Cecilia Chung is a third grade teacher at Ka`imiloa Elementary School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii and has been teaching for three years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern California and her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the Johns Hopkins University. She began her Visible Learning journey in 2014 and continues to cultivate Visible Learners in her classroom.
Ka’imiloa Elementary School is a K-6 school on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. With NCLB, teacher morale at Ka’imiloa had plummeted and staff was suffering from initiative fatigue. The school embarked on their Visible Learning journey in 2014 to breathe life into the classroom and to bring passion back to the craft of teaching. Over the next three days, Ka’imiloa teachers will share their experiences implementing Visible Learningplus into the classroom, and the impact it has made. Today we’re sharing insights from Cecilia “CC” Chung.
Q: How were the Visible Learning workshops different than other professional development (PD) workshops?
A: I think the main difference between Visible Learning and other PD was that, as our understanding increased with each session, the energy started building in our staff. I began to see that Visible Learning was something that could help connect all of our other PD sessions.
At first it felt like Visible Learning was another thing on our plates, so I was really hesitant about it. I wanted to make sure that this was something that would help our students. As we started to implement Visible Learning, do our impact cycles, and really look into the effect sizes, I started to see changes in my own classroom. Seeing it for myself helped me understand that Visible Learning is the umbrella that connects all of the things we do as teachers.
Q: How has building trust with other teachers been critical to your success?
A: I know that one of the best ways to grow in your practice is to share. I’ve always known that, but I’ve never really applied it to my daily work as a teacher until Visible Learning. It takes a lot of trust to be vulnerable and to say “I’m not very good at this, but I want to get better.” Our administration helped build a culture where we trust each other and that has given us a venue to talk about the things we want to work on. If we didn’t trust each other, I probably wouldn’t share anything. I learned that it is important to put yourself out there and to challenge yourself.
Q: You mention that your administration was important for creating trust and collaboration. What are some other ways that having leadership onboard helped drive change at K’aimiloa?
A: When we kicked off the beginning of this year, I remember the slide on the screen when we had our breakfast. It said “Welcome to Ka’imiloa, the happiest place on earth”. This theme really set us up for the year, as Ka’imiloa is a special place to work and it’s a place you should feel lucky to be at. Just like when you go to Disneyland, you’re feeling lucky to be there. That kind of language at the beginning of the year really helped to build excitement and morale among our staff. It’s nice to be at a school where you feel respected and you feel like people are there to help you for good, authentic reasons.
Q: How did you make learning visible in your classroom?
A: One of the first things I did was focus on teacher clarity. It is beneficial for teachers and students to both know where we are going, how we are going, and where we are going next. One of the things I do in my classroom is co-construct the learning target and success criteria for a lesson. In the past, we have taken the learning target from a standard and told the kids, “This is what you’re learning today,” but I realized they had no connection to it at that point. “Teachers see learning through the eyes of their students and students see themselves as their own teachers.” I remember hearing this quote and something in me was like, “Yes! Why aren’t we doing that more?” This realization is really what drove me to begin co-constructing learning targets and success criteria. Students are their own teachers, and teachers need to see learning through the eyes of their students.
Another thing we implemented in our classroom was self-assessment and feedback. I was a little intimidated by those words at first because I thought, “third-graders self-assessing and giving feedback?” But it’s pretty amazing what they can do! It took a lot of work, but now I hear it in their conversations. It’s actually helped me as a teacher because I better understand the importance of encouraging my students, giving them feedback, and self-assessing my own teaching.
Student voice is one thing is that is really important in my class. The vision for my classroom is that all voices are heard and when you strengthen your voice, you’re able to make a difference in the world. Student voice is linked to Visible Learning because students know they are a part of the learning process, their voice matters, and there is a purpose for coming to school.
Q: How have you measured impact on student learning?
A: At this point, I see more qualitative data of my students’ improvement from the beginning of the year to the end. You can tell their learning has improved in the way that they talk and in their confidence. I share the data with my kids all the time. These kids are thinking in a different way than kids who just sit and listen. It’s all about getting them to feel passionate about being there.
Q: What do you have planned next to further your Visible Learning journey?
A: I’m still struggling in a lot of areas, so it’s been nice to have the Visible Learning Impact Cycles. In our current Impact Cycle, we are focusing on being inspired and passionate teachers. One thing that we are working on is ensuring all students feel valued and respected. In my Impact Cycle, I’m using surveys to understand how my students feel and how to make them feel valued. I really want my students to find their individual passion and motivation, not just in school, but in life. Each student has to figure out what is motivating them in life and why they are coming to school. In the beginning of the year, I asked them why they come to school and I would always hear “my mom forces me” or “my dad makes me”. Now, they are saying, “because I want to learn about this” or “I’m working on this important project,” which is great! I’m really excited to see my third graders become fourth graders and then fifth graders and so on. I’m excited to see them grow.
Q: What advice would you give other teachers for their Visible Learning journey?
A: If it feels like a risk, or you know it’s the right thing, you should open up to the idea of being vulnerable. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and make sure you remember why you started teaching in the first place. Since I’ve adopted a Visible Learning mindset, I’m more open to accepting feedback about my teaching, and I’m more open to giving feedback to others. Collaboration is super important among teachers, not only because it has an effect size of 1.57, but because you will gradually feel its impact.