If you engage in project-based learning (#pbl) and want to learn what one language arts middle school teacher does to integrate common core into her projects, read this piece on Edutopia’s website, How to Design Projects Around the Common Core.
Here is how the author, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, describes what she does integrate the common core into her projects.
In fact, designing and developing a project-based learning outcome is its own process, and while I don’t tend to invite the standards to the party first off, they do end up being the guest of honor.
In her design process, she leads with what excites her and what she believes will be interesting to students. She fits in common core where it makes sense, and usually it does. I love the way she outlines her process:
So designing towards the Common Core Standards becomes a basic process made up of three steps: (1) Design towards what you love. Think about your own interests and the interests of the age group you teach; (2) Look back at the Common Core Standards; and (3) Fill in the gaps
Another piece on Edutopia, Using Entrepreneurship to Transform Student Work, is also a compelling piece that illustrates the strong connections between project-based learning (#pbl), making learning relevant and meaningful, and designing for student engagement and independence. Here is the opening paragraph from the author, Raleigh Werberger.
As my colleagues and I were building curriculum for our ninth grade project-based program, we found that most of our conversations centered not on potential projects themselves, but rather on building student self-motivation and self-mastery. We realized that our program’s measure of success was whether the students learned to take charge of their own learning and find a joy in it.
I think she captures what is absolutely critical in curriculum design work. A wonderful piece that deserves special attention.
Another piece that should be of interest to all educators who have an interest in the long-term health of the teaching profession appeared in The Hechinger Report June 20, 2014. The piece, Controversial Report Paints a Grim Picture of Teacher Education, was written by Alexandria Neason. Her article summarizes the impact of a study conducted on higher education teacher preparation programs conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). This quote will give you some idea of the conclusions drawn from the study.
Of the 1,668 programs ranked by the group, only 26 elementary education programs and 81 secondary programs earned the designation “top ranked.” Nearly 70 of the highest ranked programs are at public universities, with Tennessee, Texas and Ohio home to the most. Seventeen states have no ranked programs based on the council’s ratings.
This quote from the article illustrates the challenges we face in improving these programs in higher education (#education). We clearly have to increase the standards and expectations we have for admitting and graduating students from these programs. In addition, schools of education may want to invest in more visionary leaders who are capable of building strong partnerships with K-12 schools.
The report blames lax admissions criteria and subpar student teaching programs for the low rankings. Three out of five programs admit students who fall academically in the bottom half of the college-going population. And just five percent (down from seven percent last year) of programs had components for a strong student teaching experience, the hallmark of traditional education programs.
AllThingsPLC, a website devoted to resources on professional learning communities, has a blog site that is worth following. Adam Young, Principal at White Pine High School, posted a piece on failure (#failure), Rethinking Failure. There have been many pieces written on “rethinking” our approach to how we address failure with our students. Starting with Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset, if we have learned anything it’s that our approach in most traditional schools is to build a “fear of failure” in our students. Many of them have a fixed mindset when it comes to how they approach school. Here is how Adam Young frames the challenge.
As educators, I think we see this quite regularly with our students both inside and outside the classroom. Many students would rather sit back and choose not to answer a question rather than risk answering incorrectly. In athletics, sometimes students choose not to try out for the team rather than risk getting cut. In music, sometimes students will avoid practicing the more difficult piece because they are afraid they won’t be able to do it correctly.
He puts the responsibility squarely on school leaders to look in the mirror.
How much does this mindset affect us as adults in our professional practice? Are we comfortable with where we are as teachers and school leaders? Even if we have improved our practice recently, are we afraid of taking an additional risk because we may fall short?
Instead of placing blame on students for not being motivated or for letting their fear of failure get in the way of their success as a student, we (teachers and school leaders) should be facing our own fear of failure and learning how to set a better example for our students. It begins with us.