blame the pictures for making this so long,