Tag: teachers and teaching

Pt. England Primary: Understanding Where Students Are

November 27, 2018 by

This is the sixth article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.

In addition to the Learn, Create, Share process developed by the teachers at Pt. England Primary described in the previous articles, another important aspect of the pedagogical approach is to ensure that students are operating at their curricular level. Burt explained, “It gives you the horrors when a teacher isn’t leveling the kids right. There are instant behavior problems when kids are working on the wrong level.” Burt asks that when teachers send students with behavior problems to see him, that they also send the Chromebook with examples of their reading and math so he can review physical artifacts about their learning. He checks to make sure students are engaged at the right level. “It can be as boring as toast with no spread on it if a kid is being asked to do something he already knows how to do or has no idea how to do.” (more…)

A Conversation with Bob Lenz About Project-Based Learning and CBE

November 26, 2018 by

Although I’ve known of the outstanding work of the Buck Institute for Education for over 25 years, I’ve never had a chance to meet the leadership team. Thus, I was delighted to grab an hour with Executive Director Bob Lenz at iNACOL18.

The world of project-based learning (PBL) shares a common challenge with competency-based education (CBE): quality. PBL has been growing its field in a sustained way for decades, with the efforts of the Hewlett deeper learning initiatives bringing an increase of attention. CBE, with roots that stretch back into the 1960s, only started to operate as a field in 2011. In the CBE world, the quality issues are looming so large that it could cause our momentum to buckle.

One of the challenges the field of PBL faces is to get greater clarity on what high quality PBL means in a world where anything that that actively engages students can be called a project or PBL. This has direct implications for schools that are becoming competency-based, as we need to make sure all students have opportunities for deeper learning. A hands-on activity just isn’t the same as deeper learning. Thus, PBL’s quality challenge is our quality challenge.

Below are some of my takeaways from my conversation with Lenz about PBL and its intersection with CBE. (more…)

3 Tools to Engage Ownership in Your Classroom

November 19, 2018 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

It’s easy to say teachers should give students more ownership of their learning. It’s easy to say students have to be motivated to learn. It’s easy to say teachers need to give up more control of the teaching and facilitate more of the learning. It’s easy to say but they are definitely NOT easy to do.

When students are drivers of the learning and not just passive recipients, it turns a dormant classroom into a thriving incubator of innovation. Many educators want to do all of these things but are too often left to figure out how to do it. (more…)

Starting the Competency-Based Education Journey…Again

November 13, 2018 by

I spent 10 years of my career working in a high school that successfully transitioned from being very traditional to one that is now competency-based. Although in reality the work is never really complete, it’s still satisfying to look back and celebrate just how far you’ve come. For those of us in the competency-based education (CBE) trenches, we know that changing the way people think about teaching and learning isn’t easy. It’s difficult to let go of long held beliefs about how schools should operate and how classrooms should be run. The transition to a CBE model also takes time. Educators must commit to years of hard work in order to make CBE a reality.

Not long ago I hit the professional reset button and accepted a position in a district that was just beginning to develop a CBE system. I knew that going back to the “old way of doing school” would be difficult, but like a true CBE educator I was eager to apply what I had learned in my previous setting to a new one. However, no two schools are alike and no transformational journey is the same. (For school leaders who are looking for a prescriptive path or a step-by-step manual to CBE, you’re out of luck, those don’t exist.) Instead of creating a CBE “to do” list, I spent a considerable amount of time observing current practices and gaining an understanding of what was already working. Three themes emerged from my observations that could be universally applied to any school embarking on the path to CBE. (more…)

Supporting Teachers with Making Sense of Proficiency-Based Learning

October 31, 2018 by

This is the second in a three-part series from Andrew Jones, director of curriculum at Mill River Unified Union School District in Vermont.

For many teachers, proficiency-based learning (PBL) is a significant shift from past practice. Though certain aspects of PBL are familiar to some teachers, putting proficiency into consistent practice can be a heavy lift. This shift requires new knowledge and skills, while simultaneously jettisoning numerous past practices. Building teacher capacity is a central requirement for ensuring the successful implementation of PBL. Without time to make sense of the shift and opportunities for new learning, teachers will not be sufficiently prepared to make substantive changes to pedagogy.

At Mill River Unified Union School District (MRUUSD), intentional educational infrastructure is leveraged to build teacher understanding of proficiency-based learning so as to ensure equitable outcomes for students. A district-wide teacher learning system supports our ongoing effort to implement PBL practices K-12. Making up this “educational infrastructure” are several key elements, including: instructional coaches, collaborative work time, and curriculum tools.   (more…)

Transparency: Operating with a Clear Instructional Vision to Put Policy into Practice

October 30, 2018 by

Andrew Jones

This is the first in a three-part series from Andrew Jones, director of curriculum at Mill River Unified Union School District in Vermont.

Mill River Unified Union School District (MRUUSD) is a small, rural district located in southwest Vermont. Made up of four K-6 schools and one 7-12 union middle/high school, MRUUSD, like most districts in Vermont, is actively engaged in the implementation of proficiency and personalized learning practices. Act 77 and the Educational Quality Standards (EQS), enacted in 2013 and 2014 respectively, are state policies that require elements of personalized learning and proficiency-based learning, including the provision that high school students earn their diplomas based on proficiency and not credits starting with the graduating class of 2020. Mill River School District has embraced these policies as an opportunity to improve student outcomes while simultaneously providing more equitable experiences for all students. Framing our work toward proficiency is a district instructional vision. (more…)

A Review from an iNACOL Newbie

October 29, 2018 by

I just returned from Nashville where I attended my very first iNACOL conference. In the weeks leading up to the conference, I poured over the conference website and reviewed the hundreds of sessions being offered. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the iNACOL experience would be like. I knew that I would have an opportunity to meet and learn from experts in competency-based education and personalized learning. I was excited about attending a pre-conference workshop with Chris Sturgis, where my colleagues and I would dig into the Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. I was eager to learn from representatives of the Kettle Moraine, Dallas ISD, and Shelby County Schools, whose work I admired from afar. By the end of my four days in Nashville, everything I expected to happen at iNACOL, did happen. But it was the unexepected that made my iNACOL experience truly exceptional.

Here are just a few of the unexpected gems: (more…)

“Find Your Tribe, Love Them Hard.” ~Danielle LaPorte

October 24, 2018 by

Brenda Vogds

In 2009, I attended my first iNACOL conference. It was in Austin, Texas and at the time, I was serving in a K-12 Technology Coordinator role. I was working in the Kettle Moraine School District in Wales, WI, where we were working on our first charter grant that would allow us to offer some online course components in relation to a Global Learning experience. I remember walking into the iNACOL opening reception and immediately knowing I was in the right place. The room buzzed with conversations that spoke of the day when learners would be the focus. Lots of “imagine if’s” were spoken.  Imagine if we didn’t have to track learners by grade. Imagine if learners could get credit for what they knew. Imagine if we didn’t have to teach chapter by chapter. Imagine if. The words imagine if were not passive, dreamer’s terms, they were an active engagement into a greater conversation about how we will change this world for every learner. (more…)

Becoming an Effective Educator of English Learners: Job-Embedded, Competency-Based Professional Development for All Teachers

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Ask any public-school teacher across the country about their greatest challenge. They are likely to tell you it is a lack of confidence in their own ability to work with students in their classes who may not speak English, sometimes representing vastly different cultures. The ExcEL Leadership Academy recognized the need for a better approach to professional learning that would prepare all teachers to work with English Learners. (more…)

Customizing a System for Us by Us

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Image from the Ridgewood High School website.

We came to Nashville on Sunday, invited by Chris Sturgis to participate in the iNACOL pre-conference Competency Education Leadership Forum. We came to get the answers to questions. These were questions that we had yet to find the answers to despite our best efforts.

Using the 16 Quality Principles as our framework, we connected with educational leaders from all over the country and learned that our remaining questions are their remaining questions. During the Leadership Forum, our collaborative efforts to answer our shared questions revealed that our questions had not been answered because we are the designers and the pioneers driving the transformation of learning. That is the message. These aren’t questions to be discovered and created, not simply answered. (more…)

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