Tag: social emotional learning

What Do We Do Once We Know Where Students Are?

June 17, 2017 by

This is the fourteenth blog in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from Meeting Students Where They Are. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and what might be missing.

The only way to truly meet students where they are is for competency-based models to adopt a personalized approach to learning: an approach that accounts for students’ differing zones of proximal development with regards to specific cognitive skills, as well as within the physical, emotional, metacognitive, and other domains. In this section, we offer a prototypical framework designed to help practitioners operationalize a personalized approach in the academic realm.

At first glance, the notion of “meeting students where they are” might seem daunting, as it demands we attend to the unique, ever-evolving needs of each learner, every day. What about the eight year old student who struggles to decode? The new immigrant who didn’t learn to read in her native language? The teenager without an understanding of proportional thinking? What about the student in the same cohort who is ready for more “advanced” tasks or materials? Beyond the complex challenges related to academic skills and knowledge, we cannot ignore the significant range of learner difference in executive function and self-regulation skills,1 such as the ability to sustain focus on a task, rein in impulsive behavior, prioritize activities, or recognize when it’s time to ask for help or course-correct.

For many reasons the field is in the nascent stages of defining, in a concrete and comprehensive way, the distinguishing pedagogical practices of a personalized, approach.

In mature competency-based learning spaces, learners are active co-constructors of knowledge, rather than passive consumers of content. Learning is visibly and authentically connected to meaningful and important outcomes. Inquiry drives the learning process, as it does in the world beyond school. And finally, learning environments and experiences are purposefully designed to nurture the meta-cognitive, behavioral, and motivational attributes of engaged, autonomous, and adaptive learners.2 In short, the architecture of competency-based structures places student agency as the capstone, and every element of the design exists to support it. In this way, a personalized approach is a differentiated or individualized approach, BUT, its deep commitment to student agency is the significant distinguisher: while differentiation and individualization are also approaches to meet student needs, these needs and the strategies to address them are identified by the teacher. A personalized approach places the students in the driver seat.3

Feature 1. Learner-Centered Classrooms Support Multiple Modalities

Learner-centered classrooms start by re-designing learning configurations (spaces, learner modes) and implementing high-impact instructional practices that nurture student learning, engagement, and metacognition. (more…)

How Do We Know Where Students Are?

June 16, 2017 by

This is the thirteenth blog in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from Meeting Students Where They Are. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and what might be missing.

In the traditional system, grade-level curriculum is delivered to students based on their age, whereas competency-based systems assume that schools should be organized to meet students where they are in terms of academic, cognitive, and lifelong learning skills (growth mindset, habits of work and learning, metacognition, and social and emotional skills). In this blog, we address how to know where students are, what do we do once we know, and what strategies can help us navigate system constraints.

How Do We Know Where Students Are?

We cannot begin to answer the question, “How do we know where students are?” without first addressing the inherent assumptions that we bring to this very important question. Where students are. In relation to what, exactly? With younger students, we tend to look at gross and fine motor skill development, social-emotional development, and literacy and numeracy development. As students move into late childhood – eight or nine years of age – most systems begin the transition to content exploration, while continuing to support skill development. By the time students are ‘tweens and teens, the system’s priority is content coverage.

Key Assumptions:

    1. Student achievement has historically been defined in terms of student acquisition of broad content knowledge along a time-bound sequence that begins when children are eight or nine. The assumption that content knowledge is an appropriate measure of learning – after core literacy and numeracy is taught in the early grades – or that it is sufficient to prepare learners for the 21st century workforce is problematic for a number of reasons.
    2. A second key assumption is that our age-based approaches are fair and valid. It is promising to see standards emerge – such as Common Core Learning Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the C3 Framework for Social Studies – that prioritize the development of essential disciplinary and transdisciplinary skills and practices. The research basis of the standards provide critical clarity and transparency around the skills required for college readiness. The trick to meeting students where they are is to create learning science-informed pathways that support students in achieving the outcomes associated with the standards. Rather than coupling the standards with specific ages or grades, they would be coupled with learning progressions that provide guidance to students within their zone of proximal development, regardless of their age.
    3. The third key assumption is that teachers (and systems) are the “owners” of learning progressions, and solely responsible for using student performance data to make decisions about a student’s needs or next steps. In other words, it is teachers and administrators who must know where students are and make unilateral decisions about how to move students along. This notion is being challenged by practitioners in exciting ways, such that students are able to see and understand where they are in their own learning pathway, be involved in the planning of their pathway, and take ownership of daily and weekly decisions about their goals and priorities.

In critically examining these key assumptions of the old-paradigm accountability system, new opportunities emerge for designing truly learner-centered systems that identify where students are on their developmental path. In the section that follows, we describe a range of structural, pedagogical, and relational shifts that are essential to identifying where students are in a learner-centered, equity-oriented model. (more…)

National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education Recommended Reading

May 24, 2017 by

We are now in high gear to get ready for the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. I continue to be both amazed and grateful for the collaborative spirit of the competency education field. I wanted to share with you the incredible list of resources that the Summit participants have suggested as the best reading and resources in the field right now. A bunch of them are new to me – so I better get reading!

Online Resources for Competency Education

Introducing Personalized, Competency Education

Case Studies

Accountability

(more…)

Transparency and Trust

March 14, 2017 by

Transparency1

This article is the tenth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Opportunity to Learn

Like most districts, transparency hasn’t been a strong point at D51 in the past. Thus, with transparency being a core value of performance-based education, there are trust issues that will have to be worked through. D51 knows it is important to provide teachers with the chance to understand and learn how to use the T&L Framework and effective practices. Any tools being developed are being designed to support growth – not evaluation. Rebecca Midles, Director of Performance-Based Learning (P-BL), noted that, “We are moving step by step and need to constantly communicate about our timelines and sequencing. Understandably, educators are wondering how the performance-based system will impact them. We are trying to be very clear about whether something is going to be evaluative or not. Eventually the T&L Framework will help us create the foundation for strengthening our human resource processes. But only when we are ready and only after teachers have had the opportunity to learn.” Opportunity to learn standards: an important piece of competency-based education for students and adults.

Preparing for Angst

Bil Pfaffendorf, a professional learning facilitator, mentioned the double edges of transparency. “The sense of trust is changing in D51,” he said. “There is more dialogue, people are sharing their opinions, and they are starting to feel confident that those at the district level are listening. We are all trying to be transparent, which is difficult in the midst of so much change. Transparency is important in building trust. It can also lead to anxiety. If teachers understand the expectations but don’t have the skills yet to do it, anxiety and angst are totally understandable feelings. So we are thinking about the the social and emotional learning of our teachers as we design the labs.”

Angst and anxiety came up several times during my visit. In a discussion, one teacher emphasized, “The level of professional engagement of our teachers is very high. Some are anxious because they recognize they have a lot to learn. Some may even be in cognitive overload as they wrap their heads around what it means to personalize their classrooms. Their can-do attitude is a beacon. It’s inspirational.”

Midles explained to me later that when educators start to feel anxious, it is often for one of two reasons. First, they may feel the expectations of their job are changing or they may not have the skills to excel. Thus, the trust-building response needs to be an assurance that there will be supports provided and that adults will not be evaluated until expectations are clear and they have had an opportunity to learn. Please note, this is the same principle used for students.

Second, anxiety and angst may build up when teachers feel out of control or that new expectations of compliance and control are being layered on top of their jobs. Midles referred to the Csikszentmihalyi model of flow in thinking about the mix of challenge and ability to strengthen educators’ and students’ relationships to learning. A middle school teacher, Darren Cook, explained to me that teachers have endured at least a decade of sweeping new reforms only to be replaced by the newest sweeping reform. With the introduction of the state-teacher evaluation policies that are not rooted in the culture or strategies of the district or their schools, teachers have become even more suspicious of changes. The trust-building response here is to make sure that teachers understand that as the district creates a more intentional common Teaching and Learning Framework, teachers will actually have more autonomy and opportunity for creativity in the strategies and learning experiences they use to help students learn. The other response is to offer opportunity to learn about performance-based learning not through memo or lecture, but through engaged reflective learning as well as opportunity to participate in creating the new system. (more…)

New Emerson: Learning the Effective Practices of the Learner-Centered Classroom

March 9, 2017 by

New Emerson 1This article is the ninth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Can performance-based learning help an award-winning school get even better?

New Emerson Elementary, a lottery-based magnet school in District 51 in Colorado, was developed in the early 1990s. The original design of a very strong focus on literacy has now expanded to include science as well with a partnership with John McConnell Math and Science Center.

In 2015, the teachers voted to become one of the seven demonstration schools to begin the process of transformation to a personalized, performance-based system. The reason: To have learners take responsibility for their learning and to move away from the time-bound aspect of all learners learning at the same rate and the same time. The school has engaged parents and students in shaping a shared vision to guide their school: Together, through the building of positive relationships, our community strives to create self-directed, interdependent, empathic, and creative thinkers with growth mindset. (more…)

Laying the Foundation with Culture and Climate

February 21, 2017 by

This article is the sixth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Steve Schultz and Rebecca Midles from Getting Smart

The first of District 51’s five phases of implementation is Laying the Foundation. The foundation they are speaking of is the culture and climate in which personalized, performance-based learning can take root. They describe this as “a culture where each student has ownership of his/her academic, social and emotional learning resulting in readiness for success in life.” This description helps you understand their vision for a personalized, performance-based system – the policies, procedures, school design, schedules, learning experiences, supports, and instructional cycle – that is going to help students build the skills they need to become lifelong learners.

D51 has focused most of their attention on creating a robust, empowered culture of learning with the growth mindset, social and emotional learning, and Habits of Mind at its very core. It’s important to remember that the features of their system and their process are also shaping the creation of the culture and climate. (See The Vision of Performance-Based Education at D51.)

There are three things that stood out for me about their efforts that are different than I’ve seen in other districts:

  • Integration of the sixteen Habits of Mind into a Social & Emotional Learning Framework that is organized into developmental bands that will stretch from K-12.
  • Focus on growth mindset that emphasizes helping students learn how to be aware of self-talk and how to create productive self-talk.
  • Growth mindset is also influencing the efforts of designing the elements of the performance-based learning system and personalized support for teachers.

A Culture Rooted in the Growth Mindset

D51 talks about the growth mindset constantly – in professional learning sessions with teachers just becoming familiar with performance-based learning, in meetings with principals to build a culture of reflection as they stretch themselves to strengthen their understanding of their tasks as leaders, and in presentations in the community. It starts at the top – superintendent Steve Schultz models the growth mindset through reflecting on his own learning and a constant fail forward orientation.

Building the Culture and Climate to Support Growth Mindset

D51 has identified five strategies to help people, both students and adults alike, to learn to have a growth mindset. Posters are found all over the district highlighting the five steps: Brain, Mindsets, Self-Talk, Feedback, Goal. I’ve expanded on the third strategy, productive self-talk, as it is the first time I’ve heard a district focus this specifically on it. Click here for the Growth Mindset Learning Continuum.

Growth Mindset

1.Teach About the Brain: Students need to learn about the brain and how it works. Two important points that directly relate to the growth mindset: 1) their intelligence is not fixed and it can change, and 2) their intelligence can get stronger or weaker depending on effort that actually rewires the brain. I heard a facilitator in a professional development session call out with what sounded like true joy, “LET’S REWIRE!” (more…)

How to Participate in the Meeting Students Where They Are Technical Advisory Group

February 10, 2017 by

Meeting Kids TAGCompetencyWorks will be holding a National Summit on Competency-Based Education in June to convene 100 leaders representing a range of perspectives, geography, expertise, and racial/ethnic diversity. Yet, there are thousands of leaders and educators across the country who have expertise in competency education who could make valuable contributions to these conversations. Thus, we have designed Technical Advisory Groups that will create a participatory process leading up to the Summit to draw on your knowledge and ideas.

The third Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is coming up soon: We will be focusing on Meeting Students Where They Are between February 27 and March 3, 2017. The Meeting Students Where They Are TAG is an opportunity to think about how students learn academic skills and content as well as how it varies by age, stages of development, and across domains. We know that any academic learning is also dependent on students developing a growth mindset, student agency, and social-emotional learning. We are delighted to announce that this Technical Advisory Group will be facilitated by Antonia Rudenstine, Dixie Bacallao, and Sydney Schaef from reDesign, an organization specifically committed to developing strategies, practices, and designs that help practitioners meet the needs of our most vulnerable students.

Our focusing question: (more…)

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