June 3, 2014 by Courtney Belolan
One of the first things teachers and teams ask for when we begin talking about student-centered proficiency-based learning is an example of what it looks like. I tend to go here with teams and teachers after learning targets are in place; I think having something in place makes it easier to build the rest of the vision. (See Step One: Separate the Baby from the Bathwater.) To help people picture what a student’s day might look like in a competency-based system, I share this narrative with them:
Bobby walks into his team wing ready for the day to begin. It is early October and he has settled into his team and schedule. They spent the last few weeks building a team culture and working to understand where they are in their learning. At this point, Bobby feels like he knows where he belongs and is ready to jump in to his learning.
At the end of advisory, Bobby heads over to his numeracy workshop class. When he walks into the room his teachers, Ms. Brown and Ms. Green, have posted a problem on the whiteboard. He and his classmates work on it independently for a few minutes, then they are told to get into groups and share their answers and how they solved it. Ms. Brown and Ms. Green walk around and check in with each group. (more…)
February 18, 2014 by Ellen Hume-Howard and Brian Stack
The Need For Change: Brian’s Uh-huh! Moment
I was watching a cooking competition on the Food Network the other day. The contestants were asked to create the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich for a panel of judges to sample. The judges then assessed the sandwiches on a variety of characteristics including overall taste, texture, presentation, and what they called a “wow factor” that included the use of unique ingredients.
This competition really got me thinking. Brady and Cameron, my 8- and 6-year-old sons, and I make grilled cheese sandwiches all the time. Through trial and error, we have learned what works and what doesn’t. Some of our discoveries have included what kinds of cheeses melt best, how much butter to use to get a crispy crust, what kinds of breads produce the best flavors, and how hot to make our pan to get the right sandwich. We’ve made plenty of mediocre sandwiches along the way – overcooked or undercooked, not enough cheese, not enough butter, soggy, or just too dry. Still, even the mediocre sandwiches satisfied our hunger at that moment. (more…)
February 19, 2013 by Brian Stack
At least twice a week I have the opportunity to do a formal observation of the karate instructors that help my wife Erica and my two oldest boys, Brady (7) and Cameron (5), as they work towards their black belts. There are so many parallels between how their karate classes are structured and how we as administrators would like to see our teachers structure their twenty-first century competency-based classrooms. I think we can learn a lot from the karate studio environment. Here are some tips I have gleaned from countless karate classroom observations that I have completed:
1. Embed the School’s Core Values and Beliefs Into the Classroom
As administrators we spend a lot of time working with our schools to develop documents that identify our school’s core beliefs and values and student expectations for learning. These documents are usually printed with catchy phrases or mnemonic devices on eye-catching posters and banners to help our staff and students remember them, but how often do our teachers refer to them in their classroom? At the karate studio, each class starts with everyone (students and parents alike) standing up to face the American flag and reciting the karate school’s core values and beliefs in unison. Throughout class, the instructors regularly refer back to these values as needed during instruction. There is no question that every stakeholder at the karate studio knows exactly what the school stands for and believes in. As a school administrator I am not suggesting that we make our own students recite our school’s core values statement each day, but I do think we need to find better enduring ways to embed these values into the daily fabric of our students’ lives. (more…)