Thursday, May 23, 2019

Deepen the learning

At this week's school committee meeting, administrators discussed deepening the learning. Of course, that's a goal I'm a fan of since I know that when we do the work possible to make learning meaningful, deep, and relevant, we make the learning engaging and enriching. This is good.

How can we deepen the learning? What exactly do we do to make this happen?

Assess the current learning efforts
How successful are current learning efforts? How do you assess that success? Our team conducts a holistic assessment using these tools and techniques:
  • Student written reflections and reflective discussions
  • State, system, and classroom test results and project work
  • Student reactions to the learning--are they happy, are they invested, are they applying the new knowledge, do we hear them talking about the learning in meaningful ways?
  • Parent and administrator feedback
  • Assessment with regard to new education research and professional learning
Notice the deficits and opportunity for greater growth
As we teach we are aware of deficits and opportunities to teach better. We keep track of those ideas and use them to improve the teaching ahead. For example, students create plant packets. Next year we'd like to build on that project by turning those plant packet seedlings into vertical gardens that green our classrooms and make our classrooms learning labs. Currently ways that we would like to improve the overall curriculum including the following efforts:
  • Embed social-emotional learning more explicitly and successfully throughout the curriculum
  • Weave curriculum goals from varied disciplines together into meaningful learning more often and with greater depth
  • Use the local environment as a stage for meaningful learning more often throughout all disciplines
  • Make sure that students read, write, discuss, and present on learning as a way to deepen their ability to learn and apply the content facts, concepts, vocabulary, and skills.
  • When we receive test results, we'll look closely at specific standards that students were less successful with and think about how we might strengthen students' learning in those areas with greater depth, meaning, and engagement. Our systemwide tests have already pointed to a few areas that we can strengthen next year. For example, we review the area model often for fractions, but when students were called to use that approach they could not independently do it. Next year that skill will be the focus of a meaningful performance assessment based on a meaningful, relevant problem to solve. Using a writers workshop approach of drafting, editing, and completing a final copy will help every child attain greater depth and skill with this learning standard.
Organize the learning with lesson plans, related resources, and website pages
Once we identify the areas that we want to grow, we then research and write up the plans for growth. Those plans include the learning experiences, related videos, needed materials, and informative project pages on our class websites. This sets the stage for the improved teaching.

Curriculum Map
We weave our new learning with existing learning by mapping the teaching year. The loose-tight map we make ensures that we include all teaching/learning efforts and makes space for new and revised learning efforts. We revise the map as needed.

Weekly Schedule
We create a weekly schedule that ensures that we meet the teaching goals and objectives. 

Regular Meetings
We meet regularly to review and revise the teaching/learning schedule, events, and learning experiences. We invite families, students, and colleagues to join us on this journey via regular communication and the invitation to share their ideas, questions, and expertise as we travel a year of meaningful and engaging learning with and for students.