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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Learning Design: Systems of Research and Development

Last night I attended the local Wayland Public Schools Foundation meeting where innovations were shared. I had the opportunity to share some of the naturalist work we're doing and the tools that the foundation afforded including tadpole tanks, magnifiers, nets, and a bucket of fake scat. I also had the chance to share words about our class trip to The African American History Museum. Both the trip to the museum and the naturalist materials were welcome additions to our grade-level curriculum this year. We are fortunate to have a group of citizens who are willing and able to support innovation in our schools.

I also had the chance to listen to other innovative work with regard to tech tools and music composition--wonderful work and resources that will inspire greater growth and better decisions in our schools. It was good to hear ideas from the high school, ideas that will impact my future work with students.

Then this morning I read an article that relayed Bill Gates thoughts about tech in education, an article that linked to last night's high school discussion. The article and last night's meeting spurred me to think about learning design in general.

I believe that every school should have a regular system of research and development. Rather than last minute, singly directed announcements about change, there should be ongoing exploration, the kind of exploration, the high school technologist discussed and introduced last night. In fact, when a parent asked me last night if other schools will employ what we're doing, I mentioned that it's typically the directors that share information from school to school, but later I realized I do share the ideas via the blog, and there might be new ways to make this kind of share a more regular part of our greater school system work.

How can we employ this ongoing research, development, and share at the elementary level?

Speaking from my current role, I recommend the following efforts.
  1. Create curriculum design/leadership teams. Give every interested educator a role on these teams.
  2. Inclusively assess what's working well and what needs greater work and change. Have thoughtful collegial discussions about this towards the end of the year. Discuss what worked well and what could be better? Set collaborative goals for the year ahead.
  3. Read and research during the summer months.
  4. Revisit the goals at the start of the school year using backend design. Determine how you will chart student growth in this regard. Decide on dates to discuss, reflect on, and revise efforts throughout the year.
At this point we don't employ a collaborative, inclusive process like this. Mostly educators do this on their own or with their grade-level teams. My team engages in regular conversation related to this, and we have some conversations at the school level too. 

How does your school employ research and development efforts? Are those efforts inclusive regarding the voices of the entire learning community: students, families, educators, leaders, and community members. Is this a regular, ongoing process? How is the work communicated?

For me, I'll work with my team to engage in the following activities in this regard:
  • We'll give an end-of-year survey to the learning team. I'll carefully review those results during the summer. (note due to the fact that everyone was spent, we did not give a formal survey though I did facilitate an informal survey with students at the end).
  • During summer I'll review a host of collected data including test scores, survey results, project work, and observations, and determine what worked very well, and where there is need for growth and development.
  • I'll chart growth and development efforts. Read about these efforts. Write grants to support the efforts. Discuss the efforts with colleagues.
  • Then we'll begin the year by embedding the changes, and assessing, reflecting on, discussing, revising, and reporting on the efforts always with the theme of a just-right, engaging, and empowering learning/teaching program centered on students' needs and interests.