Create a Guiding Coalition of Students – The Way It Should Be – Examples of Good Work

If you read my blog, then you know I have students that are hiding in plain sight.  Yesterday afternoon during Office Hours, my learners made an appointment with me for today’s study hall. I said yes and was pleased with the request. However, today my advisees are knitting for charity, and I wanted to be there too. I cannot be in two places at once and there was other adult supervision, so I went to study hall.

Eight learners were waiting on me as I arrived, all with papers in hand and questions to ask. It was GREAT. It was a mix of my two sections of learners. They took turns; they helped each other. They were patient and considerate; they were motivated and demonstrated self-discipline.

Twenty minutes into the event, I paused and said “this is the way class should be; why can’t our class be like this? I want our class to work like this. I want you to be successful; I want to help you learn. I can only do this if you ask me questions and work together. I want you to ask questions.”

In that moment, I think a guiding coalition was born.

My class was much more about learning and asking questions.

Today’s lesson was to formatively assess our progress on solving quadratic equations. In my class that hides in plain sight we worked one level at a time, collected data using the TI-Navigator, and decoded individual problems. It was GREAT! (I’m so sorry that I don’t have screen shots to show, but I was in the moment and did not think to save. Boo. I’ll do better in the future.)

Level 1 was about substitution and order of operations. You can’t do the quadratic formula successfully if you can’t do this. Together, we learned that all but two of us can do this. In community we discussed what errors might have been made by these two learners. LM said “I know how 41 became the wrong answer, because I almost made that mistake.” LM went on to explain what another learner must have been thinking and what to look for to avoid this type of error.

Level 2 was also about substitution and order of operations, but the expression was much more complicated. Again, you won’t be successful with the quadratic formula if you can’t do this. We learned that only half of us could do this. The biggest error was with integers and substitution. Now we had half learners and half lead-learners. Everyone engaged in the process of getting all of us to success. Differentiation, decoding of errors, and individualized instruction was high.

Much more important: There was success and confidence. When we got to level 3, our target level, I began to hear comments like “this is much easier than I thought.” “This makes sense to me, now.” I watched QB slide his chair up next to DG and decode DG’s error. QB said “Oh no, man, you’ve got this. You just need parentheses right here.” “Ohhhh…” said DB, “I get it now.”

Shouldn’t it always be like this?

Can it always be like this?

Is it that my hiding-in-plain-sight learners just did not know how they should function? Had they lost or forgotten what concentrated group learning requires and needs? Have they ever known? Did I finally communicate to them what good work looks like in my classroom, a classroom that calls for collaborative learning?

Which learners form your guiding coalition?  Do they have examples of good work?

One thought on “Create a Guiding Coalition of Students – The Way It Should Be – Examples of Good Work”

  1. Yes, sometimes I feel like what happens in Office Hours should be what happens during class time. I think part of it is that when students CHOOSE to come to Office Hours, they are empowered because they take charge of their own learning and they come with specific questions or requests. This year I have offered “Office Hours” before and after school, and I have been impressed by the number of students who come at 7:00am on a fairly consistent basis.


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