Small Shifts Can Impact Learning in Big Ways

Shift This! How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom
By Joy Kirr
(Dave Burgess Consulting, 2017 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

We have moved from the industrial revolution to the digital age, but the massive ship that is education is not able to change direction very quickly, and as such has been slower to adapt.

In her new book, Shift This!, Joy Kirr acknowledges this overwhelming task and shows us, with a journey through her own personal teaching career, how individual teachers can transform their teaching one shift at a time.

In her conversational writing style, Kirr reveals how she made small changes in her thinking – and then in her classroom – that led to massive impact for her students. In this book, she provides us with step-by-step information that we can use to make similar shifts and “massively” impact our own students.

Keys to impacting students’ lives

Beginning with the catalyst (Chapter 1) to motivate us to start making the changes in our own classrooms and ending with resistance (Chapter 10), both our own and that from other stakeholders, Kirr brings the arguments, ideas, mindsets and possibilities for our students’ futures full circle.

In this easy-to-follow guide, she provides us with tons of resources and strategies for making our own journey of gradual shifts, and eventually to be the catalyst for the next teachers to follow. Kirr introduces many of the most compelling, innovative topics in education and shows us how to bring them to fruition in our own classrooms.

Rethinking the classroom environment

This practical guide covers the key areas of classroom environment, including giving up your desk and relinquishing some control to the students. Kirr offers fresh perspectives on classwork and homework – including not assigning any and/or not grading it (after all, isn’t it for practice?).

There are also ideas for shifting to standards-based grading, including giving only feedback on individual pieces of work, letting students decide what they want “graded” to demonstrate their mastery of the standards, and using only the most recent data instead of an average to arrive at a grade (if one must be given).

Kirr also addresses the use of social media by the class and student-directed learning, including project/problem based learning and genius hour projects.

Chapter structure

In addition to all the succinct but well-defined shifts that can be made to transform our classrooms, Kirr begins each chapter by providing a thought-provoking quote and the essential information which forms the basis for why the shifts are important and should be implemented.

Throughout the chapter, she provides questions to stimulate our thinking and planning, and resources to help us along the path of our journey, including a list of “for further reading” and a website devoted to the book, with each shift having its own page of information and resources.

Kirr then closes each chapter with a “reflection and call to action” activity to move us toward implementation.

A book for all teachers

This is a book for all teachers, full of actionable strategies, the research and reasons to implement them, and the steps and support to transform your teaching to reach every student with the maximum impact possible. A must read.

Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Middle School Special Education Lead Teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates both online and face-to-face Professional Development for her school district.

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