Narrative: What’s in Here?

My Philosophy of Leadership and Learning

There are many ways to approach learning and leadership. My best approach is to lead by example in a cyclical process of improvement. If I model curiosity I can encourage a mindset open to growth over success. A growth mindset is an essential ingredient of assessment for learning. Assessment for learning acknowledges all forms of participation. Acknowledgment of participation showcases and supports change. If change is not feared, we are free to investigate how the school can improve the learning experience. To seek improvement, meaningful reflection must occur, which brings us back to curiosity. This process is not as neatly recursive as I have indicated. In truth these events are all occurring simultaneously and in variable intensities and levels of success. More than modeling the action I most want to see, leading by example requires a great deal of listening, another great behavior to emulate. Be it formal or informal, one-way or reciprocal, balanced or unbalanced; without listening, accurate communication is merely accidental. When I lead by example, I can be the change I want to see and point my peers in a forwardly direction.

This Portfolio

I have chosen a WordPress site for my portfolio because it had been a longstanding intention to learn how to administrate this platform. I also like its professional look and that it will allow me to continue building my portfolio after MAELM is done. The images in the changing banner, each beautiful in its own right, are actually part of a larger photograph. This design is intended as tribute to the synergy of collaboration, my favourite way to work. Here is the picture in its entirety:green-bridge1.jpg This portfolio includes key examples of my learning throughout MAELM. The four menus, three with sub menus, are described below.

Menu 1:  Narrative: What’s Going on in Here? You are here. Read on to find out what this website is all about.

  • Sub-menu 1: MAELM Papers. Do not feel obliged to read them. I have included my papers as resources for myself and for people with excess time (who?). I must admit that many of the details in these papers now elude me. I am a big picture thinker, so themes stick with me longer than plots. Regardless of my shortcomings, I am very proud of how hard I have worked and these papers serve as evidence of my improved writing as well as my many lessons in educational leadership. The papers also reveal my weaknesses. As such, they encourage a humility that inspires my ongoing desire to learn. More than that, they serve as data without which I cannot measure my future achievement, a statement I never would have made before one of the first courses in MAELM, Research for School Improvement.

Menu 2:  About Me This Menu includes before and after about me profiles because wherever I go, there I am. Who I am as a person determines how I define educational leadership. Understanding how the last two years of study have shaped me is an essential part of judging the value of my journey and helps me forge the road ahead.

  • Sub-menu 2: Links to my work. These links offer contextual information. I have found that when people ask me how I would lead, I can only answer with a resounding, “That depends.” A leader can only lead if people choose to follow. Each person is unique and complex. Each group of people is unique and complex. Great leadership depends on making decisions that engage the followers as individuals and as a group(s) to make relevant improvements to the existing system. One cannot do that without first knowing what the system is and wants to be.

Menu 3:  What Am I Thinking? This menu includes some observations about my life as they relate to themes in MAELM. My reflections, flawed as they are, are artifacts of my growth. I would have written more, but any action without apparent immediate consequence for inaction didn’t exactly fit into a lifeworld of being a working mother completing a Masters. Furthermore, I found that the supportive intellectual environment of the forum posts served as an effective outlet for my ongoing thoughts.

  • Sub-menu 3: Feedback 101. Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment (MAELM 580)inspired me to take a closer look at my own response to teacher feedback. For years I have been frustrated by students’ tendency to overvalue the mark I have assigned while undervaluing (dare I say dismissing?) the more important and helpful feedback that I spend endless hours writing. Despite my enlightened understanding of the process and purpose of assessment, I have difficulty looking past the mark myself. Over the course of about a week, I engage in a fitful dance of looking at my mark, closing Moodle, looking at the final comment, closing Moodle, looking at my mark, closing Moodle, looking at a few comments, closing Moodle, reading the final comments, looking at the rubric, feeling irritated by the rubric, looking at my mark, closing Moodle, feeling more calm about my mark, reading all comments, reading the rubric, feeling irritated by the rubric, closing Moodle, assessing my perception of the accuracy of my mark, getting on with my life. Looking back, my response is not much different in f2f courses. Anyway, in attempt to reduce the dysfunction of my response to written feedback, I changed its structure by removing the grammar. I hoped to see patterns in words used that could offer a simpler form of assessment, more like a letter or percentage grade. I am not certain a pattern emerged, but the process was fun.                                                                                                                                           I’m relatively certain I’m not perfect, but I was surprised by the depth of my irrationality when it came to accepting a grade. Taking stock of my own response to feedback has enhanced my understanding of students’ (dis)engagement with my comments on their work. I now try very hard to engage students in an open and direct conversation about my observations on their work and their observations about my observations. These discussions usually include summative assessment of assessment for learning. The result is usually empowering for the students because they feel that their learning has been recognized, they improve their understanding of their own learning strengths/weaknesses, and they set new goals.

Menu 4:  3 Prezis These Prezis serve as artifacts of my enhanced use of technology mediated environments. Online learning has deepened my understanding of the essential components of a successful Moodle course. Moodle courses need continual updating to stay fresh, but they also need to be exceptionally well organized and designed to communicate effectively in a web format. All materials, assignments, and deadlines need to be clearly laid out at the very beginning of the course. If changes are made, the instructor must take considerable care to inform the students. Ideally, the only variable in a course should be the forum posts, which feel incomplete without instructor participation. All of this makes responsive course design and instruction an exceptionally challenging prospect for any teacher.

Truth be told, I may not have made it through this Masters on Moodle alone. I am grateful for other technology-mediated environments (TME) that have helped my learning not only of the course content, but of the TME’s themselves. Now I also know how to use Google Documents, Microsoft Office Live, Prezi, PowerPoint, wordles, bubbl.us, DropBox, and Blackboard Collaborate. I also created a Facebook Page and a Twitter account that focus on adult education (check the buttons on my front page!) Skype, texting, email, and Facebook have also played an integral role in supporting communication with my fellow MAELM Moodlers. Now I’m reluctant to collaborate without the help of at least one TME. Although I do not yet have a Moodle artifact to add to this portfolio, it is my goal to learn how to administrate one this summer, and build a complete English 10 course by 2015.

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