Just recently, I was fortunate enough to listen to Jay McTighe speak at our 2015 District Leadership Conference. Lucky for me, this has been the second time in the past 3 months that I have heard his message. His message is simple, but DEEP: “Curriculum is a plan to achieve designated goals, not a list of topics and related activities. Thus, transfer must be earned and requires understanding and making meaning by the learner.”
As I reflect, we as an educational society must embrace a shift from student compliance to autonomy. In order for authentic tasks to truly be authentic, the goal is learning, not just completing a task. We are preparing our students to enter a rapidly changing world with easy access to information, social media, and shifting employment. This shift requires teaching for understanding, as well as recognizing various drivers of change in our society that will impact education and learning.
How do we get there?
As many know, I am a former Division 1 Collegiate Baseball player and coached at both the high school and showcase levels. In doing so, I find great value in athletics and how they relate to our lives. Jay McTighe also relates sports and shared this analogy at our conference:
“If transfer is the game we are preparing students for, what is practice going to look like for our students?”
This idea resonated within me, and made it easy for me to relate and reflect on how we are preparing both our students and our teachers in learning and teaching an understanding based curriculum.
Yes, Allen Iverson, “We talkin’ ’bout practice!” and YES! IT MATTERS!
On May 7, 2002, Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson expressed his opinion in a rant of how the media was putting too much importance on practice. I am here to tell you, more so than ever, that we must talk about practice! Without practice, we (our students and teachers) will have the inability to perform to our highest potential during the game (assessing and demonstrating the transfer of knowledge and understanding).
Practice is the process that we as school leaders must coach for performance and use the playbook as a resource. After listening to Jay McTighe and thinking about the playbook and practice plan at my school, I’ve concluded that we must trust the process. A solid practice plan must foster student understanding and transfer, as well as empower and encourage teachers to develop skills and make meaning of Essential Understandings.
By thinking big and starting small, as well as establishing a need for change, I feel we can establish a culture where we value practice. Thank you to Jay McTighe and Allen Iverson for confirming that “Champions play as they practice,” and by having well constructed practice plans through the “backward design process,” teachers and students can reach their full potential.