Posts Tagged ‘performance based-student centered’

Positive Pressure and Support: Driving Your Initiative to a High Level of Implementation

June 14, 2012

Ok. It’s no secret.

Just having professional development doesn’t mean that your initiative is going to get implemented or implemented well. It doesn’t mean that your initiative will have it’s desired effect on your school.

Sure. PD is critical to getting where you’re going. But it isn’t sufficient.

Level of implementation matters.

A lot.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get better at implementing your laptops, or you’re using Bright Futures to look at your middle level practice, or if you’re working on a literacy initiative, or implementing the Common Core, or on Customized Learning, if you want your initiative to have the impact you’re looking for, then you need to insure that you have a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity.

So, how do you get to a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity?

The answer is possitive pressure and support.

Positive pressure and support has three easy pieces: expect, supervise, & support.

Expecting includes strategies like starting simple, participating yourself in trainings and meetings, having teachers set goals, and collaboratively setting expectations.

Supervising includes checking with teachers, talking about implementation at meetings, doing walk throughs, and talking about the walk through and level of implementation data.

Finally, support includes things like celebrating successes, facilitating the sharing of ideas, providing opportunities for PD (of course!), providing resources, and removing barriers and running interference.


How could positive pressure and support help your work at your school?


Interested in Customized Learning? Take a Look at These Books

October 22, 2011

Are all your students learning well, getting good grades, scoring well on tests?

Ours aren’t either.

I think that’s the case with a lot of schools. I think that’s why 9 districts have formed the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning (MCCL) and why Maine’s Education Commissioner Bowen is so actively pursuing customized learning.

So if you want to read more about customized learning, what might you read? Take a look at these three books. All three focus on different approaches to and aspects of customizing learning. They all share the idea that we can customize learning by starting with learning targets and then students collaborating with their teachers to master those targets in interesting and meaningful ways.


Book: Delivering on the Promise

The 9 Maine districts who have become members of MCCL are exploring the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) model. Delivering on the Promise by Rich DeLorenzo and team, provides a nice 30,000 foot view of how the approach was developed in one Alaskan school district, and of the components of the approach.





Inevitable, by Bea McGarvey and Chuck Schwann, both makes the case for mass customized learning, but also lays out a vision of what it might look like and how we might do it. My district has had members of the visioning committee (made up of educators and community members) and the entire administrative team read this book, as well as having made copies of the book available to community members. Commission Bowen had all his department heads read this book, and now asks each department how they are moving in that direction.



Book: Passion for Learning

Another approach to customized learning is student-designed standards-based projects. The Minnesota New Country School is given much credit for developing this model, and their work has been recognized by the US Department of Education, and others. Ron Newell has captured this work and makes clear the student-designed project approach in Passion for Learning.



It’s Your Turn
What are your favorite readings about customized learning?
Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite parts?
What are your thoughts about how the ideas in the books might come to life in your school?

Core Practice 2 in a Performance-based, Student-Centered School

October 22, 2011

The following post was written by Bill Zima, principal of Mt. Ararat Middle School in MSAD #75, Topsham. Bill started at Mt. Ararat after working as the assistant principal at Massabesic Middle School in RSU #57, Waterboro, during their beginning transformation to a “standards based system”. Bill has contributed earlier to the Bright Futures blog. He serves on the Maine Association for Middle Level Education board.

It is still dark as the students begin to enter the school following their long, insipid ride on the bus. It is November in Maine. Our students get up before the sun and head to school. As they enter the team hallway, there is a sense of excitement similar to one seen just before a marathon, or an Olympic swimming heat. Although, with far less jiggling of the quadriceps. Students are ready, with visible signs of excitement, to begin the final week of their current project. They are working to design a consumer product based on an adaptation of their chosen animal. They have spent the last few weeks working in their English-Language Arts class on persuasive techniques they will use to sell convince others to fund the production of their invention. In math, they have been studying graphs. In the final project, they will be asked to use and interpret graphs that would support the question, why buy my product? In science they have been studying animal adaptations and how they support an animal’s ability to survive in a given biome. When completed, they will create a display, to include a model of the product, either digitally or real, and reasons as to why their product should be manufactured. Their audience will include students, parents, business and community members and the media who are all invited to The Invention Fair. This is a great example of a performance-based, student-centered project. It is also how teachers can meet Core Practice 2: Teachers use research-based instructional practices in their classrooms that are effective in increasing the learning and achievement of young adolescents.

As middle level educators, we know once the young adolescent becomes engaged, there is little that can stop them, for better or for worse. Research has shown that students are more likely to engage if an activity centers on their interests, is at their level of challenge readiness and involves some level of choice on how the outcome can be demonstrated. As educators we are often worried about how the material will be understood. Spending upwards of 90 % of our planning time making sure the students comprehend the material. A factor receiving far less time, but shown to increase student engagement, is the relevance of the material. What does it mean for them. How does it connect to what they already believe and find interesting? We need to locate the hook and then bring them in. In many cases, hands-on experiences, group discussions, workshops and project-based learning can be that hook.

For students to take academic risks, researchers have shown that the environment needs to be supportive and safe. It takes time to establish such a culture with students. But to feel safe, one must feel valued. Giving students voice on how the classroom operates and choice in how to best demonstrate their learning, are steps that can go a long way to appreciating and accepting your students as individuals. In the words of a student who appeared recently on the NBC program Education Nation. “Tell me something good that I’m doing so that I can keep growing in that.” Students want to feel accepted. Respect what they value and their desire to learn will increase.

Designing a project in a performance-based system requires that the teachers begin with the end in mind. The end, in this case, is not the invention fair. Instead, the end is the specific learning targets, that when grouped together, build an effective unit. Once it is clear what the students need to know or be able to do, the teacher can begin to identify the steps to get to the targets associated with their discipline. Theses steps will be assessed in a formative way, helping the students prepare for the final, or summative assessment, which, in this case, will be judged when applied during the Invention Fair.

Instruction in a student-centered, performance-based classroom, if done correctly, is deeply rooted in best practices. Once we give our students more voice and choice and we redesign our system to reflect a model that supports the statement all students learn in different rates and in different ways, our teachers will be free to create units that will increase the learning and achievement of young adolescents.

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