Tag Archives: resources

Reduce Conflicts… Increase your EQ

From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/ CC License - Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/
CC License – Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Due to a fortuitous convergence of related articles I have been thinking a lot about Emotional Intelligence, whether we can change it for ourselves and how one’s EQ relates to interpersonal conflicts.

Unless you live in a bubble you’re likely exposed to POTENTIAL interpersonal conflicts on a weekly (if not daily) basis. I say POTENTIAL because we have a fair bit of control over whether these actually develop into conflicts. Having two teenage children, right now, I have been reflecting A LOT on how to reduce interpersonal conflict (that should give you a clue as to how often these potential conflicts develop!). Occasionally, conflicts at work also occur… So, I read a useful article on “Five Secrets for Mastering Conflict” published by the “VitalSmarts” folks who are behind Crucial Conversations and CrucialSkills. Skills for Change. Change for Good.

Essentially, before having a crucial/difficult conversation…

  • Be truthful without being brutally honest. I like to call it compassionate honesty.
  • Get your facts straight first and link them to your feelings… don’t just share your feelings without facts, it turns people off and causes them to tune you out, fast.
  • Don’t listen defensively, listen with true intent to understand the other’s perspective.
  • Take honest responsibility for how YOU have contributed to the situation.
  • Instead of being afraid of saying something because you fear the costs, if things don’t go well, consider the costs if you don’t say what needs to be said and try to think positive about how the conversation could turn out if it goes well.

The possible problem with all this is that these skills directly relate to one’s Emotional Intelligence. So… if your EQ isn’t great, what do you do? Can an EQ be increased? The good news is, it can! It’s not easy but there are some basic, positives to get us going down the path to improvement. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the Harvard Business Review, there are 5 key points to consider:

  1. We CAN change our EQ but long term improvements require plenty of hard work and guidance/feedback. Luckily, our EQ tends to naturally improve with age.
  2. Interpersonal Skills is the most coachable characteristic of one’s EQ.
  3. To improve, we need specific and accurate feedback – like, 360-degree feedback and other specific, accurate coaching processes.
  4. Since some techniques and processes are better than others, focus on the ones that are in the “cognitive-behavioral therapy” realm NOT the “self-esteem/confidence-building” realm.
  5. Some people are simply more coachable than others… this is not a reason to give up! This is a reason to do a coachability pre-assessment to help initially map the journey and increase the effectiveness of the coaching.

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_Intelligence_2.0 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_Intelligence_2.0
    This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

The bottom line is, if you really want to improve, there are concrete ways to do it that can help you develop better interpersonal communication skills that can help reduce conflict. Here is another resource on improving one’s EQ:

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Engaged Learning? Why? Our future is at stake!

Can anyone seriously argue that potential learners do not need to be engaged, or that engagement is not a contributing factor to learning? Have you ever been in a classroom full of energetic, eager learners who aren’t engaged? It can get pretty hectic. Not a lot of learning going on… at least not the kind that’s typically focused on national, state, district or school learning goals! Contrast that with those same learners, actively engaged in work that they are curious about AND that happens to be relevant and meaningful (in terms of academic preparation for the 21st century).

If we all agree that engagement is more than just a good idea, it’s necessary… why do we find so many dis-engaged potential learners?

Are we making room for questioning? Do students get the opportunity to really benefit from inquiry by ‘going deep’? Is Project-Based Learning a fantasy? I find it interesting (there were so many other words I could have used here!) that many of us (educators) feel confounded by the new generation of ‘instant information’, and complain that kids can not stay engaged in ANYTHING for more than a few minutes. Really!? Let’s look at two, somewhat fictitious, Middle School classrooms:

Mr. Enthusiastic is well known amongst students and parents as a good teacher. He has great rapport with his students, has established a positive climate with clear expectations, rules and disciplinary procedures and he LOVES the current MS History textbook. He also LOVES to lecture. He knows that students have a variety of learning styles so he throws in visuals, graphic organizers and the occasional group activity (answering questions from the text). However, most of class time is spent going through the textbook, answering questions and copying his notes while he tells (somewhat) related stories. Being a Middle School teacher, Mr. Enthusiastic recognizes that he should try to vary activity in the classroom to keep students from losing interest, so, every 20 minutes he has his students stand up, jump in place and rotate seats to keep the blood flowing. He makes sure to have one major group project each semester, usually a PowerPoint presentation that requires each student to do research, write and present. Student assessment results are above average. Yet, whenever another teacher covers his class, students are somewhat disengaged, but usually kept in line by his consistent routines. Sometimes, students complain that class is boring and that Mr. Enthusiastic isn’t as funny as he thinks he is but most students still say that the class is better than many of their other classes.

Ms. Reflective is a quieter teacher. She certainly has the respect and admiration of parents who have had children enrolled in her classes. She also teaches Middle School History. She established the rules and disciplinary procedure, collaboratively, with her students. She has taught the students questioning techniques and she uses them, often, as they do research and read important background information. She also works collaboratively with the other grade level teachers, trying to develop meaningful, relevant cross-curricular projects. This has meant that there are times when she and another teacher co-teach a combined class (twice as large as the 33 students she has in most of her classes) when they share back-to-back instructional periods. She will normally have students work on 4-6 cross-curricular projects per year. Her students also do a lot of writing and peer editing in class and occasional debates. Typically (unless they are writing or doing research), her classroom is much noisier than Mr. Enthusiastic’s, yet, she doesn’t have more discipline issues. In fact, when someone else covers her classes they find that the students are very much self-directed, focused and engaged in their work for extended periods of time. Her students’ assessment results are consistently very high. Students report that they not only learned a lot about history, they also learned a lot about themselves, as learners. Quite a few also complain about the amount of reading and writing they have to do (but… will admit it was probably worth it).

Which teacher do you want for your children?

 

Engaged, meaningful, learning is important. There’s some simple ways to engage and there are more complex (and, initially, work intensive) ways to engage but the fact is… kids are worth it! They are OUR future! Let’s make it a promising one.

Here are some resources that may help engage students, more:

QUICKPOST: 7-Step Prep: Make a Weekly Plan for YOU!

7-Step Prep: Make a Weekly Plan for YOU!

I know I’ve been posting “QuickPost”s more than more reflective and individualized posts but… it’s still summer (barely)! This one really reminded me that I need to visit Edutopia more often. It really is choc full of very practical, immediately applicable resources.

This one is simply good advice for getting and staying organized.

7-Step Prep: Make a Weekly Plan for YOU!.

Another great (upcoming) Ed Tech resource! Teaching with Tablets

For those who use iPads and/or other tablets in the classroom, here’s a useful resource due to come out in about a week. The way they have adapted the “gradual release of responsibility instructional framework” is widely applicable for tech integration AND project-based learning. Check it out at ASCD!

Stressed out about projects? Here’s a handy checklist!

stressed_out_cat2 Students have been given ‘projects’ as assessments for as long as I can remember. However, I have often questioned how these projects actually tie-in to the learning goals and whether they do anything for learning other than causing stress. They can also be real ‘monsters’ to grade, once all the projects come in.

The folks at the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) have developed a handy-dandy checklist to help ensure that projects are well-structured and meaningful (see below).

Project Based Learning (PBL) has always had much potential but, as is true of many things, must be used in moderation and with other learning strategies to help keep students engaged, reflective and exploratory learners. Nevertheless, when used properly PBL can help encourage life-long learning by giving students the opportunity to direct their own learning, take some risks and explore a topic more deeply than worksheets and textbook section review questions can.

In a related post, Jeff Dunn at Edudemic makes the point that the BIE checklist can also be useful for guiding the development of any learning activities. Point well taken! I would add that the checklist also fits well with Understanding by Design framework that utilizes Essential Questions and Big Ideas.

project-based-learning-gram

Feedback… AGAIN! Quick post on formative assessments

ImageI’ve been a bit behind on my ‘ten minutes a day’ favorite blog readings and in my efforts to catch up I came across a comment by Rick DuFour on the AllThingsPLC blog regarding formative assessments.

Math Teachers!!! This one’s for you:

… Benjamin Bloom’s research in the teaching of math found that teachers get better results when they begin the course with a brief pre-assessment of the skills students must  have in order to be successful in the unit they are about to teach. They discover areas where students are lacking those skills, and then instead of beginning new content, the begin with several days of instruction aimed at the prerequisite skills. They repeat this process for every unit, asking “which skills must students have in order to be successful in this unit and how do I know if they have them.” The process works best when it is done by a collaborative team of teachers and the schedule is designed to have some of them teaching in the same period. They give the pre-assessment, look at the results, and then divide the students between them. One might take the group that needs support in learning the new skills, another works some students to practice those skills, and another presents practical problems to students who are called upon to apply the skills. After several days of this, the students return to their homeroom teacher and the new unit begins.

One might think that this process would have an adverse impact on student achievement because teachers couldn’t cover as much content. In fact, Bloom found just that opposite. The fact that students had acquired the necessary skills enabled teachers to move through the content more quickly and the results were dramatically higher. You can read about this in an article Bloom wrote years ago for Phi Delta Kappan magazine called, “The two-sigma effect.”

There’s ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that formative assessments are powerful teaching/learning tools!

Here’s a related article by Benjamin Bloom