Tag: curriculum and instruction

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Planning to Hold onto the Learning

June 8, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on June 5, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

It is easy, almost natural, to see these last few weeks of the year as an end, something that needs to be tied up neatly. In some ways it is. But what would happen if we stopped thinking of the last weeks as the end, and started thinking of it as something else? Instead of closing the books and cleaning out the lockers, what if we found a way to keep the books open, so to speak? I’m not talking about summer work, I’m thinking a little differently here. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Yes They Can

May 18, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on April 30, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

Do you remember hearing, perhaps back in your teacher prep program, about the study where a teacher was given a group of Special Ed students but was told that they were Gifted and Talented students, and then the learners performed at the same level as the Gifted and Talented learners would? Well, it is a thing. And it is real. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Three Ways to Bring More Learner Voice into Learning Opportunities

March 30, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on March 19, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

Including learner voice and choice is a central principle in learner-centered proficiency-based practices, and here in RSU2. For the most part, learners have ample opportunities for choice in our classrooms and schools. Learners are choosing seminars. Learners are choosing topics. Learners are choosing final products. Learners are choosing input resources, and even practice activities in some cases. Including learner voice, on the other hand, is more complicated and happens in an authentic way less often. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: The Big Picture of Applied Learning

February 23, 2018 by

This post originally appeared on the RSU2 Professional Learning Blog on February 5, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

As more of us begin to work with the elements and tenets of Applied Learning here in RSU2 the concept of applied learning as more than an it is solidifying. There are many different ways an applied learning experience can look. The look and feel of any experience depends on the extent to which the elements and tenets are owned by the learners. Sometimes the driving questions are presented to learners by the teachers, other times the learners write their own and every learner works with a different one. Sometimes all the learners interact with all of the same input resources, and other times learners are given menus and options for which input resources to use. Sometimes all the learners produce a similar product with varying content, sometimes learners are tasked with deciding on their own final product. Sometimes an applied learning opportunity happens in one content area or class, in others a few content areas are in the mix. In any case, all applied learning opportunities provide the context for working towards learning targets, and all applied learning opportunities tend to follow a similar pattern of implementation. (more…)

Progressions? Trajectories? Continuum? Oh My!

February 20, 2018 by

Does anyone else get mixed up by the use of the phrases learning progressions, personalized pathways, learning objectives, trajectories, and learning continuum? I do.

They are all terms that try to convey in one way or another that learning is a continuous process that builds on prior knowledge, skills, and experiences. And they are used in all different ways throughout our field. As best I can tell, there are three concepts at play:

  1. The expectations for learning. (What do we want students to learn, and how are these organized over levels?)
  2. The research on how students move from one concept to another that can inform instruction.
  3. The actual way any one student learns and progresses, which is of course very important when trying to meet students where they are.

(more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Dodging the Digital Poster

February 2, 2018 by

This week’s tip comes from Seth Mitchell, a technology integration coach in the Monmouth schools in RSU 2. This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on January 16, 2018.

Because I completed much of my K-12 student career before school computers were used for much besides word processors, my digital options for sharing learning were quite limited. When I had the opportunity to select my own project product, I often found myself relying on the old school standby: the poster.

As a reasonably successful student, I could complete a poster project without too much effort, and I knew I could get an A+ by relying on presentation: using pictures, penciling everything neatly before outlining in marker, aligning everything with a ruler, and so on. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the content of the posters I made, largely because I don’t think that was my focus. I do recall the process of closely paraphrasing from encyclopedias and library books to grab the necessary facts I was supposed to include, but that required more of my thesaurus than my brain. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Four Tips for Crafting Driving Questions

December 8, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on October 21, 2017. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

A high quality driving question provides motivation for learning. Often when we first start working with driving questions, or essential question, to frame learning the questions we come up with can feel a little, well, off. Just like with any skill, crafting good driving questions takes practice. The four tips below can help you make some gains. For each tip there is an example of a driving question using the following learning target:

Understands the structures and functions of the major body systems

1. Focus on the enduring understanding of the learning target. Many standards, competencies, and targets come with a lot of foundational skills and understandings attached. When we only think about all the pieces, we miss the big picture. Pulling back and focusing instead on the big picture can help us see what the essence of a target is. Here is an example using our test target:

How do body systems work together to keep our bodies running?

2. Place the target in a larger context. Sometimes a learning target is interesting enough in itself to motivate learning for most learners, others are not. If a particular targets feels dry when you think it, or try to make a question of it, then try thinking about where the target fits in the real world. The target itself should rarely be its own context for learning, and putting targets in a larger context makes them feel more relatable and interesting to many learners. Think about this example for our test target: (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Making Space for Learners to Wonder

October 27, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on October 16, 2017. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

Socrates said “wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” This quote is incredibly powerful because it reminds us that in order for any kind of learning to happen, we first have to be curious about something. The desire to know something, the question, is what sparks learning. In a learner centered proficiency based environment, we must make as much space as possible for learners to be curious and wonder.

One of the tenets of personalized learning, is that learners build and demonstrate proficiency through their own passions and interests. Another philosophical underpinning is that there is a culture that cultivates learner agency. Providing opportunities for learners to ask their own questions in any learning opportunity supports both these tenets. When learners ask their own questions, and then follow through with exploring the answers to those questions, they have much more investment and ownership of their learning. Here are some ways to make space for learner to ask questions in any social grade level or content:

1. Wonder Walls and Community Curiosity: Make being curious a public practice. I have always loved the idea of a giant mural-like display in a hallway where learners post their questions. Of course, there are many other ways to make wondering a regular part of any learning environment. In younger social grades, this can be part of the morning meeting. In addition to sharing what is going on in their lives, they then also share something they have a question about. Older learners might do this as part of an advisory group, or informal thinking exercises at the start or end of class. While this type of wondering might not tie directly to any content it certainly provides space and time for practicing asking questions, which is something our learners are not necessarily used to doing in school. (more…)

Making Sense of the Learning Sciences

October 24, 2017 by

I’ve been spending a year reading about the cognitive learning sciences and also about John Hattie’s work to review the effect of different strategies. Even with Bror Saxberg’s coaching (for which I’m deeply grateful), it’s been slow going for me, as I started with a pretty blank slate. I was also simply stuck. I was learning and my familiarity with the high level findings was growing, but I couldn’t figure out how to apply it. I was simply having difficulty making meaning for my work at CompetencyWorks because so much of the power of the cognitive learning sciences impacts practices of the teacher at a much more granular level than I encounter on my three- to five-hour school visits.

I had two breakthroughs recently, and now connections are being easily made. First, when reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I realized that his exploration of different systems of thinking, with System 1 operating automatically and involuntarily and System 2 operating with deliberation and reasoning, opens a door for us to challenge the bias that we bring into our work and our relationships. It opens the door for us to be more cognizant of the types of bias and how they impact the learning lives of children in our schools. Perhaps we can use the learning sciences to cleanse ourselves and our schools of bias.

Second, as we think about the competency-based cultures, structures, and pedagogical philosophy (one of which is that teaching should be grounded in the learning sciences), it’s important for us to test out how districts and schools are supporting teachers to use the cognitive learning sciences as well as those that influence engagement and motivation. In other words, what are the structures and reinforcements that make it easy for teachers to use the learning sciences, and are there ways in which districts and schools are creating obstacles that we should address?

To get started, I’ll turn to the Deans for Impact Science of Learning, by far the easiest summary out there. Let’s look at one of the three principles under How Do Students Understand New Ideas?

Cognitive Principle: Cognitive development does not progress through a fixed sequence of age-related stages. The mastery of new concepts happens in fits and starts.

Practical Implications for the Classroom: Content should not be kept from students because it is “developmentally inappropriate.” The term implies there is a biologically inevitable course of development, and that this course is predictable by age. To answer the question “is the student ready?” it’s best to consider “has the student mastered the prerequisites?” (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Teaching Targets in Authentic Contexts

October 6, 2017 by

This week’s tip comes from Seth Mitchell, a technology integration coach in the Monmouth schools in RSU 2. This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on September 25, 2017.

Last year, second graders at HLC – ably guided by Brittany Brady, Winona Prince, and Katie Torrington – embarked on a year-long journey to apply their learning in a real-world context. Their combined efforts culminated in learners becoming trail guides and offering guided tours of a local hiking path. As students worked their way along the one-mile trail, they shared their knowledge about the flora and fauna of Whittier Woods, explaining how plants, trees, and various classes of wildlife have adapted to this particular environment. Trail visitors stopped at eight different locations to read student-created informational signs that not only synthesize what the students learned, but also display original, digitally produced artwork. QR codes on the signs provide access to videos featuring student experts, who explain what hikers might see at each location on the trail. It was a proud moment for learners, for the expert educators who guided them through the process, and for the parents who expressed admiration for what these young people have accomplished. The project began the previous school year with some important questions: How can we situate target learning within an authentic context? How can we bundle standards to provide greater relevance for new knowledge? How can we tap the valuable resources of the community as we design learning experiences?

There were several important factors that led to the project’s eventual success: (more…)

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