Reflection: Online Resources Pop Up Debates: Chasing the Dream or Fleeing an Inescapable Past? - Section 3: Application


In an era of education that stresses teacher accountability and evaluation, it can be understandably scary to try new things in your classrooms.  However, it is my firm contention that without innovation, we cannot serve our students' changing needs.  So how do you innovate and try new things without jeopardizing your evaluations?  Here is my process for justifying reasonable experimentation in my classroom:

  1. Consider and list problems or issues that actively plague your classroom.  Are students failing to actively read assignments when they are assigned for homework?  Do you feel like you're doing more work analyzing the content than your students are?  Are only a handful of students participating in discussions?  Are you struggling to individualize and differentiate grammar instruction?  Whatever you identify as an issue or an area for improvement can be your "target" for your practice change.  
  2. Choose the "target" that would make the most impact on your classroom if you found an immediate solution for it.  I only ever implement one change at a time so that I can actively monitor the effect of the change on my classroom environment.  If you start messing around with multiple variables, you won't be able to accurately analyze the effect of your changes.
  3. Research solutions for your problem using a variety of channels.  I'm partial to using professional organization websites like the NCTE, collaborative websites like Better Lesson or the Teaching Channel, or educational expert webpages like those from Marzano to aid me in my search for information.  Even Google searches about your issue with the word "solutions" can be effective at finding information!  I also use my school Twitter account (@MrsCareyRHS) to follow all kinds of educators and organizations so that I can continuously gather information on problems that I may currently be encountering or may encounter later.  Using hashtags like #edtech can also help me pose questions to large groups on Twitter or search for solutions.
  4. Choose a research-based solution to your problem and document why you're electing to implement this change.  Your teaching evaluation framework actually looks highly upon teachers who track data, identify issues, research solutions, implement them, and reflect on the changes.  Don't forget to document this activity so that you can show your administrator (or parents, students, peers, etc.) why and what you're doing.
  5. Let your students know when you implement a solution that you're trying out something new to fix an issue and that you'll want to know their feedback on the process after implementation.  Students are much more likely to partner with you and legitimately try out new things if they know that you're doing it FOR them and that they get to have some say in the process.  Like anyone else, students like to be "in the loop" with what's guiding their lives.  Explaining up front that you're trying something new that's been researched and effective in other classrooms also results in more slack from students if not everything goes as planned.  Modeling this process helps them to see that we're learners at any age!
  6. After you've tried out a strategy for a while (a day, two, or a week if it seems to be going well), collect feedback from students.  Actually take into account what they say!  If you don't listen to them during this process, it will forever damage your ability to successfully try out new things in your classroom.  And don't feel compelled to try something that's obviously not working for more than a day.  I've scrapped an activity that turned out badly after just one class period, and we all laughed about how terrible it was.  My students were right there with me critically evaluating the process, however, and they helped me to keep searching out a better solution that would work in our classroom.
  7. Measure the impact of the change and reflect on the success and room for improvement.  Again, I actually write out reflections for two reasons: 1) I put a copy in my teaching portfolio to show my administrator that I'm trying new things and taking the time to reflect an adjust my practice, and 2) I'd never remember everything that I've tried in my classroom if I didn't have a written record of it.  I store the "things that tanked" and can warn other teachers of my own experience when I hear it come up.  I keep implementing whatever works, because hey!  It works!
  8. When you've tackled one issue, move down your list to another and repeat the process!


Letting yourself try new things in your classroom is invigorating and makes teaching more exciting and effective.  As a bonus, it also helps your teaching evaluations if you implement and track them in the right way!  Furthermore, being known as the teacher who is actively trying things out is a great reputation to have.  Other teachers in the building will look to you as a resource, and even your students will be freer to experiment and add to their own learning.  

  Improving Instruction with Calculated Risks
  Online Resources: Improving Instruction with Calculated Risks
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Pop Up Debates: Chasing the Dream or Fleeing an Inescapable Past?

Unit 9: Is Gatsby Really so "Great"?
Lesson 9 of 12

Objective: SWBAT apply speaking skills within a debate using PVLEGS to improve speaking quality and textual evidence to support their arguments about major themes in The Great Gatsby.

Big Idea: Objects in mirrors may be closer than they appear, but could someone tell Gatsby that they're still BEHIND him?

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