Dear Dana,Our school district here in PA has adopted Learning Focused strategies. We MUST use the lesson plan template, the "Essential Question" and the vocabulary lists. I have been a high school art educator for 15 years. Bottom line, Learning Focus is old strategies re-packaged and sold to us in a great big spiral wirebound book. There is truly nothing new here. Unless you consider posting vocabulary words, forming your objective for the day as a question instead of a statement, and fitting your objectives and activity descriptions and assessment rubrics into little blocks and squares innovative. Sorry to sound skeptical but I have been around this block a few times now and there seems to be an attitude that truly new and innovative ideas, which have research and success documented, do not get implemented. Example: smaller classrooms. Instead, they are easy marks for marketing strategies by state boards who sell us on so-called new ideas, which are really new wine in old wine skins. So what I do is make
a vocab list and post it, form my objectives into questions and post them, and reformat my lesson plans to fit into the template provided and I am a learning focus teacher. Don't get me wrong, that's not all there is to it. Entrance and exit strategies, all sorts of non-innovative ideas which have been around for decades, if not longer, are also re-packaged for us. What I find a little disturbing about this trend is that it makes claims for improving learning that it can't possibly deliver. For me,it is ludicrous to expect a vocabulary list and a question posted on the board to completely transform educational success for at-risk students. The only thing that will do that is 1. exceptional teachers who truly care deeply about their students, and 2. actually implementing of truly innovative ideas out there which have a real track record of success.
To directly answer your questions:
1. Is it working for me?
Yes, I make it work. But, again, there is nothing new here that I don't already do or have done.
2. Is it a whole lot more work for you?
No. Initially i had to restate my objectives as questions. Not hard to do. Our curriculum has been rewritten to include vocab lists for each state standard. Also, nothing new or difficult here. The lesson plan format is cumbersome, awkward, and my mind simply doesn't organize this way in little boxes and blocks, but I guess any square can be fit into a round hole if you force it hard enough. :)
3. Does it give the amazing results that it promises?
If you are a truly unskilled teacher who's only strategy is lecturing from a pulpit and assigning worksheets and multiple choice tests using scantron assessments, then yes, it will transform you and your students. And, to be fair, there are many teachers and schools out there that have unskilled teachers in front of the classroom who can actually be transformed by these ideas. But, again, that is nothing new. We have known for decades, based on research, that lecture and memorization is the lowest form of true learning with the least retention rate. Hands-on learning; actually having to produce something based upon knowledge, is the highest form of learning with the highest retention rate. (such has all art projects!). But I am guessing that no one on this list, including you, teaches this way. So, the answer is a resounding NO. No one (in their right mind, that is) can possibly believe that a vocab list and a question and a different lesson plan format can transform learning.
4. Do you use it every day?
We have to. No choice there. But my principal, who is a very smart and caring guy, understands that the art program is more about actual hands on learning than lecturing, so he understands that I will not be "doing it" every day.
5. How often do you actively teach through a lesson that takes the kids a long time to actually make their artwork?
I teach high school so some of my classes are introductory and have short lessons mixed with longer ones. The advanced classes have more long term lessons. It's a mix of both. Again, Focused Learning is really more about transforming the lecture classroom into something much more effective. So the format fits comfortably into the lecture class which can ask a question and answer it in a 50 minute time slot. Don't worry and I am sure you will do fine.Good luck on the start of your year.
PASubject: Learning FocusedFrom: Dana Paternoster Date: Fri, 21 Aug 2009 20:55:09 -0400X-Message-Number: 4 Hi, our school in Delaware is adopting the Learning Focused model of makingand delivering lessons. I was wondering if anyone is doing this, and whatyour opinion is? I am the only art teacher in our school, and I teach highschool Art I, II, III, and IV. Is it working for you? Is it a whole lot more work for you? Does it give the amazing results that it promises? Do you use it every day? How often do you actively teach through a lesson that takes the kids a longtime to actually make their artwork? So far all we have been trained on is writing lesson and doing frequentshort assessments. What I am hoping for are different ways to deliver themessage to the students. In college I studied art and then took a feweducation classes which really told us NOTHING about how to sucessfullydeliver or teach a lesson. Everything seemed based around speaking to kidsone-on-one, which I can not base a lesson for 32 s
tudents in a class on.Now, 9 years later, I think I am just finally beginning to catch on. It hasbeen a very hard road that I have tried and tried to get off of, but justcan't seem to find another path in life. I must say that this list serv hasbeen an endless source of ideas and encouragment. Thanks so much for your comments. Dana
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