Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jim Knight's High Impact Instruction

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel with several of our instructional coaches to attend the Annual Learning Forward conference in Dallas, Tx. Learning Forward is the largest organization dedicated to educators' professional learning, and the national conference attracted some heavy-hitters, educationally-speaking.

In a strange way, I benefitted from the horrible ice storm that hit Texas the week earlier. The conference was filled with travel stories, each more arduous than the last. My first session was scheduled to be with Uri Treisman, professor of mathematics and of public affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also the founder and director of the University's Charles A. Dana Center, which is playing a large role in writing assessment questions for the PARCC exam. We are using quite a bit of the materials coming out of the Dana Center to transform our math program, and I was looking forward to hearing Dr. Treisman. Unfortunately, Texas residents seemed to have to hardest time getting to Dallas, and his session was canceled.

While I regret the missed opportunity to hear Dr. Treisman speak, I was lucky enough to sneak into Jim Knight's all-day session outlining his model of High Impact Instruction. While I have a copy of Knight's "Unmistakable Impact", I hadn't honestly dug into it as much as I now know I should have.

Although I won't try to sum up his body of work in few paragraphs, I find his work very down to earth and easy to understand. He is able to describe the planning process that I believe we have been working toward for some time and that we are looking to refine in the coming years. He discusses the importance of planning using guiding (essential) questions, formative questions, and learning maps. Furthermore, he describes the next steps in the planning process: identifying the knowledge, skills, and understandings most important for the unit and the course. Throughout it all, he stresses the critical role of coaching in the process. Again, this is a process that we have tried to implement in steps at Leyden, but I believe we are at a point where we can make some adjustments and make our work much more meaningful for students and teachers.

Dr. Knight's upcoming book is all about the use of video in the classroom to improve instruction. I anxiously await this, as I believe the use of video is the next natural step for teacher professional growth.

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