At a glance ...
• MCHS teachers are implementing new theories into their teaching practices to adapt to the needs of modern students.
• Faculty members recognized a need for changes in teaching methods to better suit their 21st-century students.
• The four practices chosen by teachers were seven standard-based "best" practices, Marzano's nine, ten practices for engagement and improving non-fiction writing.
• Teachers have taken the concept of the Golden Circle — reversing what, how and why to why, how and what — and applied it to the way they present lessons and projects.
“We’re doing this right. This isn’t about us; it has to do with our students. Making sure they go out with the drive to go into higher education and do well.”
— MCHS business/marketing teacher Krista Schenck about new theory into practice teaching methods
Moffat County High School teachers are adapting to the needs of their 21st-century students by implementing new teaching theories and practices in their classrooms.
Last October several MCHS teachers spent nearly a week learning Theory into Practice — a program that offers different teaching strategies — at the invitation of the Colorado Education Association.
In a presentation to last month to the Moffat County Board of Education MCHS principal Thom Schnellinger said the new teaching methods are aimed at engaging students by collaborating across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability. He said there is a focus on initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination.
MCHS business/marketing teacher Krista Schenck added the new theories mesh very well with the district’s new curriculum.
“Understanding by Design, (the new curriculum) works perfect with this,” she said. “We’re doing this right. This isn’t about us. It has to do with our students, making sure they go out with the drive to go into higher education and do well.”
The four practices the MCHS teachers chose to focus on were described as Seven, Nine, Ten and One. The Seven correlates to seven standard-based “best” practices; Nine stands for renowned education researcher Dr. Robert Marzano’s nine practices used in the classroom to drive home higher cognitive skills for students; Ten refers to ten practices for engagement to get students active in using 21st century skills; and One corresponds to a skill upon which the teachers want their students to improve: non-fiction writing.
“We can do a better job at getting our kids to write,” MCHS math teacher Kristin Ingalls said. “Not tell stories, but write off the top of their head. We want to know can you write arguments, facts, statements?”
MCHS English teacher Casey Kilpatrick said part of adding these practices to their teaching methods included a reversal in the way teachers’ present information to meet the needs of today’s learners.
Known as the Golden Circle, MCHS teachers learned the importance of reversing what, how and why to why, how and what.
“Most businesses communicate from the outside in. They show you the product first,” Kilpatrick said. “What if we change our thinking and reverse this?”
Kilpatrick said putting the why first, which is the equivalent of motivation in the Golden Circle, helps students understand the reason behind an assignment or project and gets them excited for the how, or the process. The end result, the product, is the what.
MCHS senior Rose Howe, 17, said she thinks taking teaching practices and modernizing them for the 21st century learner is a great idea.
“To be prepared for college I believe I need to know reading, writing, interpreting information and how to apply it in the real world,” Howe said.
Kilpatrick agreed with that sentiment. At the board of education meeting he said the methods weren’t about the teachers or their job.
He pointed at students in attendance and said, “It’s about these people sitting right over here. Getting them jobs and out into the world.”
And MCHS agriculture/science teacher John Haddan said the Theory into Practice program — much of which included information he and other teachers saw in masters programs — makes it easier to do just that.
“They encapsulated it and presented it in such a way that it was hands on instead of theory,” Haddan said. “It motivated the group to improve their teaching practices.”
In addition to learning the new methods the participating MCHS teachers also took a culture climate relationship survey to determine how open communication and collaboration is between teachers order to best implement and share those practices.
“We found we have a culture of trust between teachers which allows us to work together rather than in a bubble,” Kilpatrick said.
Ingalls said that relationship extended beyond just teachers and into administration.
“We’re fortunate to have Thom which I think was huge to have him with us in these conversations and going through the process,” Ingalls said.
Kilpatrick said the combination of that open culture and the new teaching methods has allowed the team to look at many root causes of achievement and behavioral issues within the school and from there come to feasible solutions.
“The more feedback we can give students and each other the better we can create an atmosphere of higher achievements,” Kilpatrick said.
Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org