This post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on January 4, 2017. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.
January, the start of a new year and at the same time the middle of a year. In the rest of our lives outside of school we are all thinking about new starts, reflecting on the successes and struggles of the previous year and laying plans for embracing what we have learned in order to grow and move forward. In contrast, many of us in school are picking up with a new learning opportunity and continuing along the content marathon of the school year. This year, why not take some time for reflection in school as well?
We all know that using the first hours and weeks of a new school year are optimal for setting culture in our classes and buildings. Turning the culture over to the learners, by engaging them in vision crafting and creating codes of conduct, is a powerful move for establishing a learner centered community that fosters learner agency. It is even more powerful when sustained over the course a year. A culture that fosters learner agency is the cornerstone of learner centered proficiency based learning. It is worth taking the time to revisit, review, reflect, and revise.
Once we get into the groove of content and targets it can be a challenge to find the time for culture sustaining work. It is easy to fall into the pattern of valuing content completion over the nurturing of a learner-centered culture. Now is a great time to revive attention to the culture in our classes and buildings, and it does not have to be overwhelming or complicated at all. Here are some ideas to get you and the learners you work with reflecting on how the year has gone so far, and how to move even closer to their vision of the learning environment they want.
Vision Reflection Survey
- Copy and paste the vision the learners created at the start of the year into a survey
- Include several questions that require learners to rate their perception of how things are as compared to the vision
- Include open ended responses for learners to include ideas about changes that could, or need, to be made
- Review the data in small groups, advisor groups would work well, and support learners to set group and individual goals and action plans based on the ideas in the data
- Make your own goals and action plans to sustain and revisit culture work throughout the rest of the school year
Learner Leadership Teams
- Invite a small group of learners to represent the team, or class, and hold regular meetings with them to discuss the team culture
- Set goals and action plans related to sustaining the vision and code of conduct; make sure the learner leaders have meaningful roles. Some possible areas of responsibility could include: Parking Lots, team meetings, recognition and celebratio
- Boil the vision or code of conduct down to smaller statements, or parts
- Ask learners to rate themselves, and the team as a whole, on the different parts
- Select pieces to make the team focus for a period of time, a week or a month, and make plans to discuss and reflect on those parts in small groups and individually.
- Decide on a way to measure growth in those focus areas, and celebrate the data in larger team activities or meetings
Don’t have a vision or code of conduct? Now is just as good a time as any to make one with learners. Here are some questions to use to get learners started with thinking about their vision of what school should be like:
- What do you need from your teachers in order to be a successful learner?
- What do you need from your peers in order to be a successful learner?
- What do you need from your school community in order to be a successful learner?
- What do you need from yourself in order to be a successful learner?
- Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Accountable Talk
- Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Steps to Grow Learner Autonomy
- Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Applied Learning and W2AL
Courtney Belolan works at RSU 2 in Maine where she supports K-12 teachers with performance-based, individualized learning. Courtney works closely with teams and teachers as a coach, and with the school and district leadership teams as an instructional strategist. Courtney has worked as a 6-12 literacy and instructional coach, a middle level ELA teacher, an environmental educator, and a digital literacy coach. Her core beliefs include the idea that the best education is one centered on student passions and rooted in interdisciplinary applications, and that enjoying learning is just as important as the learning itself.