A Global-Ready Curriculum

 

p21logoThis post originally appeared on Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), the leading national organization advocating for 21st century readiness for every student. P21 brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers who believe our education system must equip students with rigorous academic coursework and the skills to be successful employees and citizens. View Original >

 



I am amazed by the students of my school and their ability to tap into multiple cultures. Recently I shadowed a student through part of her day. She was speaking Korean, her Native language, to her friends in the hall, English in the Social Studies classroom, practicing Mandarin with her Chinese teacher, and giving a presentation in French. It reminded me of resilience of students and the unique experience of an international education.

Although I have only recently joined the community of an International School on a more permanent basis, I have worked with many international schools in the past, and I even attended a 6-12 public school as a student with a focus on international topics. I took French my entire time there, and teachers sought to include global topics, questions, and themes into the curriculum. Most recently, I visited a school in Tokyo, Japan that had currently finished a curriculum audit and was working towards setting goals and next steps for their school and to meet accreditation expectations. They are exploring questions such as “How do we provide an international experience?” and “What does global and international education look like?” This school is not only trying create an experience that is uniquely international for students, but also supports and prepares them to be ready for that global world they are already living in.

Integrating Global Competencies
P21 has published Global Competence Indicators for grades K-12. They focus on the themes of “Understanding,” “Investigating,” “Connecting,” and “Integrating.” These indicators can easily be integrated into existing curriculum, just as many schools are already adopting 21st Century competencies of collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving. One strategy we worked on was having departments look at the indicators, identify which ones are already in the curriculum and which additions might be appropriate to teach alongside content standards such as the Common Core.

It is critical that if schools intend to adopt these competencies, then they must make a concerted effort to unpack the indicators, just as educators unpack standards. Unpacking allows teachers to identify the level of thinking students need to know, and the content and skills they will need as well. (To do this, I prefer using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge). As educators unpack the standards, they need to be wary of just looking at the verb, the context is important, as it might change the level of thinking. Unpacking also allows educators and schools to identify priority standards. The same is true for these global competencies. Educators and schools should not attempt to teach and assess all the global competencies, but instead select ones that are priorities and have currency in their curriculum. International Schools particularly have an opportunity to leverage this work as it is part of their identity and mission.

Use PBL as the Model
Just as project-based learning is being used to deliver content and develop skills from the Common Core, Next Generation School Standards and college and career readiness, PBL is a perfect method to teach and assess global competencies. Global competencies call for investigation and inquiry, a deep understanding of content and different perspectives, and taking action. With these competencies in mind, teachers can create highly authentic projects that require students to partner with the cultures of the world, reflect on their place in that world, and advocate appropriately.

My friend Rich Lehrer did a fantastic project where his students connected with students in Brazil, Africa and India to build efficient stoves. They not only learned engineering, energy and other science concepts but also about serious health hazards facing people around the world. They didn’t just build the stove for someone else, they students worked together across cultures and languages to build the stoves together, to learn perspective and to learn from each other. What I truly appreciated was that is wasn’t charity work – it was a partnership. Students learned from each other not only traditional content, but global competencies as well.

International schools consider global competencies as part of the “What” of their curriculum and project-based Learning as the “How.” Together they create students that will not only be global-ready, but engaged in the many cultures of which they are members.

Voice and Choice: It’s More Than Just “What”

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


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As a PBL advocate, I know how important it is to have voice and choice in the learning environment. When I work with teachers, we always collaborate to design projects with the appropriate level of voice and choice for students, which depends on factors such as time of the year, age level, content, and many others.

There is never a one-size-fits-all method to voice and choice. It’s always contextualized to teacher and student lives and experiences. However, many times we oversimplify voice and choice to what students create in their project, or we simply forget that there are many possibilities. While having students express voice and choice in their products is one great option, let’s consider more opportunities to create engagement and student-centered learning.

More “What”
While product is the vehicle for showing content and learning, perhaps we can offer more choice in the content? This may not work in all cases, but it can certainly work when we have standards broad enough to allow students to select specific sub-content within the standard or learning outcome. Maybe we’d allow students to choose topics related to the skill. I know a teacher that let students analyze a variety of cell phone plans of their choice, but still demanded that they show the same skills in linear equations. This choice works well with skill-based learning outcomes and standards, but it’s not limited to those things. I know this isn’t a new idea, just a reminder that we might have more flexibility than we think in the content that students learn.

“Who”
Students can and should choose who they work with. However, take time with them to reflect on various prompts such as:

Who do you need to help?
Who can help you?
What are my strengths?
What are my areas of growth?

Prompts like these can help students make intentional decisions in the learning partners they choose and give them a powerful range of incentives. In addition, many times students create work for a variety of audiences. While we might choose that for them, we can also ask them to whom they want to present their work or with whom they will share their work.

“Why” and Purpose
Students always want to know why they’re learning material, and we often go to great lengths to make the learning relevant through the task itself or by trying to explain connections. Instead, we could partner with students in deciding the “why.” Ask them why they want to learn this material, or help them brainstorm ideas and then let them decide why they want to learn something. Students can become the driving force in the purpose of their learning: “I will learn this in order to _______” is a great sentence starter to give them more of a voice in the “why” of learning.

“Where”
Why do students always have to learn in the same place? Why at desks? Why not on the floor? Why not in the hallway? Why not at home? Why not on a field trip? Why not in the library? Why not in another classroom? More and more schools and experimenting with flexible spaces and learning environments — quiet corners, sitting and standing desks, conference-style areas, makerspaces, and more. We can offer more voice and choice to students by allowing them to decide where they want to learn. This can meet their social-emotional needs, foster engagement in learning, and create a space where learning is physically dynamic.

“When”
If we are personalizing learning, we need to be flexible about when students are creating work, when they are learning certain concepts, and even when they might turn work in. While this might be uncomfortable to consider, it’s a great area to stretch yourself as a teacher in giving up control and allowing students to take more of that control. Teachers can coach students to pick appropriate tasks for learning material, coach them to relearn material in a way that students want, and help them plan effective deadlines for work. Allowing students control over when they learn can create an environment where time is no longer the most important variable, and instead learning becomes the driving force.

Not only can voice and choice create more engagement in learning, but giving students agency can also empower them to become self-directed learners. Voice and choice can allow students to explore their passions and feel honored for their ideas and opinions. We should all be providing more voice and choice, not creating walls to stifle these things.

How do you or will you provide more voice and choice to your students?

Assessing Creativity in the Classroom: It Needs to Happen!

 

p21logoThis post originally appeared on Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), the leading national organization advocating for 21st century readiness for every student. P21 brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers who believe our education system must equip students with rigorous academic coursework and the skills to be successful employees and citizens. View Original >

 

Driving Question: How Can We Assess Creativity in the Classroom?

Explicitly and effectively assessing creativity is one of my passions. I was lucky. My parents put me into many arts programs, music programs and the like to build my creativity. Later it would become an area of study as I practiced vocal jazz, and sung in my musicals and chorale groups. In fact, it was that work I can strongly attribute to my current creative abilities which I have been able to transfer into “non-arts” subject matter and ideas.

Indeed, we know creativity is not limited to the arts, but that also means we need to provide instructional opportunities for students to be creative in all subject areas, be assessed on creativity, and improve.

Let’s be clear, we are using the word “assess” here. Assessment does not “equal” grading. Those are two different things, although the can complement and build upon each other.

Some schools do put in a creativity grade, while others may feel uncomfortable doing so. Regardless, students need to know where they are at in terms of the creativity in order to set goals and improve. Assessment does this with or without grades.

Unpacking Creativity

The first step to assessing creativity it to know what it is. Despite popular belief, it is not a nebulous concept. Creativity, in fact, has quality indicators to it that help us to understand what it looks like and how we build our creative skills. Rubrics exist that articulate these quality indicators, such as the Buck Institute for Education’s Creativity rubrics for elementary and secondary grades.

In a rubric published in the Ed Leadership article “Assessing Creativity,” Sue Brookhart describes the category of very creative with the description “Ideas represent a startling variety of important concepts from different contexts or disciplines” as well as “Created product draws on a wide variety of sources, including different texts, media, resource persons, or personal experiences.” In BIE’s K-2 Creativity rubric, two quality indicators are “I can help pick the best idea” and “I can think of ideas for what to make or do in the project.” These are some samples of helping students understand what creativity looks like, and gives them quality indicators. We need to unpack creativity in this way because students may or may not know what it is, let alone how to get better. Simply saying, “Be creative,” will not give students the specific goals to work toward.

Creativity with Content

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Students must have some “thing” with which to be creative. For example they can be creative with World Religions content knowledge or solve linear equations in a creative way. In addition, tying creative thinking to an important concept or idea provides a great opportunity to assess more content-based standards along with creativity; giving them both equal footing in the assessment plan.

When teachers design a unit or project, they begin with the end in mind, target specific content skills and objectives that they want students to learn. From there, they consider how students can be creative with that content. What context will they give students that demands they be creative with the content? What voice and choice will theygives students in products students will create?

Consider this example. A teacher might design a unit where she wants students to learn about world religions, as well as speaking and listening skills. From there, the teacher might come up with the context about discrimination that occurs with world religions and tasks student with uncovering and solving this issue of stereotypes and discrimination. Next, the teacher might provide voice and choice to students in the products they create as well as the audience they intend to target. While the learning of content and skills is focused, the space and demand for creativity is there as well.

Formative and Summative Assessment

Teachers can assess creativity in a final product or in summative assessments. If the unit or project calls for a creative product, a criteria for evaluation might be creativity in addition to the content skills and knowledge students have to demonstrate. However, if teachers intend to summatively assess creativity, but they must formatively assess in order to scaffold appropriately and to have students build their creative thinking skills.

Paired with a good rubric, they can formatively assess one or many quality indicators of creativity. Students can set goals and reflect upon these creative goals. As the final product calls for creativity, journals, reflections and even oral individuals can be used to check for creative indictors. These formative assessments can be used as self, peer and teacher assessments to improve creative skills. It further fosters that creativity is a process. For a quality final product that shows creativity, the creative process must be valued through formative assessment.

Assessing creativity must be intentional when teachers plan instruction. If we want our students to be creative, then we must assess it. It we want creativity to be valued as much as content, then it is must be assessed just like content. The good news is that it can be done, and we have the tools to do it!

Teachers are Learning Designers

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


Late in 2012, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post that articulated what I really feel should be and is a role of great teachers. Great teachers are “learning designers” who seek to create a space where all students are empowered to learn. I was further inspired to rearticulate this idea when I saw this video from Sir Ken Robinson:

Empower Yourself
For so long, teachers have been disempowered to design. With prescribed curriculum, overly strict pacing guides and the like, teachers have been given little to no opportunity to innovate and design for learning. Personally, this was and is my favorite part about teaching — the opportunity to design and be creative, to design learning that meets the needs of my students, to try new things — and perhaps the opportunity to fail. Great learning models and structures have the space for teachers to design for their students while still remaining within the framework. Whether it’s a driving question for a PBL project, a mini-task in an LDC unit, an instructional scaffold for a UbD unit, or a assessment for a GBL unit, teachers still have — and must have — the space that empowers them to design. If we want our students to be empowered, then we must model this empowerment to be a learning designer. If you haven’t designed or been given the space to, this will be difficult. Look for spaces that can challenge your design thinking about what a learning space can be.

Stop Blaming Kids
There is one pitfall in Sir Ken Robinson’s metaphor of teachers as gardeners and students as fruit. If you misunderstand this metaphor, you might think that it puts a heavier onus on students. It does not. If your students, like plants, are struggling to grow, perhaps it isn’t them. Most likely it’s the conditions that are being created for students. Now of course, there are many conditions creating opportunity for growth that may be beyond our control. In fact, you might conduct a Realms and Concern Influence protocol with other staff members to see what you can influence about a particular student. That being said, there is always something that teachers can do or design to create the seeds for growth. Look for opportunities to design rather than fearing roadblocks.

Revise and Reflect
As I mentioned earlier, if students are struggling, it’s a great opportunity to revise and reflect on the learning design. Ask yourself:

Are more voice and choice or self-directed learning needed?
Should there be some differentiation?
Perhaps there could have been more formative assessments?

These are just some of the questions I ponder when students are not successful, but there are a whole lot more. These are also some of the questions that colleagues ask me, which goes to show that revision and reflection is a collaborative process as well as an individual one. Related to this, don’t be afraid to fail. Consider it “failing forward,” and continue designing amazing learning experiences for students. Also consider using protocols to help you reflect on your work in a safe space with colleagues.

Teachers, be empowered to become learning designers for all students. We need to look for these opportunities to design, but we also need to reflect on the current learning designs in our classrooms. Just as our world and our students are always changing, so must our designs for learning!

Project-Based Learning as a Context for Arts Integration

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 

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Project-based learning can provide an intentional and effective opportunity to integrate the arts across disciplines and curriculum. While valuable as a stand-alone discipline, arts education can be given further power and value when used in a PBL project as part of the core curriculum.

When teachers begin designing PBL projects, they often start small, maybe with a recommended idea to internalize the design process and a reflection on how to improve. As teachers become more familiar with PBL, integration is a great next step for taking it up a notch. This is where the arts come in! If you are thinking about your next PBL project, consider using one or more of these intentional moments to integrate art.

The Arts as the Entry Event
When launching a PBL project, it is crucial to have an entry event that engages students and creates excitement for the project. From movies and music to activities and simulations, teachers can launch a project with one or more entry events that relate to the arts. Start the project with an art anchor text, not only to build inquiry, but also to keep the momentum going along the way by revisiting that anchor.

The Arts in Culminating Products or Performances
PBL demands voice and choice in how students spend their time and how they show their learning. Each project culminates in a presentation or product that is presented to a public audience. The best products meet the needs of the audience, which means that creating the project must focus not only on relevance, but also on engagement. Teachers can use this design element to further leverage the arts by providing an arts product as one or more of the choices. We know students can show their learning in a variety of ways and through multiple intelligences. In addition to a persuasive letter, consider a collage or songbook of lyrics.

The Arts as Scaffolding
Students need scaffolding through a variety of instructional activities that will arm them with the skills and content they’ll need to be successful on the project. As you consider this scaffolding, include arts-related activities. Use these activities to help students process their content and represent their thinking. For example, have students do a “tableau” activity where they represent the structure of the cell. From this, the teacher helps students metacognitively and transparently connect this individual activity to the larger project. Students learn from this arts-based activity during the project and will apply it to their product. Role-plays, simulations, music comprehension strategies, visual processing, dramatic acting — all these activities and more can help support and scaffold the many learning targets within a PBL project.

The Arts As Formative Assessment
Similar to assessing their students’ culminating products or performances, teachers must formatively assess learning objectives and skills throughout the PBL project. As students participate in scaffolding and activities, use the arts as the method to formatively assess content and 21st century skills. If you are assessing collaboration, use a visual representation as evidence.

While arts integration in the core discipline alone is valuable, doing it within the context of a PBL project can make the integration seamless as well as valuable. PBL projects provide a space to meet multiple learning targets, whether those are core discipline standards or arts standards. Whether or not you are intending to assess arts standards on your PBL project, you can still find intentional instructional moments for using the arts, not only to value them, but also to create engagement for everyone. Your students can learn the arts as well as learning through the arts.

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