Under the leadership of our Middle School Principal, Ken Parliman, we’re in the process of rethinking some of our middle level electives to provide students with more personalized learning experiences.
In preparation for these shifts, not too long ago I led the facilitation of an all-day professional learning session for our middle level specialists (those who teach the electives). I planned for this day alongside Ken and my Assistant Superintendent, Lynn Fuini-Hetten.
The theme for the day was student choice, and everything was encompassed by the essential question:
What decisions am I making for students that they could make for themselves?What decisions am I making for students that they could make for themselves? via @spencerideas & @ajjuliani #EmpowerBook Click To Tweet
Here’s the agenda for the professional learning:
- The essential question was revealed and briefly discussed.
- We watched and then discussed the YouTube video, 10 Ways to Empower Students With Choice, by John Spencer.
- Each participating teacher chose a project he or she had already facilitated. With their projects in mind, each teacher filled out a T-Chart (in Google docs). The left-side contained the teacher choices that took place during the project, and the right-side contained the student choices.
- With the following prompts in mind, participants analyzed and discussed each other’s T-Charts and projects:
- Looking at everyone’s examples of student choice, are there any possible ways you could group them into categories? What commonalities exist?
- How could you provide more student choice within your project?
- What are your reservations for providing more student choice?
- With the following prompts in mind, participants read and then discussed the eBook, Getting Started with Student Choice, by John Spencer:
- Where is the author full of crap? (if at all)
- Where does the author hit the nail on the head?
- What practical tips are provided?
The Culminating Activity
- Think of a project/activity you already use. Create ways to embed more student choice into it, based on “moving up” the diagram (p. 32 in the eBook, above) on your journey to the FroYo model. As you’re designing your project/activity, consider the following questions:
- Will students be designing a product? Solving a problem? Open-ended? Something else?
- As a result of the project/activity, what do you want students to understand?
- How will students be assessed and possibly, graded?
- For the lessons that take place within the context of your project/activity, (1) what content will need to be addressed, and (2) how will it be addressed?
- After, share out the following:
- What was your “before” project? What is your “after” project? How do they contrast?
- What new opportunities are there for student choice? How do you think these opportunities will benefit your students?
- Peer feedback.
In the End
Shortly after the session, I posted the following on Facebook:
Today I worked with my Middle School Principal to facilitate an all-day session on student choice during project design. Great stuff! Feeling inspired! (Sometimes if we remove the buzzwords and drill down to what matters, moving forward is that much easier.)
Through professional learning, there are countless ways to tackle such practices/topics as: inquiry-based learning, project based learning, personalized learning, learner agency, etc. However, often times, when we lead with these terms, we can easily intimidate and possibly “turn off” participants (especially when a district doesn’t have a common definition/understanding of what these terms involve). So, in this particular instance, we chose student choice as our entry point. By the end of the day we ended up exploring all of the above and a whole lot more. And, in the process, I do believe we comfortably “met participants where they were” without being disrespectful of the work they had already done.
Finally, as usual, I look forward to improving upon this professional learning for when we decide to roll it out again!
How do you encourage student choice?
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