20 December 2011

The GOAL method for improving schools

Greetings, friends!

First, let me beg your forgiveness for my too-long absence from the hallowed (web) pages of the Blaze of Competence. I have been undertaking travels across the United States in an endeavour to examine the most important issues facing education today. Obviously, this should not have kept me from my duties as a contributor here, but it did. I can offer you no explanation, so am reduced to begging for your forgiveness.

Once you have seen fit to forgive me, I beg for your indulgence as I unveil my newest strategy to improve education. In the past, I have focused mainly on behaviour (fitting, as I hold my advanced degrees in the behaviour field). (editor's note: please click the following links for Dr. Johncock's previous writings at the BlazeBlog:NBR, STFU, and the STARS system) However, in my recent travels I realized that across this nation, teachers are focusing more and more on improving the amount of learning that students are doing, sometimes at the expense of behaviour modification. Alas, that is, as they say, another subject for another day. Indeed, even the state legislatures have taken up the banner of so-called "student achievement".

There has been some backlash amongst teaching professionals in the colonies about this new focus on learning. They decry that they must now "teach to the test" instead of being able to teach any damn thing that they want. They point out that the tests are often not very good, and are indeed poor reflections of what students have actually learned. I would counter with the my whole-hearted belief that these tests have undoubtedly been developed by the foremost thinkers in educational theory and method in the several states and that teachers have obviously been given more time than was even necessary to align their teaching to these standards which are tested by these state assessments. That teachers would have the gall to question those in positions of government granted authority who have spent many years in the educational bureaucracy avoiding schools in order to develop these tests strikes me as laughable. In short (and to use an American teen colloquialism), educators should "deal with it".

Alas, my job is not to lecture teachers on what they should and shouldn't be complaining about. My job as a behaviouralist and educational thinker is to provide solutions. After several months of labourious thought, experimentation and revision I am proud, today, to reveal the content version of the STFU method: the GOAL method of meeting state expectations for student achievement. The GOALMOMSEFSA (or GOAL method for short) provides your teachers and students with a simple, 3 step method to improve student learning, and thus improve scores on the vital measures of student learning; state standardized tests.

However, before I delve into those three key steps, let us talk about what the GOAL method means. Yet again, I have (with some input from my crack staff of educational researchers) created an acronym to help both teaching faculty and their charges to remember what the method is all about. In this case, we have decided that two are better than one, and so we have two acronyms: GOAL and AYP. I shall endeavour to explain both of them in the following.

        The GOAL Method 
G - Getting
          O - Outcomes to
     A - Align with
   L - Learning

It should go without saying that we want the outcomes (those invaluable test scores) to align with the learning we and our students are spending so much time on in the classroom. However, all too often what we have taught isn't revalatory to students on their state assessments. To remedy this failing, we here at JET (Johncock Educational Theorationaliztions) have come up with 3 simple steps that teachers and students must take to improve their demonstrations of learning on state tests.

                                     A -  All students and teachers
                 Y - Your responsibility
P - Produce

A - All students and teachers - As with most of my educational theorizations, this one is blinding in its simplicity. All teachers and all students who are going to demonstrate their learning on tests must be involved in this program. Teachers can not miss meetings for any reason. To this end, JET will provide forms to those districts who hire us to have staff complete at all staff meetings to ensure that those meetings have 100% attendance. We will also provide forms for students to complete bi-weekly in each of their core classes (those classes where learning is importantly displayed on the test) to ensure that all students are also participating in the program. We have found that having teachers and students complete forms so that their participation can be tracked is one of the most valuable parts of any educational program for improvement.

Y - Your responsibility - The central focus of both this acronym and this program is that teachers and students have responsibilities to learn material which is on the assessment. It is the responsibility of teachers to obtain sample questions and released tests and then teach that material (preferably to the point of rote memorization) so that when it appears on the test the teacher can be confident that students have learned it. Students are responsible for the actual memorization of those facts and released questions. Certainly, neither teachers nor students should be encouraged to engage in critical thought or subject material which may arise naturally. If those subjects and skills were important, the states' departments of education would have put them on the tests. If those things are not evaluated (it is safe to say they are not) then we should not waste valuable time in our hectic bell-to-bell schedule on them. The amount of time which could be sunk into teaching a skill like critical thought and evaluation could account for several year's worth of memorization of facts for the test.

P - Produce - Once the test is placed in front of students, it is up to them to produce the evidence of learning. Teachers should have spent their year having students memorize answers to the test questions, along with a small amount of test taking strategies so that when the test is in front of them, students can demonstrate their learning as quickly as possible. 

As state tests are always graded and returned with the utmost expediency, several weeks after the test is given, those students who were shown to be deficient could retake the test until they demonstrated mastery. 

I feel confident that by employing the 3 simple steps of the GOAL method, all students in all schools will make great strides in demonstrating the learning which I know has taken place there. Should you wish to contact me, either for further information on the GOAL method, or to book a professional development, please contact me here.

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