Registration is now open for the 2019 iNACOL Symposium! Register Now

Author: Joy Nolan

Celebrating Learning Can Be Moving and Uplifting, and We Need To Get It Right

July 15, 2019 by

Mastery Collaborative Students(This blog post began as a comment that Joy Nolan wrote on a recent CompetencyWorks post about recognizing outstanding student achievement in competency-based schools. Thanks, Joy!)

Celebrating learning can be moving and uplifting, and like all other aspects of education, we need to get it right, which may mean unlearning and improving upon ideas and practices that don’t serve our students (meaning: all our students) as well as possible. Chris’s ideas about honoring progress are cool, and so is the practice of sharing out and recognizing excellent project-based learning.

Schools are both places of learning, and issuers of credentials . . . and we need to be thoughtful about all aspects of practice.

One of the newer member schools in NYC’s Mastery Collaborative (www.masterycollaborative.org) recently realized they needed to rethink honor roll and start recognizing students whose mastery has grown most, as well as students who have reached high levels of mastery. Their thinking: Both are amazing and meaningful accomplishments, so let’s celebrate both—especially as this is a more equitable way to roll in a world (our world) that inequitably advantages and disadvantages students in many ways that can show up on transcripts.

NY Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education FrameworkIf our vision is genuine educational equity (aside: not everyone shares this vision, and some will agree in word and not in action), we need to be intentional and critically conscious to bring it about. We’re looking at you, beliefs, policies, and practices. We have much actionable, research-based and road-tested knowledge about what works to support learners and to bring about more equitable schools—yet we know we’re a long way off from this vision. Moving toward a more equitable steady state—a world we have yet to see— requires learning, unlearning, and collective action. We have our circles of practice and community, along with the principles of student-centered learning, competency-based education, and culturally responsive-sustaining education to guide us.

We know that learning is a cognitive process that is not most helpfully framed as a competition nor as a race. We know that ideally grades are neither rewards nor punishments, but instead messages about where a student is in terms of mastery of key skills and knowledge—at a point in time.

We know that mindsets for learning—growth mindset, and its less famous but powerful cousins, value mindset (“There is value for me in the effort and time I put into academic work”) and belonging mindset (“My school is for me; I am an important part of a community; it matters that I am there”)—are vital dispositions that power the multidimensional set of achievements every student must reach to graduate high school. Do we foster or discourage these mindsets by separating out a small number of students who “really” got there in some way that may have to do with technical aspects of credentialing systems, and a variety of answers to “What’s in that grade?” What aspects of learning are we valuing over others when we post honor rolls and choose valedictorians based on GPA?

(more…)

What’s College Like for Students from Mastery-Based High Schools?

April 10, 2019 by

This is the fourth post in a series about the Mastery Collaborative in New York City. This post originally appeared on the Mastery Collaborative’s website on December 19, 2018.

Photos of four graduates of the Urban Assembly Maker Academy

Four college freshmen who are alums from UA Maker’s first graduating class of 2018 shared about their experience of college so far. From left: Richard attends NYC College of Technology; Jazlyn attends City College; Milam attends Dennison College; Ash attends Allegheny College.

Is mastery learning effective at preparing students for life beyond high school?

What happens when students from a mastery-based high school go to a traditional college?

Students, parents, and educators regularly ask these questions. Four alums from the first graduating class at Urban Assembly Maker Academy gave us their take on all this. They are all currently freshman at different colleges. Jazlyn and Richard are attending school in NYC. Ash attends a school in Pennsylvania, and Milam goes to college in Ohio. Here’s what they told us in a conversation over Thanksgiving break.

Understanding college work:

Ash: “We don’t get rubrics in college, but I have mental rubrics—I break it down in my head: This is what a 1 or a 5 would look like. I’m able to break down assignments into the pieces I need to get done. Having used mastery learning at UA Maker makes it a lot easier to determine what I want out of an assignment, and what the assignment entails—because we don’t get rubrics. A minus for me about attending a traditional college is that the first thing you turn in is the final. You don’t get to redo anything.

“In a mastery school it’s easy to know: This is what I’ve mastered, this is what I’m trying to get out of this assignment, because of rubrics. In college it’s: Get it done, get a good grade. I haven’t gotten anything important out of my (college) classes so far. With mastery classes, I got something out of it that I can use in day-to-day life. The things you’re learning don’t feel useless. (In college) you’re learning because (more…)

Student-Led Conferences Drive Deeper Learning—And Are Less Time-Consuming Than You Might Guess

January 26, 2018 by

Joy Nolan

Done decently well, student-led conferences (SLCs, for those who love a good education acronym) transform the oddly brief parent-teacher conference (where’s the student in the traditional PTC? Often not even in the room where it happens) into a showcase starring the learners and their learning.

With an audience as small as one to two teachers and a parent or guardian or two, students show and describe work products from several classes, reflect on their progress, and set learning goals for the near-term future. Seems straightforward enough, but what a powerful driver of learning, student agency, metacognition—and that’s besides their ostensible main goal of communicating to families what each learner is up to, and how that learner is doing. (more…)

The Single-Point Mastery Rubric

January 19, 2018 by

Behold the single-point rubric, my favorite tool discovery of 2017. The resource below is my adaptation of a resource posted at www.cultofpedagogy.com—tweaked for competency-based/mastery-based use.

This streamlined, elegant rubric serves many useful functions. Check out its simplicity and its easy adaptability to one or more outcomes in a single tool. Use it for focused grading, coaching, self-reflection, peer feedback, student-led conferences—the list could go on. And one of its main values is how it solves for several common pitfalls of rubrics along the way. (more…)

WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera