When driving in the dark on a highway without adequate lighting, in the rain, it is so nice when the driver in front of you sets the pace, and stays on course. Yes, there is an element of trust, and it is still stressful, but being able to follow a leader can relieve the greater stress of navigating the highway alone.
Goal setting is only the first of many steps towards completing a task. If the goals are set too high, they will not be attainable. If the goals are set too low, then students will not become self-efficacious when reaching those goals. However, as educators we can model goal setting and how we plan to reach our goals in a way that provides our students with the process required to attain self-set goals.
I was thinking about how many times I begin a task or class with the goal of completing the task in a specific amount of time, but do not maintain control over the behaviors required to reach specific goals. I wonder what my students think when I begin a class stating that we are going to accomplish a specific task and I become diverted due to a question that leads me to a response, then a story from my own teaching background, and then finally wondering what was I talking about in the first place. I take a second to reset, and then we are back on track!
I would imagine following me set and reset my goals is a great visual aid in self-regulation. What I have found is that when I am diverted, and lose track of my goals, it is a good time to let my students know that I strayed off course, and must get back on…..This provides them with the opportunity to see that even seasoned professionals can divert from the goal, but he/she knows how to self-correct and get back on track. Similar to the lights in front of me on the highway, that guide me through the rain and difficult conditions, are the goals I set when I begin a task or class. If I lost track of the goals, I might totally be off track and never return to the steps that will lead me to the intended outcome. However, if I self-monitor, checking my progress in relation to the goal, I have a much better chance of completing a class discussing learning theory rather than stories about my teaching career. Not that the vignettes are not appropriate, however, their effect will be stronger if I stay in my lane, focus on the goal, and am transparent about my diversions, I will be teaching self-regulation while I am practicing it!
One of the best activities I do with my classes involves asking them to take a specific activity from their daily routine and break it down into the smallest steps. Until they experience “task analysis” they have no idea how many incremental actions are necessary to complete an activity that has become routine over time. We apply this activity to lesson planning, emphasizing the need to describe multiple mini steps in order to target areas of weakness in the flow of the learning process.
Many comment on the CCSS being overwhelming, too detailed. However, if we read each CCSS within the framework of a task analysis, we can begin to see how each and every one provides an opportunity for improved analysis of a students’s skill set as s/he progress through each grade level.
We all agree that students of all ages learn more from what they observe than other means of communication. Vicarious learning demands that we become fully acquainted with how we are transferring information to our students, what are we doing and what are they seeing. If we realize that we are constantly being observed, we would then realize how important it is for teachers (parents, babysitters) to model for their students what their own action plan looks like and take time to share with them how many steps it takes to actually complete an activity, whether in the first grade or college.
Self-regulation encourages us as educators to regulate ourselves, before we can help our students. Explicit modeling of how we read a passage, define a difficult word, solve a complex math equation or select the correct response to a test question, requires a task analysis approach. Task analysis is not just a simple list of steps, it is an analysis that best begins with the way we conduct our daily activities to determine if we ourselves are self regulated.
If I had just looked at an overview of the city I do believe my comfort level navigating Philadelphia last week would have been greater, I would have spent less time dealing with stress, and I would have known where I was going instead of depending on my iphone app. I love technology but I learned last week that prior knowledge of the city overview using a good old fashioned map would have been a more appropriate tool for someone with my limited sense of direction. It is not that the app did not work, it was just not the right tool for me to gain the overview I needed the map was too small!
As we know, the iphone google map is a great tool for navigating. However, often I wind up traveling in the moment, watching the pinging red dot to make sure I am on track to my destination. This works great in NYC where I am familiar with the overview, but it does not work when I am in a strange city. Relying on the app, in the moment, prevented me from following the self-regulatory strategy of planning properly for a new task. Did I plan? Yes! I had my phone.
However, if I had taken into account my need for planning using specific types of tools and strategies, downloaded and printed out the map (above), I would have had much less stress. Forethought would have me take a good look at the scope of the area between my hotel, the convention center, and other interesting spots. As a result, during the performance phase I would have felt more secure following the pinging dot on the iphone. Now that I am reflecting on my planning and performance I am prepared to use what I have learned for the next time I visit a strange city.
Not enough can be said about allowing our students to navigate the common core with proper planning and self-monitoring during performance. Students of all ages need to compare their performance to the CCSS standard, and then reflect on how they would do it better the next time. For me the wake up call came when a friend, who is a Math Professor and Planner woke me up to the fact that where we had stopped for coffee was only two blocks from my hotel, and I would not need a cab to get there. Her planning helped me understand that more strategic planning on my part to navigate the city quickly and safely should have gone way beyond my iphone app.