Archive for Richard

Assessment for Next Generation Learning

A new article from EdSurge describes a MIT effort to design assessments for next generation learning. “Playful assessment” captures curiosity, creativity and critical thinking within the natural context of student learning activities.”It emphasizes recognizing and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t, and in response, identifying skills to improve on moving forward.”

While such habits of mind are recognized as essential for today’s learners and are frequently embedded in curriculum and lesson design, they are also difficult to systematically and accurately assess. Instruments such as the Mission Skills Assessment and SSAT Character Skills Snapshot have emerged in recent years but are disconnected from classroom curricula.  Effective teacher assessment is needed to both measure and deepen lasting next generation learning for students.

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

Three Kinds of Engagement

A wonderful, new synthesis of research identifies a main reason why students do not thrive in school and provides clear directions for improvement. The study, titled “Supporting Social, Emotional, and Academic Development” is published by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. While focused on public schools in Chicago, the study applies to any school where a gap persists between teacher expectations and student performance.

The study elegantly identifies three areas of student engagement: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. The problem? Behavioral engagement is the most visible of the three, therefore teachers tend to focus on student behaviors more than their emotional or cognitive moments in the class. Most course and lesson design overlooks student emotional states and cognitive work. Interventions for low-performing students often focus on student behaviors and ultimately fail. From the study:

Lesson planning, content coverage, and test preparation can take all of educators’ time, leaving little time to reflect on why it is that not all students are fully engaged in the work that has been asked of them. A focus on student engagement requires a change in priorities from not only identifying how well students are meeting expectations, to also working to get all students able to meet those expectations.

The study is a potentially useful tool for school leaders, instructional coaches, teachers engaged in reflective self-improvement.

WorldStrides Summit on Global Awareness & Leadership

globe

Last week, our global programs director Brian and I spent two days at a WorldStrides-sponsored event in Philadelphia, at which we studied questions about optimal program design and student experience. The presenter lineup featured organization and school experts in global travel, providing a rich range of perspectives and wisdom on the topic.

Some highlights:

  • What is the overall purpose of your program? Curriculum, experience, or service?
  • What does your school community value? Is your global program aligned?
  • How much is global education represented in the rest of the school curriculum? Do students see the travel program connected to the rest of their school experience?
  • Has your school thoroughly studied student health and safety preparations and plans?
  • Do groups travel during or outside the school term?
  • Where does student leadership live in your travel program?

We have returned with a decent list of outstanding school travel programs of different types:

At UPrep, we are implementing the first large shift in our signature Global Link program in 10 years. Our new Intensive terms allow Global Link to travel during an intensive term rather than over spring break. So far, two trips have migrated into the January intensive, with plans to continue moving trips next year.

Adding a specific subject’s curriculum to the trip is a new feature of Intensive Global Link. Our first three examples are Human Rights in Colombia, Global Link American South, and Storytelling in Samoa. As a result, schools that have established strong curricular connections for global travel are of specific interest to us right now. From the above list, these include Ideaventions, Lawrenceville, and Trinity Palmer, at a minimum.

Finally, Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG) Executive Director Clare Sisisky presented three times on insights gleaned from GEBG’s 250 member schools, including broad perspectives on global program outcomes, school partnerships, conceptual frameworks, assessment instruments, and examples from model schools.

[Photo by Juliana Kozoski on Unsplash]

A Watch App That Goes For It

Why are advanced smartwatch apps so limited in their function and options? Have app developers tried too hard to imitate fitness trackers, even though the watches are capable of so much more? A year trying multiple running apps led me to wonder.

Then, Workoutdoors released its “massively improved” version 3.0 this past August, blowing the doors off every other app I tried. This app fully flexes the capabilities of GPS, maps, text displays, buttons, heart rate monitor, and more.

  

The app is infinitely customizable to one’s display preferences and comprehensive in its fitness activities. Multiple layouts, over 160 available data metrics, skillful use of text sizes and colors, split alerts, and live maps take this app to a new level.

I use different Workoutdoors screens for easy runs, tempo runs, events on an unfamiliar course, and even cycling. The hiking screens look intriguing. I’d like to try them. Remarkably, you can even create custom screens on the watch, although they are easier to create on the phone app.

  

Battery management, signal strength, and auto pause are all cleverly managed. Over 100 different metrics are available to suit one’s specific information wants. Workouts are automatically saved to Apple Workouts. Extensive summary data is available when you finish your workout. You can import GPX files to pre-load a workout course. This team thought of everything.

I hope that apps like this raise the bar for developers in other spaces beyond fitness, so that the smartwatch can become a truly useful digital companion, not just a limited accessory.

The Busy UPrep Blog

The UPrep blog has been very active in the past week, thanks to the great work of student and staff authors and the Communications team. Check out these recent titles, including one by yours truly.

Seeking Engineering Intensive Teacher

The Engineering Intensive Teacher will join two UPrep teachers to deliver a three-week, full-time, hands-on, introductory engineering course to high school students who have signed up for this January elective course. This is a fantastic opportunity for an engineer interested in working with youth or an aspiring teacher seeking classroom experience.

Position description and online application

Visiting Teams and Professional Learning

[I am trying a new, compact format for blog posts so that I share here more often. Let me know what you think.]

ClassroomI just finished serving for on a NWAIS Accreditation visiting team for four days. These teams perform a vital function in supporting the long-term viability of independent schools. They provide every school with an outside perspective and targeted feedback to help improve their programs. They also represent powerful professional development for visiting team members. Over three and a half days, one dives deeply into the values and functions of a school, touring the campus, interviewing community members, reading the school’s self-study, and poring over supporting documents. The school is asked to provide full transparency into all of its processes, so conversations go deeply quickly.

A Visiting Team is comprised of professionals from peer schools that cover the diverse functions of an independent school. This team included two heads of schools plus experts in academic program, student life, technology, enrollment management, teaching, and experiential programs. NWAIS designs the teams to cover the breadth of school functions and provide the school with feedback targeted to its particular character. Collaboration is strong, as team members work closely to share observations, discuss findings, and review each others’ writing.

Serving this year was intentional, as I am leading our self-study process starting later this year. The new NWAIS Demonstrations of Success and Generative Questions focus much more on values and practices than the old format. This is much improved over the old format, in which the school documented all aspects of its programs, a time-consuming process of questionable, long-term value. Principles and practices are easier to capture and review and arguably better support the long-term success of a school. Since this is a big change from the old format, it is quite helpful to live the new process on a visiting team before leading it at one’s own school.

If you would like to serve on an accreditation visiting team, tell your head of school, who will recommend you to the NWAIS director of accreditation.

Faculty Summer Reading 2018

UPrep faculty and staff chose from these four selections during our close meetings last Thursday. The books speak to the learning initiatives in our strategic plan, particularly Social Justice and Educational Equity, Social and Emotional Learning, and New Models of Time.

The Self-Driven Child: Neuropsychologist Bill Stixrud and tutoring provider Ned Johnson explore the problem of high stress and low motivation, particularly in high-achieving students. Informed by practical experience and research, they argue that kids need to gain more control over their lives to become more healthy. Directed to parents, this is a good selection if you are interested in student stress or anxiety, would like to better understand parents who worry about their stressed students, or are a parent yourself! As an added bonus, the Parent Education group is planning to schedule Stixrud and Johnson to speak with our parents next year.

The Gender Creative Child: Diane Ehrensaft, developmental and clinical psychologist at the University of California–San Francisco guides us through the spectrum of gender identity and expression, using a gender affirmation model. This is a good selection if you are interested in better understanding our students who are expressing fluid gender identity.

For White Folks Who Teach In the Hood: 2015 Multicultural Educator of the Year Christopher Emdin, from Teachers College Columbia University, begins by exploring why some teachers connect with urban youth, and others don’t. He explains his theory of Reality Pedagogy, built on respect for urban youths’ culture, students as experts in their own learning, and communities in the classroom. This is a good selection for teachers seeking to shift their minds about our students of color who come from urban backgrounds.

A More Beautiful Question: Nationally recognized journalist Warren Berger discovers a common trend among successful leaders of big companies: they ask great questions. This book examines the types of questions that prompt inquiry, creativity, and innovation. This is a good selection if you are interested in a business perspective on the overarching questions that organize your course, as well as the questions you ask every day.

 

One book only! Clipboard if we run out.

New Courses and Intensives, Explained

These new videos help explain our new course offerings and intensives to UPrep families. In addition, you may visit pages for the Course of Study (MS, US), Intensives, and Senior LaunchPad. Enjoy!

Communicating Intensives

The communication plan for our rollout of Intensives has attempted to balance the internal work to develop the new term structure and courses as well as the need for students and families to stay informed in a timely manner. Publish too early, and the plan could change significantly. Publish too late, and families and students would feel late to the party.

In January 2017, we announced the new school schedule in two parts, the new day schedule to launch in August 2017 and the new term schedule to launch in August 2018. The new day schedule stole the headlines due to its immediacy, and when school started, we hosted Denise Pope and shared more blog posts to reinforce the principles that supported the new day schedule.

In October, we revisited Intensives by publishing a blog post and holding three parent meetings to reinforce the program overview. Concurrently, teachers worked hard to wrote new course proposals, and department heads and program directors coordinated course approval and program scope and sequence. As that process drew to a close, we published the Intensives overview to a static web page and published on the blog an interview about Intensives with two UPrep parents who are also education specialists.

It is currently March, and later this month, we will take the next step toward course requests by publishing the full Course of Study, holding a series of advisor, student, and parent meetings, and sharing similar information in a web site video. We do this every year to prepare for course requests but anticipate that these meetings and posts will gain special interest this year due to the launch of Intensives.

The course requests process itself will serve as a vital communication moment, as everyone’s focus will be sharper when they are designing student course plans for next year.

Similar to the September events with Denise Pope, we plan to hold a speaker panel in October to reinforce the principles underlying Intensives and address questions in advance of the first courses in January. The panel will include an instructional leader from Hawken School, a UPrep Intensives teacher, and our director of college counseling.

Communication, one might argue, is equal in importance to design for program innovation to be effective. Messages of thoughtful consideration, planning, and student development must reach as many community members as possible and become part of word-of-mouth dialogue.