Thursday, November 10, 2016

November Reflection: "Getting Better All the Time"

In what ways does WtS serve as a model that helps others think more creatively about how to design learning?

For me, the greatest asset of WtS is the sheer amount of one-on-one time we get with our learners. We've all known for a long time that a huge key to educational success is that students need to feel valued and connected; however, fostering these relationships in the traditional classroom is not always easy.

With WtS, its quite literally easy to form great relationships with students because we, as mentors, are working along side our learners (as opposed to monitoring them from afar), and we therefore the moments we spend together go a very long way.

So how does this encourage me to think creatively as I design learning experiences for my students in my "traditional" classroom? Unfortunately, changing the number of students in my classes and the amount of time I get to spend with them isn't under my control. That said, WtS has encouraged me to think differently about how I interact with my students in all the other moments of the day -- in the hallways, in study hall, and in other precious times when I find the opportunity for good, unhurried conversation.  

As always, I continue to think about ways that I can balance both the standards and the values I hold dear with the cutting-edge and ever-changing ideas reflected through educational frameworks such as Universal Design or courses such as WtS. For example, I am currently working with my grade-level teaching partner at Middlebury Union Middle School to brainstorm ways in which students can respond in non-print formats to traditional print texts. (We're recruiting Tim's help in this endeavor).

Perhaps the most powerful message for teachers that WtS has to offer is the reminder that students are very motivated by choice. When provided with just the right -- and personalized -- mixture of structure, support, freedom and delicious food (and yes, it's a magical formula that requires time, space, expertise and adequate funding), students, as evidenced by WtS, flourish in ways that they never have before. 

How can our WtS team bring an even more creative approach to how we design, orchestrate, and report our students learning?

In my mind, reporting out is the trickiest aspect of WtS? My experience with teaching is that speedy and frequent feedback is crucial. With the weekly blogging phase of our course, students are getting timely and thorough responses to their thinking.

It would be tough to match the real-world skills -- especially around technology, digital storytelling and collaboration -- that students glean from WtS. However, last year, once we broke off into our separate groups, honest, effective, individualized and documented feedback seemed to wane. While I absolutely love that this course is about the learning and not the grade, we want to make sure that the rigor, quality and quantity of work matches that of the traditional classrooms from which some of these students are now absent. I don't have an immediate answer to this question, but I would like to continue to think about ways that we can separately report out on both students' progress with work habits (timelines, responsibility, active engagement, commitment, etc.) and their products. Ideally, we would do this in one comprehensive, effective document that is transparent, honest and collaborative. 

Much in the way that our new blog space streamlined students' work and brought all the personalized thinking into one dynamic yet cozy platform, it would be great if students could track their progress in one spot and if mentors had a way of contributing to this feedback.

No comments:

Post a Comment