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Education Trends, Uncategorized   |   Mar 30, 2012

Big take-aways from the ASCD conference

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Big take-aways from the ASCD conference

By Angela Watson


I’ve been back from the conference since Monday night and was finally able to pull together some ASCD resources for you and really reflect on what I learned. In case you missed it, here are my reflections and session summaries from day one and from the second and third days of the conference.

Reflections and session summaries from other participants

Below are links to conference recaps from other official ASCD press. The list is actually a little longer than what you see below, but I’m only including online publications that have already blogged at least once about the conference.  I tried to link directly to the conference post tag (or barring that, a site search for ASCD) when possible–that makes the landing page for some sites not so attractive, but hopefully it will be easier for you to get directly to the content you want. If I’ve missed anyone, my apologies! Please let me know in the comments so I can include your link.

Great session resources from the conference I saw shared on Twitter

There were some session notes and resources that got retweeted a bunch of times during the conference. I didn’t attend most of the sessions below, but thanks to Twitter, I was able to benefit from them. I hope you will, too:

Conference handouts, slides, and other free resources

A few of the presenters have wikis (these are simple websites in which users can add and modify content, just like on the aptly-named site Wikipedia.)  Here are two sessions which had particularly useful wikis:

Many presenters also made their handouts and slides available on the ASCD website. EDITED TO ADD: These are available for those who have registered for the conference. To access them, go to ASCD Edge and create a free account (it takes less than a minute.) You’ll then be able to see every conference resource that’s available for free download. I spent about an hour and half tonight going through all of them! Here are a few I particularly liked (the links go to resources on the presenter’s websites, for those who did not attend the ASCD conference and can’t login to download the session handouts):

My big take-ways from the conference

We as educators need more time to think and reflect.

There was so much talk about rigor, thinking deeply about problems and solutions, and allowing for failure, but all of these things take time to do. I was glad to see sessions on instructional coaching, peer mentoring, and teacher-driven professional development (like edcamps) because those are the types of supports we need in order to move our educational system forward. So many districts are analyzing their curriculums right now due to the common core state standards…there’s no better time to rethink what we’re currently doing and how to improve it. I hope to continue seeing teachers and school leaders not just shoving the new standards into the existing (broken) way of doing school, but thinking deeply about what’s best for kids and what they need to be successful in the 21st century.

Our students need time to think and reflect, too.

Nearly every session touched upon the need for our schools to foster creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. These skills aren’t reinforced by our current status quo of drill and kill, compliance-centered school culture. Empowering kids to tap into their passions and interests and apply their skills to authentic real-world problems takes time, more time than we’re used to devoting to these processes. But we’ve got the internet to teach students facts and help them practice rote skills. Our limited and precious time with students is better spent on the human connection. Our role is ultimately to inspire, guide, and connect.

Overcoming the attitude gap is essential.

We all know we need to close the achievement gap. But I was pleased to hear a lot of talk at ASCD12 about closing the attitude gap. That is, we’re finally taking teachers’ perceptions and attitudes seriously in education. For students to succeed, we have to believe they can. We have to have a resilient, positive mindset that believes the difficult is possible, and shows students how to perceive challenges that way, too. When we approach students with the mindset that they WILL succeed, they pick up on our cues. Getting students to “buy into” their learning and see the purpose behind the tasks at hand is critical: the more ownership students have in the classroom, the more likely they are to stay engaged with it and retain it. This requires a shift in our mentality as teachers: we have to be willing to let go of some control and give the kids more opportunities to direct their learning. And of course, that brings us right back to the need for more time for reflection, because we need time to think and plan these tasks/approaches, and students need time to explore them.

Failure is critical for eventual success.

Problem-solving when things don’t work out and overcoming setbacks is an essential part of the learning process. You can’t grow without making mistakes. We’ve got to give kids the opportunity to take risks and make mistakes in a safe learning environment. We also have to give ourselves permission to learn from our experiences and improve over time. There will never be a point when either we or our students have achieved the ideal, but we can always keep learning, sharing, and growing.

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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    1. Hi, Cindy! I’m sorry about the confusion! However, some of the presenters have the resources on their own websites. I updated the post this morning with some resources that you can access from the presenters’ websites. The wikis are are a great resource, too, and several of the session notes I linked to have the presenters’ slides in them. 🙂

  1. Angela,

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for being our eyes and ears and reporting so effectively! So many of us who want to attend high-quality events such as these are simply not able because our system’s don’t provide the funds, and we all know that teachers don’t make the salary to afford these types of large-scale events with high registration costs and expensive travel fees. So thank you for helping to keep us from missing out! I feel like you do a FANTASTIC job of sifting out the most relevant information to pass along.

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for ALL you do to encourage, inspire, challenge, redirect, and teach us!!!

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