Can We Make More Hours in a Day?

by Phil Petru, Assistant Head of School

I am sure you have thought to yourself, maybe more than once, “I wish I had more hours in the day.” I know I have. While balancing both personal and professional responsibilities, many times I find myself wondering, “Where has this day gone?”

I wish I had more hours in the day

I can tell you from personal experience that teachers are always trying to find new and innovative ways to maximize the instructional minutes during the school day. Excellent schools, like The Langley School, look for ways to balance the academic program (math, language arts, social studies, science, and specials) with our students’ well-being (structured and unstructured times for student interactions such as lunch, breaks, and recess). Though school schedules might look simple, they are really complex road maps that truly impact teachers’ decisions about their instruction. The length of the class period, the time of the class during the day (morning or afternoon), and the sequence of classes (does it come before or after lunch or recess?) during the day are just some of the considerations that teachers think about when planning lessons.

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What’s It Like to Be “Top Dog” in Middle School?

by Phil Petru, Assistant Head of School

A recent study published in the American Educational Research Journal confirms what many of our Langley families already know. Our intentional preschool to grade 8 educational model provides a safer and more conducive environment for student learning. The study, recently highlighted by NPR, concludes that traditional middle school models with grade spans of 6-8 and 6-12 had more incidents of bullying or threats against other students. In these traditional school models, middle school students were considered “bottom dogs” and reported feeling less safe with more incidents of bullying and less sense of community in comparison to middle schoolers who attended schools with a K-8 model. Click here to read the short article from NPR.

At The Langley School, our Middle School students have numerous opportunities to feel like “top dogs” and exhibit authentic leadership on campus. Langley’s preschool to grade 8 model intentionally creates such an environment, while the faculty and administration design learning activities that foster leadership and a strong sense of community.

Hear what it’s like to be a “top dog” from Langley’s Middle School parents and students:

Langley Launches New Research-Based Teacher Feedback Model

By Phil Petru, Assistant Head of School, The Langley School

The Langley School teachers have long been recognized as one of the best and most respected faculties in the Northern Virginia region. Research suggests that the single most important factor in student achievement is the quality of a student’s teacher. Thus, the recruiting and hiring process is taken very seriously when any opening occurs at Langley.

But just as important as hiring is the school’s commitment to develop teachers’ instructional and curricular knowledge and abilities. Langley invests heavily in the continuing professional development of our teachers as faculty attend national and regional conferences about the best practices surrounding their respective fields. While professional development is an important cornerstone of maintaining and growing a strong faculty, so is the evaluation model that a school uses to provide meaningful feedback about teaching and learning.

Starting this school year, The Langley School faculty are engaging in a new teacher evaluation system designed to provide more timely and meaningful feedback to teachers about their instructional practices in the classroom. After spending the last school year examining the previous system and exploring other models for teacher evaluation, the Langley Academic Leadership Team (ALT) instituted a new system, the Marshall Observation Method, which is based on the work and research of Kim Marshall. Mr. Marshall, a lifelong educator who resides in the Boston area, is nationally renowned for his work in teacher evaluation and feedback. Langley’s ALT worked with about 25 faculty members during the 2015-2016 school year who volunteered to pilot two potential models of evaluation and feedback before the final decision was made to implement the Marshall Method.

Under the new Marshall evaluation system, members of Langley’s ALT visit each faculty member at least eight times throughout the school year for short, focused observations. Following each classroom visit, the teacher and ALT member reflect on the areas of strength and growth of the lesson. The ALT member writes a summary of the post-observation conference, along with any recommendations, and sends it to the teacher for his/her review. Each teacher also meets with his or her supervising ALT member in January and May for a mid- and final-year conference to discuss professional growth. Research shows that more meaningful and frequent feedback about instruction results in more observable growth of teachers.

The Langley School

Feedback from Langley’s faculty is very positive. Ryan McKinney, Lower and Middle School science teacher and Science Department head, remarked, “As teachers, we know that teachable moments lead to authentic learning experiences that help students grow. Implementing the Marshall Method at Langley provides more of an opportunity for teachers and administrators to experience and reflect on events that happen between students and teachers in the classroom. These ‘teachable moments’ are used to help start the collaborative process of developing strategies that improve teacher performance. In the end, it is a win for the administrator, teacher, and most importantly, the students.”

Devon Davidson, grade 5 teacher, was also impressed with the new process for teacher evaluation as she stated, “I think the Marshall observations allow for more holistic and realistic observations. The regularity of having someone come into my room, and not just once a year at the end of the year, gave the observer and me the chance to examine my teaching and the students in a realistic manner. The observers see authentic moments in our room which help develop relevant and applicable feedback. I appreciate that the post-observation meetings are short, and are more of a conversation rather than an assessment of my performance. One of the things I find most helpful in our post-observation conversations are the immediately applicable suggestions. Throughout the year, we get into our routines and sometimes forget about ideas or strategies that could be effective for our students. The post-observation conversations I have had always spark an idea to refresh what I do in the classroom.”

We are very proud of the impact that this model is having on our already vibrant teacher culture and community, and most importantly, our students’ learning. We hope you’ll reach out to learn more about our program.

 

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A Peek into Inquiry-Based Learning at Langley

by Phil Petru, Director of Teaching & Learning

During a recent professional development day, our faculty and staff spent the day focused on inquiry-based learning featuring nationally renowned inquiry-based learning expert Diana Laufenberg, whose Ted Talk page has had more than 1.5 million views.

Screenshot 2016-04-12 21.20.18The day began with an opening talk from Diana, which focused on some of the key principles of inquiry-based learning. In particular, the opening session addressed the big ideas of process, student voice and choice, and answering questions with questions. Following Diana’s opening remarks, faculty divided into three groups and attended additional sessions, which provided them with strategies to apply inquiry-based concepts. The sessions were as follows:

LEARNING VISUALLY: Visuals work in the classroom because they grab students and allow an entry point to learning – and because they sum up pages and pages of information that would take a reader hours to process. Interactive infographics make kids want to immediately start clicking around to see what’s what. For a teacher who seeks to create an inquiry-driven classroom, that’s a great starting point. Diana provided a wealth of examples and practical applications for the use of visuals and infographics in the classroom.

INQUIRY – ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Student participation in their education starts with instilling a sense of wonder and curiosity for their own learning which does not come easily. Privileging the student voice in the process of their own learning is critical. In this session, faculty discussed the power of this approach with students of all ages.

EVIDENCING LEARNING (STUDENT VOICE AND CHOICE): Checking for understanding, formative, summative, evaluating, grading…all are tools in the assessment toolbox. The commonality
is affording students a variety of ways to demonstrate or evidence their learning and receive meaningful feedback. Incorporating student voice and choice in the process is critical. Faculty delved into a discussion of assessment from the stand- point of the student, asking the question, “How will I increase the voice and choice of students to evidence their learning?”

The day concluded with division meetings, where the faculty had an opportunity to reflect and discuss their learning for the day. Conversations about inquiry-based learning will continue during grade-level, department, and division meetings for the remainder of the year.

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