An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship With Students
Berger, R. (2003)
Chapter 1:
Calls for a paradigm shift—A schoolwide embrace of an ethic of excellence
The conference—the work was too powerful to ignore
-classroom as a work room
-Teachers design their classrooms (physical plant, materials, etc.)
-Rejecting numerical scores as the only type of evidence—other types of evidence are more important
Chapter 2:Why Culture Matters
Why culture matters: attitudes and achievements of students are shaped by the culture. If peer culture ridicules academic effort, it isn’t “cool” to raise your hand in class, do homework, care about school
Consciously shape a culture where it is cool to care
Power of positive peer pressure/positive critique and encouragement about the work (NOTE: connection to Moorman)
Value of community:
-A culture built around beautiful student work
-Every effective school has a strong sense of community
-Safe to take risks & care about trying hard
-earning the trust of the community to allow teachers to shape the school
Chapter 3: Work of Excellence
-Assignments that inspire and challenge
-Powerful projects/depth over breadth
-Thematic curriculum—for weeks and months at a time—projects ARE the core curriculum—not the “science fair model”
-Classroom is the project workshop—interdependence—If ANY student is failing to succeed it is a problem for all
-Projects are made public
-Assessment rubrics and individual accountability—checkpoints and project updates at morning meeting
-Critique sessions (NOTE: connects to Moorman on specific feedback)
-ALL students complete the mandatory components & other items are flexible
-Building literacy through the work and Genuine research: eg., individual reports of a science project were sent to families to review and a collective report of the whole project was sent to the town. They read science reports and analyzed their formats and language. Writing connected to this work. The excitement of real discovery comes from doing real research—not the procedures prescribed in the science book that get the known results…Each town is full of public records that can be analyzed, community members can be interviewed, field guides, science studies on local water systems, radon testing, etc..
-The power of the arts: Instills passion, commitment, discipline—when taken seriously
-Mentions Steve Zeidel of Harvard’s Project Zero (NOTE: Connection to Gardner): Students drawn to beauty, communities, humanity. Getting students to “put artistic care into everything they do”—critiqued and refined aesthetically….p. 79
-Models: An apprenticeship. “I want my students to carry around pictures in their heads of quality work” p. 83
-Multiple drafts: In public schools, work is generally done in one draft—work is turned in in final form all day every day—critique and refine—critique and refine…In public school a second draft usually means you blew it. Real revisions, but with real-life deadlines—our presentation is in two weeks, the town meeting is in three, etc.
-Critique: Be kind, be specific, be helpful (NOTE: Moorman); Use “I” statements
Formal critique—gallery critique
Focus on vocabulary building in the critique process –the vocabulary of a discipline is more than just words: Each word represents a concept
-Making Work Public: Everyone’s final draft of every work is for an audience—so everyone cares
-Using Assessment to Build stronger students: US students are the most tested in the world
Success of schools is tied to the single skill of test taking
Imagine if students were judged instead by the quality of student work—and character: “Imagine an expectation that an adult should be able to enter a school and expect that ay child in that school older than 7 or 8 would be ready to greet him politely, give an articulate tour of a well-maintained, courteous school environment, and present his portfolio of acadmic accomplishments clearly and insightfully, and that the student’s portfolio would contain original, high-quality work and document appropriate skill levels.” P. 102
Pressure for high standards from assigning grades to work—grades do not ensure high quality work—in many cases grades work against motivation
LD: producing quality work with strategies and through projects and revision
Why do we need to keep ranking students every day, every week…I realize sometimes this is necessary but how many months of being in the bottom half does it take to destroy spirit?
Chapter 4: Supporting Teachers
Everyone needs affirmation first
The teachers make their own work as teachers public, too
-Teaching as a calling: Teaching is hard—stamina—crazy unless you see it as a calling
What they want most is the environment that respects and supports their improvement of their craft
Almost half of America’s teachers leave within 5 years
Honor their need for time for planning, prep, research, reflection…mandates taking away creativity
Teaching is about relationships
Teacher-proofing education discussed p. 125
Teaching as a Craft: Teacher preparation is inadequate—they need apprenticeship in their craft like a carpenter
-The Scholarship of Teaching: classroom teacher investigating their own practices
Project Zero Collaborative Assessment critique protocol to analyze schoolwork, listen to teachers share projects they feel to be successful or provocative
Compares US to Japan: The average Japanese text has just 8 topics as compared to the 65 found in US books (NOTE: Connection to Sizer). Collaboration between teachers is the norm. Teacher competition in US is puzzling to Japanese—safer to reveal one’s weaknesses and collaborate to improve practice in Japan. P.133