Falconry: Feedback loops, communication, and formative assessment

Reading from Step 1: The Art of Questioning of The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School.

By learning to insert feedback loops into our thought, questioning, and decision-making process, we increase the chance of staying on our desired path. Or, if the path needs to be modified, our midcourse corrections become less dramatic and disruptive. (Lichtman, 49 pag.)

This paragraph caused me to go back to a Mr. Sun quote from Step 0: Preparation.

But there are many more subtle barriers to communication as well, and if we cannot, or do not chose to overcome these barriers, we will encounter life decisions and try to solve problems and do a lot of falconing all by ourselves with little, if any, success. Even in the briefest of communications, people develop and share common models that allow them to communicate effectively.  If you don’t share the model, you can’t communicate. If you can’t communicate, you can’t teach, learn, lead, or follow.  (Lichtman, 32 pag.)

Mr Sun goes on to ask

So how do we find common models? (Lichtman, 32 pag.)

Finding common models of communication between all learners is critical to a community focused on everyone growing and learning together. In Chapter 1: Unpacking Thinking of Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, the authors write

If we want to support students in learning, and we believe that learning is a product of thinking, then we need to be clear about what we are trying to support. (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison, 5 pag.)

And, in Chapter 3: Grading Strategies that Support and Motivate Student Effort and Learning of Grading and Learning: Practices That Support Student Achievement, Susan Brookhart writes:

First, these teachers settled on the most important learning targets for grading. By learning targets, they meant standards phrased in student-friendly language so that students could use them in monitoring their own learning and, ultimately, understanding their grade.

One of these learning targets was ‘I can use decimals, fractions, and percent to solve a problem.’ The teachers listed statements for each proficiency level under that target and steps students might use to reach proficiency.

The [lowest] level was not failure but rather signified ‘I don’t get it yet, but I’m still working.’ (Brookhart, 30 pag.)

Yet is such a powerful word. I just love using yet to communicate support and issue subtle challenges.  Yet, used correctly, sends the message that I (you) will learn this.  I believe in you, and you believe in me.

As a community, we have started the challenging work of writing commonly agreed upon essential learnings for our student-learners.  Now that we are on a path of shared models of communication, we are able to develop feedback loops and formative assessments for student-learners to use to monitor their learning as well as empower learners to ask more questions.

What if we build common formative assessments that communicate how to level up, ask targeted questions, and motivate learning?

I agree that we must work to clearly communicate the intended, essential outcomes for learners. While our methods of learning and leading do not have to be identical, the core learning outcomes should be common for learners. In other words, we should have a guaranteed curriculum.

I assume that groups working together as teams have, or are on a path to, common models of communication between themselves and are making strides to share these with student-learners and parents of their students.

I argue with the statement that we already have this in place.  I don’t think this work is ever done.  When we have commonly agreed upon “I can…” statements, we need rubrics or descriptions of what it means to be on target, how to reach a target, and where to go if you are already at the target level.

I aspire to work collaboratively in teams to teach, learn, lead, and follow by asking questions to develop common models to communicate effectively.  I aspire to serve our learners by developing, implementing, and using stronger feedback loops.  I aspire to help learners level up.

I aspire to listen more, question more, and learn more.

I aspire to become a falconer.


Brookhart, Susan M. Grading and Learning: Practices That Support Student Achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2011. Print.

Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

[Cross posted on Flourish.]

Falconry: Seeking balance between agitation and irritation

Reading from Step 0: Preparation of The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School.

The excitement of learning, the compelling personal drive to take one more step on the path towards wisdom, comes when we try to solve a problem we want to solve, when we want to solve, when we see a challenge and say yes, I can meet it.  Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can challenge for ourselves. They provide us just enough insight so we can work toward a solution that makes us, makes me want to jump up and shout out the solution to the world, makes me want to step to the next higher level. Great teachers somehow make us want to ask the questions that they want us to answer, overcome the challenge that they, because they are our teacher, believe we need to overcome. (Lichtman, 20 pag.)

Wow! Worth repeating:

Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can challenge for ourselves.

This connects, for me, to Chapter 2. Entrepreneurship, Elasticity, and Ed-Med of To Sell is Human: The Suprising Truth About Moving Others.

Ferlazzo makes a distinction between “irritation” and “agitation.” Irritation, he says, is “challenging people to do something that we want them to do.” By contrast, “agitation is challenging them to do something that they want to do.” (Pink, 40 pag.)

Pink goes on to write that Larry Ferlazzo discovered that irritation does not work in the long run, but can have success in the short-term.

I’m wondering how the art of questioning might help us blend agitation and irritation.  How might we begin to plan, design, and implement learning episodes that achieve short-term goals while supporting long-term goals too? Where and when do we focus and plan, intentionally, for the progression and depth of learning? How are we taking action to ensure vertical alignment of curriculum, assessment of progress/growth/disposition/learning, and authentic learning experiences that motivate learners to challenge themselves to a next step on the path of wisdom?

Do we see schooling as a marathon rather than a sprint? Do we know enough about the distance covered by learners and the many paths to success? We are evolving experts on the stretch we cover with each learner, but do we know about the paths taken to arrive to us and the paths they may take when they move on?

I agree with Larry Ferlazzo that teaching something we want others to do is only successful in the short-term.  How often have I been surprised when learners don’t know something that was proven learning just weeks ago?

I argue with myself, quite often, that I must see the bigger picture.  I need to know more than I know now.  It is comfortable to be good at what I do. It is important to me to be successful.  I argue with myself to push to know, risk, experiment, and do more for and with learners.

I aspire to be a teacher-learner who is more often an agitator than an irritant.  I aspire to be a teacher-learner offering choice and opportunities to learn where the path is chosen by the learner.

The assumption I worry about is that we feel that we do enough of this already.  I argue in support of the idea that we do offer student choice, that we have some vertical understanding, and that we offer challenges that inspire, motivate, and support learning.  I agree that we must blend and balance short and long-term goals.  I aspire to become a better agitator (and irritant).

I aspire to listen more, question more, and learn more.

I aspire to become a falconer.


Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.

Pink, Daniel H. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. New York: Riverhead, 2012. Print.

[Cross posted on Flourish.]

Our choices: Summer Reading 2013 – The Art of Questioning

My previous post, Summer Reading 2013 – Flyer and Choices, describes our summer reading plan and choices.  We offer choice of book and choice of platform, when available.  Here’s what and how we selected to read:

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My favorite new communication about faculty learning and our reading comes from Rhonda Mitchell (@rgmteach), an avid reader.

“Just so you know, I am putting my name on the list for Make Just One Change because I don’t have that book.  I’d like to participate in the Embedded formative assessment discussion.”


We have invited faculty to blog their notes and ideas on Flourish, our community blog.  The 4 As protocol will serve as our framework for note taking and discussion of the books when we return in the fall.  I think (and hope) that by sharing what we read on Flourish through the summer will encourage reading and will help with the fall discussions.

As far as instructional design goes, I’m now wondering if our teams for the book discussions should group readers of the same book or different books? Are we going to discuss the book or the art of questioning – or both?

AP awesome! – A #brightspot reflection

From one of my Kiski boys:

On 5/12/13 4:21 PM, “Alexander G” <* *> wrote:

Hi Jill,
I do not know if but hope that you can remember me from Kiski. I was in my junior year in 2000 – 2001 as an exchange student from Germany and attended your AP Calculus AB class.
After graduating from high school in Germany and the military service, I studied mechanical engineering in Germany and France and did an MBA in Paris. Today I work for a subsidiary of Daimler (you probably know as Mercedes-Benz). It is called Daimler Mobility Services. We are working on new services for urban mobility, such as car2go (see car2go.com). My job as Product Manager is to define a good product experience for the user, which I enjoy very much.
Last week I was in San Francisco for business reasons and met some interesting people who asked me some questions also about my bio. That reminded me of my time in Kiski and all the stuff I have learned during that time. Whenever I have been thinking about Kiski, I recognize how valuable this was to me, especially your class.
It gave me a solid foundation in math and I have been benefiting from it since then throughout my curriculum.
You motivated me to become a good student and showed me how school can be fun.
I can picture it right now sitting in McClintock Hall in front of your office, doing my math homework and asking you questions about Riemann sums, the trapezoidal rule etc, which eventually lead to achieving a 5 in the AP test 🙂
Back then you always said, that we were the best class you’ve taught and most certainly it has been my best throughout high school.
Thank you very much!
Sincerely yours

Thoughtful! Certainly a bright spot, and a great way to start the wrap-up of the end of school year process.

Summer Reading 2013 – Flyer and Choices

How do we model learner choice? We know student-learners need and deserve differentiated learning opportunities.  Don’t all learners?

Last year, the teaching faculty read Cathy Davidson’s Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, and the administrative faculty and staff read Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?. I read both.  Well…I listened to both as I ran using audiobooks and my phone.  After each run, I would annotate my notes into a physical book or my Kindle. To be clear, I read them by listening to the author read while I ran.

In 2013, we believe in learner choice, differentiation, leveraging technology, and so much more to help every learner grow. In a learning community, do we all need to read (or do) the same thing to learn?

From: Jill Gough
Date: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 4:21 AM
To: All Trinity
Cc: Leadership Team
Subject: Summer Reading 2013 – Flyer and Choices


Please see the attached flyer about our summer reading choices.  The theme for this summer’s reading is the art of questioning.  Please select one of the books shown on the flyer for your summer reading and let us know your choice on or before May 10 by entering your selection on the Summer Reading Choice Google Formhttp://bit.ly/SummerRead2013. (This is a copy of the form; feel free to play with it.)

Last fall, faculty members suggested that it would be beneficial to have the 4 As protocol available while reading to take notes. I’ve attached a copy of this protocol if you would like to use it as an organizer for your notes. I plan to blog my notes as I read using the 4 As protocol as prompts to share with others.  You are invited and encouraged to blog on Flourish about your reading too.  And, if you microblog your comments and notes using Twitter to share what you are learning, would you please include the #TrinityLearns hash tag to help crowd source our notes?

Let me know if you have questions.

Thank you,


Here’s the attached flyer:

And, our version of the 4 As protocol worksheet:

Our community commits to reading in the summer.  Readers may choose from five books about the art of questioning.  Readers may also choose to have their book delivered on paper, via Kindle, or iTunes audio.

While I’ve had several comments, I have two in writing that I want to share:

“I love the fact that we get to choose not only the book, but the way in which we choose to read it! Thank you!”

Awesome! And…

Thanks, Jill! I am really going out on a limb this summer and will do the reading on my iPad.

How important is it in our community or any community to have choice in learning? How do we support risk-taking in a supportive environment?

CBL PD: Tweet Tweet – All the basics a Twitter Beginner #TrinityLearns #brightspots

For this Wednesday’s Faculty Forum (I want to learn… and I can teach…), I facilitated a workshop on Twitter.  I invited Samantha Steinberg (@spsteinberg), a new-to-Twitter friend and colleague, to guide this learning experience with me.  We had 2 session – 12:30 and 3:30. Our plan was to have a conversation to offer learners opportunities to ask and answer questions.  Before the session, the following email was sent to encourage everyone to have an account and to understand the expected outcomes.  Please notice the I can… statements for our learners.

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As an added bonus, Shelley Paul (@lottascales) joined us for the 3:30 session.  Shelley always adds so much to the conversation and the learning.

Armed with our expected outcomes and the determination to answer questions, we met with teachers choosing to come to this session.

The “I can…” statements for this session are (not limited to)
  • I can send a tweet to highlight a bright spot at Trinity.
  • I can use the #TrinityLearns hashtag.
  • I can use @jgough (or other) to communicate with another educator.

 We started by discussing having a purpose for this type of communication.  We discussed collaborative note taking and crowd sourcing.  We referred to the notes from the sessions with Tony Wagner and Madeline Levine. There were questions about hash tags, adding pictures, and the language and symbols of Twitter.  Awesome!

Samantha’s story of going from 0 to 100+ followers in just a little over 3 weeks answered many questions.  How and why she has connected with authors and other educators shows our community a doable way to become globally connected.

When ready, some of these learners practiced, played, and put the above I can… statements into action as shown below.

Connie’s first tweet should be highlighted because of the traction it had almost immediately.

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Rhonda’s retweet caught the attention of EdTechTeacher Beth Holland. Beth connected Connie’s class to Mrs. Wideen‘s class in Windsor, Ontario. Mrs. Wideen shared her learners’ Padlet about frogs which added to our learning! Awesome! Global connections to learn and share without leaving home.

We issued a challenge:

What if we send 1 tweet tomorrow, using #TrinityLearns, to highlight a bright spot of learning in our community?

What if we tweet bright spots of learning in our community? What if the norm is that we highlight and lift learning?

Tune in at #TrinityLearns to see…