Saturday, June 30, 2018
For PLP Pathways, today marks the start of summer. Yesterday, we finished the 2017-2018 school year with the closing of the Middle Grades Institute at Castleton University. As always, the Institute gave us the opportunity to reconnect with friends, colleagues and committed educators from across Vermont.
Supported by the Middle Grades Collaborative and the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, the Middle Grades Institute focuses on those principles and practices of middle level education that foster student growth and learning.
This year, the Institute used Chris Stevenson's 5 Efficacies: affiliation, ethical self, competence, responsibility, and awareness to frame how we engage middle level learners.
Coupled with existing pedagogical frameworks, these efficacies help understand middle level learners and give us touchpoints to consider as we continue developing our practices.
A key overarching theory underlying these efficacies continues to be the development of student voice and choice to increase engagement. Over and over again we hear the importance of engaging students by empowering them in the educational process. For a case study in how this can be accomplished in the high school classroom, check out this reflection by Alison Gauthier of U-32 high school.
Moving forward, Stevenson's 5 Efficacies will be woven into our work as we continue to support innovative and engaging teaching throughout Vermont and beyond.
To our contributors, supporters andall teachers and students who have worked so hard this year, have a great summer.
Monday, June 4, 2018
The emPOWERment of Authentic Audiences
Written by Alison Gauthier, Dawn McConnell & Hope McConnell
Vermont’s Act 77 encompasses three pillars - Personalized Learning Plans, Flexible Pathways, and Proficiency-Based Learning and Assessment. Fluid across the three pillars, authentic audiences support students with both accountability and feedback as they grow and learn.
This spring, ninth grade students from U-32 experienced authentic audiences when presenting about their Earth Science unit related to Climate Change and Engineering. The unit was designed with Act 77 specifically in mind - a flexible process and product to reach a common set of proficiencies on the Sustainability and Engineering Science standards.
Based on interest, students were organized in “country” teams of two or three persons; each team represented a country affected by climate change. From Haiti and Bangladesh to the United States and Germany, each team had to determine the specific ways that climate change was affecting their area of the world - and determine feasible solutions to either adapt to, or mitigate, these effects. Each country had a budget (the country’s actual GDP per capita) to purchase items from the engineering store to design a prototype solution for their specific problem. Items at the store had inflated prices - for example, a piece of paper was $100 and a pipe cleaner was $50. Countries with a smaller GDP per capita were forced to think creatively about their project, or get grants from other, more-wealthy countries.
The summative of the unit were the country presentations where students had to “sell” their prototype to other countries. Each person was granted $20,000 from the UN to buy prototypes that their specific country needed, and these individuals were accountable to their team and to other countries because they were attempting to “sell” their specific prototype to others. To make their prototype more appealing, teams had tested out the prototype and analyzed data in order to yield evidence that this would indeed work for other countries. From slides to posters to short movies, no advertising scheme was the same.
This was the first authentic audience that students in this class experienced this year in Science.
a 9th grader at U-32, presented to a different authentic audience. U-32 received a Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering (VASE) small equipment grant earlier in the year to purchase engineering supplies for the store. These included several 3D pens, a soldering kit, and an introductory coding kit. Hope presented to legislators and VASE partners at the State House in Montpelier, describing her country’s climate change project, and explaining how the VASE-supplied 3D pen enabled her team to create a floating greenhouse.
Hope’s slideshow can be found here. As the teacher watching Hope present to legislators about climate change, I was struck by the level of conversations she engaged in with adults and other teens in the room. Hope also had background from her ninth grade Global Studies class related to the state and international policies related to climate change, and I quickly saw the conversations progress from discussing her project to discussing international policy. Hope talked animatedly about “mitigation” and “adaptation” and how her assigned country in the “Global South” is suffering from effects largely caused by the “Global North”. At one point, Hope encouraged legislators to push specific policies that would help Vermont mitigate its emissions.
Later in the spring, Hope McConnell (9th grader), Iona Bristol (9th grader), and Maeve Hoffert (8th grader) presented at the ECET2 conference in Hanover, New Hampshire. Founded by teachers, for teachers, ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers, and their mission is to bring exceptional educators together for meaningful collaboration and professional development.
Hope, Iona, and Maeve gave a presentation about the climate change unit to a small group of teachers from Vermont and New Hampshire. They explained how they were able to personalize their product and process, while still showing proficiency on the various scales. The presentation was engaging (they had the teachers try out an engineering problem) and informative. The teachers were interested in how the students were able to show their voice through the project. One teacher from New Hampshire asked each of them to explain something that went well in the unit, and something they would change for the future. As their teacher, I was taking notes of their responses as a form of feedback to make the unit better in the future.
At the conference, I was again impressed by how the students acted with this new audience. When watching other presentations by teachers around New England, they asked questions, were engaged, and came up to me after with ideas for our class and school. “Do you know how competency-based learning is happening at this school in New Hampshire?” Iona asked me. “Our principal needs to hear about this!”
Dawn McConnell, Hope’s mother, stated this following the ECET2 conference: “I was surprised at how much Hope enjoyed attending the teachers' conference with you. She had a great day and came away with a greater appreciation for what teachers do. I think it was the first time that she was exposed to what goes into the planning and thinking behind lesson planning. She was impressed by the care and discussions of the teachers regarding how to present information and engage students. She told me that she even spoke up in the one of the teacher sessions to offer her perspective on reaching students who are struggling in class. It occurs to me that these kinds of interactions are beneficial to the teachers and the students. I'm wondering if there might be other opportunities for students and teachers to share their struggles (and successes) with each other in a similar format. It certainly helped my daughter to have renewed respect for teachers and gain an understanding of their perspective.”
During the conference and following these words from Dawn, I realized that exposing adolescents to authentic audiences is actually an act of empowerment. By learning about various perspectives and understandings, students walk away with more tools in their learning toolkit. Authentic audiences not only benefit from the knowledge, skills and questions of our students, but our students benefit from the insight, inquiries, and opinions of others.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Teen Health Week at U-32: Student Involvement in Health & Wellness
Written by Meaghan Falby & Alison Gauthier
Vermont’s Act 77 encompasses three pillars to support 21st century learners: Proficiency-Based Learning and Assessment,Personalization/Flexible Pathways, and Personalized Learning Plans. As schools across Vermont work to effectively and sustainably implement Act 77, there are many questions that come to mind. Are we offering learners flexible pathways to achieve their personal goals? How can students pursue their interests, while, at the same time, show proficiency of district-chosen standards and skills? How can we provide authentic audiences so that students can share their learning with other peers and trusted adults?
In an attempt to make progress on these questions we are grappling with, faculty, staff, and students at U-32 organized Teen Health Week this past spring. Meaghan Falby, a High School Health and Family Consumer Science teacher at U-32, first learned about National Teen Health Week from a Twitter post (@RTwithDrOffutt) by Dr. Offutt, a physician and teen health advocate in Philadelphia. National Teen Health Week originated in Pennsylvania and was the first statewide initiative in the US focused around the health and wellness of adolescents. More information about National Teen Health Week can be found here.
Meaghan Falby emailed the faculty and staff at U-32 to see if there was interest from adults in conducting a Teen Health Week at U-32. She also connected with student leaders – those actively involved in Seeking Social Justice and Green Team, two clubs that meet weekly at school. It was clear in the meeting shortly following that email that there was INTEREST from faculty and staff – as well as a great NEED for this type of work at U-32. High School students at U-32 are currently required to take one semester of Health between grades 9 and 12. Revisiting what was learned during Health class, and being exposed to updated information related to Teen Health and Wellness, was expressed as a priority.
At the meeting in Meaghan’s room, it was decided that each day would have a certain focus. Sexual Health on Monday, Physical Health on Tuesday, Environmental Health on Wednesday, Substance Abuse on Thursday, and Mental & Emotional Health on Friday. This follows the National Teen Health Week recommendations that Meaghan has received from Dr. Offutt. Community partners were called and asked to come in and host a table during one day’s lunch block or during callback (30 minutes during the day when students can work specifically with one teacher for additional support).
Here are the schedules (At-A-Glance and more detailed) that were used for the activities for the week. During the Teen Health Week, there was excitement in the school. Students went to various callback opportunities for the week; ranging from a Faculty-Student volleyball game for Physical Health Day to an Environmental Health presentation about Climate Change by Green Team high school students. Tabling in the atrium space during lunch was successful as well - a diverse group of presenters was there to answer questions that students had. Students learned from fellow peers when Anatomy & Physiology students presented a wide variety of information during the lunch bands for that week.
Among the diverse group of presenters in the atrium during the lunch band was Outright VT. This non-profit organization’s mission is to build safe, healthy, and supportive environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth ages 13-22 (Outright Website). Outright Vermont (@outrightvermont) shared information with Middle and High School students and answered questions posed by students. They shared pamphlets and information related to healthy relationships and offered ideas for how to get more involved in Teen Health events happening around the state.
Another lunch band presenter was the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management (CVSWM). A staff member from CVSWM and student-leaders from the Green Team hosted a table in the atrium to share the recent findings from the U-32 trash audit. The audit happened several weeks before Teen Health Week, and this was a fitting venue for the Green Team to share their findings and make recommendations to the U-32 community moving forward.
Following the Teen Health Week, Meaghan emailed a Google Form for feedback to faculty, staff, and students. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive - this was awesome and we need to do more of this. One student stated that, “This was an awesome event, I heard from many people that they participated and enjoyed the callback activities, and I enjoyed them as well”. Another student commented in the Google Form that, “I honestly can't think of anything that [was] missed this year; all of the topics were very well represented through tabling and special callbacks and I really liked the way this event connected all different parts of our school under a bigger topic of health”. In terms of faculty/staff and student attendance of the events during the week, here were the responses:
Faculty & Staff Response
In response to that feedback from students and adults alike, Meaghan teamed up with faculty in the building to provide two other Health opportunities for students. Callbacks on May 4th and May 18th have been set up that offer a wide range of Health and Wellness opportunities for adolescents. Students can self-select to attend one of these Friday callback events, or choose to attend a callback with a teacher for regular academic support. Callback opportunities on these two days include activities such as Collage Creations (for Emotional & Mental Health), Female Sexual Health Sesh, Disc Golf, Lawn Games, and Self-Defense.
An area for growth for next year is involving students more in the beginning-to-end process. Students are asking for these types of discussions to happen with adults that they trust (particularly related to Substance Abuse and Sexual Health). The momentum is building and the interest is present. In our efforts towards personalization and flexible pathways, it is clear that students have a voice and want to be heard. From asking questions of community members during lunch bands to presenting about their interests during a callback session, students want an active role in their health and wellness. The next step will be involving more students in the process so that peer teaching and peer collaboration can be expanded.
Meaghan Falby teaches Health and Living Arts at U-32 Middle High School. Prior to U-32, Meaghan taught in the Barre Town and Barre City School District as the Middle School Family & Consumer Sciences and Health Educator. Meaghan’s teaching philosophy is “Healthy Students = Healthy Learners.” Follow Meaghan on Twitter @meg_falby or on Instagram at u32Health and u32Livingarts.
Alison Gauthier is a 2006 U-32 alumna. She teaches 9th grade Earth Science/Physics, 10th grade Biology, and junior-senior Anatomy & Physiology at U-32 Middle High School. Alison’s teaching philosophy is that “when students are doing the work, students are doing the learning”. Alison is an advocate for PLPs, student-negotiated curriculum, and proactive RP circles. Starting this fall, Alison will be teaching Sophomore Biology at CISQD in Qingdao, China. *Sharing is Caring* Here are Alison’s class sites: 9th grade Science 10th grade Biology Anatomy & Physiology
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Today’s post is brought to you by Don Taylor, language arts and social studies teacher at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier and co-director of PLP Pathways.
As Act 77 matures, many different elements of personalized learning, PLPs, and flexible pathways are being explored by educators across the state. These developments are provoking innovative discussions, new approaches to curriculum development and enhanced learning opportunities for students. Last month, in our PLP Pathways webinar, we focused on how the development of flexible pathways, in conjunction with community partners, can result in programming that would otherwise be out of reach for our students and teachers. Today I’d like to reflect on that conversation but also identify key factors that teachers should consider as they begin exploring the different flexible pathways that may be available in their communities, through partnerships with community organizations, or linked to existing curriculum.
According to the Agency of Education, “The Flexible Pathways Initiative, created by Act 77 of 2013 ……..encourages and supports the creativity of school districts as they develop and expand high-quality educational experiences that are an integral part of secondary education in the evolving 21st-century classroom. Flexible pathways also promote opportunities for Vermont students to achieve postsecondary readiness through high-quality educational experiences that acknowledge individual goals, learning styles, and abilities; and increase the rates of secondary school completion and postsecondary continuation in Vermont.”1
As a middle school teacher, I take this to mean any project-based, community-based, or service learning project that provides students with the opportunity to apply their curriculum-based and transferable skills to solve real-world problems for authentic audiences. It also sounds like a lot of work. For interested teachers, developing these opportunities can feel overwhelming. Where do we start?
Building Time in the Schedule
As part of our integration of Act 77, my team at Main Street Middle School developed a specific program to allow students the opportunity to explore learning opportunities around central themes of environmental awareness and sustainability. Called The Green Team, this portion of the curriculum takes place every Monday afternoon. Students have selected committees within which they address specific sustainability issues. Committees include Classroom Composting, Green Team News, and the Drive Committee to name a few. I consider these “flexible pathways” to learning as they provide students the opportunity to work on real-world issues and develop evidence of their growth and learning relative to the transferable skills.
Bringing the Community Into the Classroom
One of the key factors in creating The Green Team was our desire to expose students to critical issues in an equitable way. That is, we wanted to make sure that all students had the opportunity to experience these opportunities rather than relying on family support, access to resources, or existing relationships. In order to achieve that, we reached out to community partners. This is a key factor. Across the state of Vermont, there are numerous organizations who are willing, able, and ready to deliver outstanding educational opportunities to Vermont students.
Three organizations that have been instrumental to our developing flexible pathways include: the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, the Vermont Energy Education Program and the UVM 4-H Teen and Leadership Program through the University of Vermont Extension. These organizations have presented to our class, organized learning activities, and provided logistical support for both school-based flexible pathways and extended learning opportunities in the community. In the process, they have exposed students to a wide range of important issues, educational opportunities, and essential connections between the community and schools.
Case Study: TRY for the Environment
So what might this look like in the classroom? A key example is the Teens Reaching Youth program developed and offered by Lauren Traister, the 4-H Teen & Leadership Program Coordinator for the aforementioned University of Vermont Extension based in Morrisville, Vermont. Our conversation in the last PLP Pathways webinar touched on many of the critical benefits that organizations can provide for students.
In the case of the TRY program, interested students first go through a fairly rigorous application process. If accepted, they receive a full day of training and education about the requirements for project completion. Once trained, teams of students are responsible for finding partner classrooms of elementary students. The TRY team then provides those elementary classrooms with 6-8 weeks of educational lessons based on one of five sustainability topics.
Our team has had students in the TRY program for the past 5 years and the experience has been outstanding. Students utilize personal responsibility, time management, collaboration and communication skills to achieve success. Afterwards, they are evaluated by the cooperating teacher and receive critical feedback on their performance. This type of real-world educational experience is a dynamic flexible pathway/learning opportunity that would not be possible without essential community partnerships. Moreover, by bringing the opportunity into the classroom, we are able to give a wider range of students the chance to participate.
A key component that is critical for the success of flexible pathways is the use of proficiency-based learning and assessment. When teachers can clearly define levels of proficiency and the criteria to meet those proficiencies, students can provide a wide range of evidence that demonstrates their success. Rather than tied to specific, curriculum related activities, proficiencies allow students to meet proficiencies through a variety of activities that, in the case of flexible pathways, may be dependent on their experience rather than one directed by teachers. For example, students in the TRY program, striving to meet standards for speaking and listening, can upload video of participant led class discussions from their TRY experience as evidence of their meeting the proficiency. Teachers and districts set the criteria, but the flexible pathways opportunities allow students to meet those proficiencies in a wide range of relevant, engaging and rigorous learning opportunities.
A second key component that makes flexible pathways successful is the existence of a strong PLP program. As students move into a variety of flexible pathway learning activities, the PLP serves as a platform to collect evidence of growth and learning, to connect the flexible pathways experience to key curriculum standards and skills, to set goals, and for students to reflect on their progress. Mastery of proficiencies can be demonstrated through the documentation and collection of evidence related to the flexible pathways experience. Without the PLP, tracking student growth and learning can be more challenging. Finally, the PLP also allows for a wide range of proficiency-based evidence to be included in the student’s body of work. Photographs, videos, testimonials from community partners and similar evidence can be integrated into the PLP in order to demonstrate student proficiency.
Developing relationships with community partners, engaging those partners within the classroom, and using proficiencies and PLPs to collect evidence of student growth and learning combine to establish flexible pathways as a powerful and innovative educational opportunity. Vermont has a bountiful selection of outstanding organizations willing to partner with students, teachers, and schools to make learning real, relevant, and applicable to our young people. Moving forward, consider developing the community partnerships and flexible pathways that will provide students with equitable, rigorous, and meaningful learning opportunities.
"Flexible Pathways | Agency Of Education." Education.vermont.gov. N. p., 2018. Web. 11 Mar. 2018.
Saturday, February 10, 2018
Today’s post is brought to you by Kevin Hunt, middle level generalist at
Williston Central School and PLP Pathways contributor.
Williston Central School and PLP Pathways contributor.
It seems whenever there is a paradigm shift in education it is always accompanied by the response “give it a few years and this will pass too.” I haven’t been in the field long enough to confirm this, but I have been in plenty of meetings and have attended several conferences where I’ve heard veteran teachers mutter these disparaging words. I’ve always done my best to remain optimistic and look at change in education as something exciting and refreshing, but at the same time, I often try to empathize with those with decades more experience than I have and think to myself, would I be saying this too if I’ve lived through so much change that felt meaningless?
I’ve recently been reflecting on this and thinking about what an appropriate response would be to those who are skeptical about personalization, PLPs, negotiated curriculum etc. I believe it’s important to stop and think about why we make the changes we make, and when we are hearing those uncertain voices, how do we remain positive, and where do we start? It’s not always easy going against the grain, and it’s even harder when you feel like you are alone in embracing change. One of the most common questions I hear from educators around the state is “How do I start?” The buzz around Act 77, PLPs, personalization, PIPs, negotiated curriculum, PBL-- and every other acronym that is trending right now-- can seem foreboding and overwhelming, but if we are doing these things for the right reasons, the payoff (in the form of student engagement and love for learning) is completely worth it.
In addressing the ‘how do I start’ question, I began to look at Swift House’s structure and its beginnings over 25 years ago. I found that when a paradigm shift happens for the right reasons, with students’ best interests at its core, then it will not merely go away over years, but rather evolve into a system that best serves the learner.
I unearthed some of the original documents from Swift House’s inaugural year and in reading these documents, I felt as though I was like looking into the past and seeing the present. So many of the ideas, compromises, and non-negotiables that Swift’s founding members decided on over 25 years ago still ring absolutely true to this day and show how a student-centered culture can be sustained.
Here is a link to the meeting notes from 1990, which outlines the teachers’ visions, philosophies, non-negotiables from creating this type of learning environment; along with noting ideas about goal setting, student-led conferences, project based learning, and negotiated curriculum. These ideas that started Swift House are still at its foundation today.
Julie Longchamp, one of the original Swift House facilitators, recently conducted a survey of former Swift students who are now all out of college. Here are some things they had to say about their experiences on Swift and the lasting impact it left on their lives:
“Lastly, I remember reflection time. I had hated writing and grammar rules, and Bernie gave me the freedom to write however I'd like in my reflections. I've loved writing since then.”
“The most outstanding element of Swift House was placing the majority of the responsibility on the students. We were treated as adults; we needed to take projects and complete them as products of our personal investment.... In this manner, we were able to start creating and identifying learning habits before we got to high school... The mentality of respecting kids as adult individuals is the reason for this beneficial quality.”
“This was crucial for my success. I didn't believe in grades, and still do not. I never got any satisfaction from grades, nor did I understand what they meant. The personal plan gave me specific things to work on, and then give feedback on how I had been performing. It was a very positive experience. I think it was crucial that the parents accepted the personal plan however, else I think I may have had a different opinion of it.”
“This was way ahead of its time and it was good preparation for performance reviews at work and planning projects in general. I wish high school and college had used this type of evaluation that allowed each student to have his/her tailored goals reflective of his/her challenges and strengths. And I knew what a "scholar" meant versus "novice" because it was clearly explained, unlike an "A" versus "D" grade.”
In closing, if you are in a position of trying to figure out how to start or where to begin, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all. Start small and establish your own non-negotiables and philosophies. Think of the students first and don’t be afraid to try something new! Encourage colleagues to take part and push one another’s ideas. Be okay with failure and make adjustments whenever you can. Include students in the process- get feedback and ideas from them and try them out!
It’s okay to go against the grain and not side with the loud and intimidating voices, as long as what you are doing will truly benefit students. We owe it to them to give it our all, even if it requires changing our own philosophies or practices. The structure that the founding Swift House members made in 1991 is evidence that the work we do today will not go unnoticed or be wasted if we are doing it for the right reasons and are willing to stay the course.
“The glue that kept the Swift House system from falling apart was how much the teachers cared about and believe in the system. Their passion for teaching was never lost on us Swifties. We fed off it, were inspired by it, and are undoubtedly better people today because of it.
Thank you, Julie, Gary, Al, and Bernie, for being a part of my formative years.” -Sam 1996 Swift House graduate
Thank you, Julie, Gary, Al, and Bernie, for being a part of my formative years.” -Sam 1996 Swift House graduate
Friday, February 2, 2018
Today’s post is brought to you by Don Taylor, language arts and social studies teacher at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier and co-director of PLP Pathways.
On January 27th the Middle Grades Collaborative hosted the 11th annual Middle Grades Conference at the University of Vermont. Educators from across the state, many who had attended the June 2017 Middle Grades Institute at Champlain College, reconvened to share their teacher action research which they conducted during the past fall semester in their classrooms and schools.
Throughout the day, educators presented their work, findings, data, and implications for middle level practice. The pedagogical expertise and collaborative discussions on display were stunning. From my point of view and those I talked with, the overall quality of presentations was superb. Teachers and students (yes, students presented too) from all corners of the state demonstrated why Vermont is such an innovative and forward-thinking educational community. A sampling of projects included: building reading engagement through personalized skill development; integrating ethnography to document change in the Mad River Valley, and developing instructional supports for elementary students moving into a more personalized learning environment. The research, leadership, and dedication demonstrated by these teachers was deeply inspiring. At this time of year, when educators tend to burrow more deeply in their classrooms and experience the “grind”, the Middle Grades Conference was particularly motivating.
In addition to presentations, the Middle Grades Collaborative used a discussion protocol to gather educator and student feedback on how the policy document Middle School is Not a Building could be adapted for today’s changing landscape. Again, these discussions revealed the deep commitment to middle level education that occurs throughout Vermont’s schools and communities.
In closing, we’d like to recognize the Middle Grades Collaborative for their continued support of this outstanding work, the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education as a major factor in the evolution of technology and innovation in education, and Erin Wertlieb of the University of Vermont for her strategic management of the conference. For those educators seeking to participate in Middle Grades Collaborative work, check out the Middle Grades Institute.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Today’s post is brought to you by Don Taylor, language arts and social studies teacher at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier
and co-director of PLP Pathways.
In our last blog entry, we discussed a variety of opportunities to personalize learning communities through reflection and feedback, goal-setting, and the use of personal learning plans. In particular we addressed the idea that the incorporation of feedback and reflection into existing learning opportunities can help teachers develop a better sense of student understanding and learning dispositions. We wrote:
By employing Google Forms, Blogger, Kahoot surveys, or simply asking for student feedback on exit tickets, teachers can monitor student growth and learning. More importantly, through the development of thoughtful reflection prompts and activities, teachers can help students develop the skills necessary to monitor and evaluate their own learning. To take reflection one step further, teachers can use reflection or feedback data as discussion points for curriculum modification, to build classroom norms, and to promote democratic decision making.
Since writing this, I’ve been thinking more deeply about how teachers might consider integrating these exercises into real-time learning opportunities in order to build stronger relationships with students and to provide more effective instruction.
Integrated Goals and Reflection
Just as we monitor student understanding through the use of formative assessments, exit tickets, and reflections, teachers may also want to consider integrating student-goal setting and reflection on a daily basis within the learning context. Through the monitoring of this goal setting and reflection, teachers can use the acquired information to directly support students in real time and through that process, build stronger collaborative relationships with students.
For example, students in my classroom are currently working on collaborative projects that require a wide range of literacy and transferable skills. At the beginning of the project, students reviewed the standards for proficiency in writing, collaboration, and habits of learning. Students were asked to set short-term, project-based goals based on those proficiencies. Every few days throughout the project, students monitor their project-based goals and then spend a few minutes reflecting on their performance at the conclusion of learning activities.
In the adjacent example, you can see the proficiency rubric designed in collaboration with students.
As students move through the learning activities, they self-identify areas of proficiency, skills that need work, and areas of success. For example, this student identified two specific areas of proficiency (highlighted in yellow).
They then commented on how they exceeded the proficiency standard. This process can lead to rich learning experiences that are extremely beneficial for developing teaching practices. In particular, this practice can feed into reflection activities, goal-setting, and the collection of evidence for the student’s personal learning plans.
As the instructor, I visit with students, discuss their project-based goals using the PLP platform, and discuss the self-evaluation process. More importantly, I can use this information to review and develop educational supports I can provide to help them reach proficiencies. These discussions may evolve into brief mini-lessons with small groups or, as happened earlier this week, large group instruction to review critical literacy skills.
The essential understanding is that by having kids set short term goals within the learning activities or unit, reflecting on their performance, and through informal teacher monitoring, teachers can develop a more granular understanding of student needs and dispositions. Essentially, reviewing student progress towards goals informs my teaching practice which subsequently leads directly to the introduction or modification of learning activities that lead students to proficiency and creates stronger learning relationships.
When students recognize and realize that their goal-setting, reflection, and feedback is helping to shape the learning community, it is my experience that they become more active and engaged participants in the learning community.