As a 2014 Rowland Fellow I will catalyze change in U-32's teaching and learning culture by increasing our capacity to implement current transformation initiatives. I will engage the U-32 learning community to cultivate a collective, mission-driven vision to then align our goals and initiatives to. Those initiatives may likely include: revitalization of our TA system, implementation of proficiency-based graduation requirements, unification of 7-12 programming, bringing Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together to our school, year-end studies, and/or further personalized learning across the curriculum.
I will facilitate the development of a shared leadership model through creating a cohort of teacher leaders. During my sabbatical colleagues will accompany me on site visits to schools and facilitative leadership trainings. We will design and facilitate faculty study groups, retreats, in-service, and professional development. Through forming Critical Friends Groups, Professional Learning Communities, and incorporation of retreat principles into our ongoing work, I will foster the supports and structures for authentic collaboration, collegiality, reflection, and renewal. My Fellowship work is grounded on the belief that of equal importance to what initiatives we choose are the ways we engage as a community to implement them. If how adults interact with each other and their work directly affects how students learn, we must develop shared vision, understanding, and structures through which we can sustainably transform U-32.
In our work at Cabot School, we are building the next generation of a project-based learning (PBL) pedagogy: rigorous, real-world, collaborative, interdisciplinary experiences infused with the arts and informed by social-action.
Project-based learning is highly regarded for creating relevant and engaging opportunities for students, but high-quality PBL can be daunting to plan and more challenging to manage. In the initial stages of project development, teachers are often able to conceptualize solid cross-curricular themes, driving questions, and culminating products for a learning expedition. "Mapping" the projectembedding artifacts, opportunities for assessment, proficiencies, and reflectionbecomes increasingly complex.
We aim to make PBL more accessible and meaningful for students and teachers by building an innovative curriculum planning tool that scaffolds best-practice in project design. Our vision is PBL Launchpad - an iPad or web app that serves as a teacher-hub for planning expeditions, sharing ideas, and accessing dynamic instructional resources. This "next-gen" curriculum mapping tool will assist educators in developing, mapping, and managing holistic, interdisciplinary projects.
At its core, PBL Launchpad will provide scaffolded support for building authentic, proficiency-based learning experiences reinforced with the essential components of best-practice PBL. Launchpad will showcase exemplary instructional strategies and offer examples of high-quality artifacts that demonstrate student learning over the course of an expedition. The resource will also offer tips for fostering student reflection, metacognition, and Habits of Mind and Heart.
In the future, we envision the potential for PBL Launchpad to connect students and educators across schools and communities so that teachers can share ideas and collaborate to build meaningful, real-world projects. Ultimately, a strong and relevant curriculum positively impacts school culture and leads to deeper engagement for all stakeholders.
Our Rowland adventure began amidst a sea change on Vermont's educational landscape. Personalized Learning had recently become state law, pushing schools to create an evaluation framework built on "proficiencies" rather than the traditional A-F assessment paradigm. The initiative also gave students more agency over their education, providing multiple, flexible pathwaysin school and beyondfor demonstrating their knowledge and skills. The legislation helped the state usher in an ambitious and progressive vision for education to take Vermont schools into the 21st century.
With all of these developments, our vision of creating LaunchPada curriculum designer built for project based learning-couldn't have been more timely. At Cabot, we'd witnessed the power and potential of arts-infused project based learning to create a culture of deeper learning. The challenge was how to streamline the process for developing and implementing projects and help teachers across the school become more comfortable and confident teaching with PBL design principles. We also saw the opportunity for LaunchPad to serve as a project based learning hub, establishing connections among teachers and students in schools across Vermont and beyond.
The concept for LaunchPad had been percolating in our brains for several years before the Rowland Foundation helped bring this dream to life. During our Rowland sabbatical, we interviewed educators to discover common PBL "pain points" and spent many hours designing the app's core elements and interface. We collaborated with Burlington web developers, Agilion, to build a beta version of LaunchPad, and we entered Vermont's statewide business pitch competition, LaunchVT. Out of 75 start-ups, we were selected as one of the five finalists, and pitched the LaunchPad concept in the LaunchVT finals.
We've developed and refined our brand of project based learning at Cabot School for many years. It's been amazing to see a PBL pedagogy take root across the school and to know that we played an important role. As part of our ongoing Rowland work, teachers, preK-12, received training and support in PBL instructional methods; we codified language and practices that provide a foundation for a culture of student engagement and deeper learning; we also established ongoing partnerships with community organizations, like WGDR Radio at Goddard College, to help enhance and promote high quality PBL.
This innovative work has yielded positive results. Students, teachers, and parents are enthusiastic about project based learning and value the public exhibitions that allow students to showcase their learning. More broadly, Cabot School is recognized as a regional leader in project based learning. Cabot was a charter member of the League of Innovative Schools and one of three Vermont schools to receive the League's Next Gen grant.
Increasingly, we are sharing our experience with teachers and organizations across the region. We've facilitated workshops and consulted with educators about project design, community partnerships, and collaborative practice. Through this work, we developed a collection of Project Design Tips to help scaffold project development, and we launched a non-profit organization, Savi Ed Labs, dedicated to sharing innovative and inspiring teaching practices.
Last summer, we taught a week-long Intensive in Project Based Learning. During this interactive, deep dive, participants explored new practices to spark deeper learning and built a full-scale project that they 'exhibited' at the end of the course. The experience was a professional highlightwe had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of talented teachers from all over the state who were excited to explore a project based learning pedagogy. The response to the course was incredibly positive on so many levelsand participants used LaunchPad to build and share their projects! Today, there are approximately 100 teachers and students piloting the beta version of LaunchPad, which will help us continue to improve the experience and scale it for a wider audience.
Notably, our Rowland Fellowship provided us with the time and headspace to connect with so many teachers who are on the front lines of educational transformation. We've shared ideas with educators at many top tier schools, including High Tech High, Expeditionary Learning, International Baccalaureate, and many amazing schools and organizations right here in Vermont. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve as Rowland Fellows and look forward to continuing the journey.
"Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not preparation for life, but is life itself."
Rutland High School has undergone a number of school improvement initiatives over the past few years including: establishing a freshman interdisciplinary team, defining school-wide expectations, implementing Professional Learning Communities and creating STEM and Global Studies Programs. Representing the humanities and the sciences, we are going to explore ways of integrating these programs under one cohesive umbrella. The Global Issues Network (GIN) - which strives to mentor and motivate youth to take informed, thoughtful and sustainable actions to address the most pressing global issues - will act as a meaningful platform to incorporate content. As global citizens, students will have to apply skills from every discipline to affect positive changes: from math to music; with knowledge of social studies and science; using languages and laboratories. This integration of disciplines will foster communication, design solutions, participation, and understanding when grappling with complex issues that result from both the actions and inactions of students. The GIN philosophy, in combination with the culminating conference, will provide a context in which to earnestly complete this urgent work and to merge the otherwise seemingly-disparate fields representing our STEM and Global Studies programs.
Training for both a student group and the RHS faculty will support a sustainable GIN model. We will identify and train a core group of students across grade levels to serve as the student leadership team. The group will include students from all grade levels so that there will be a constant blend of veterans and recruits. These students will develop the skills necessary to produce a perennial GIN conference including leadership, facilitating, technology and public speaking. Additionally, the Rowland Fellowship will provide opportunities for staff-wide professional development focused on conflict management and project-based learning in order to prepare our faculty to support students.
Ultimately, our goal is to develop a system that not only promotes learning, but inspires and empowers students to become active and engaged citizens. RHS's integrated, problem-based curriculum will naturally lend itself to the GIN conference where attendees will have the prospect of presenting and sharing with colleagues. While we are convinced of the merits of establishing a perennial GIN conference at RHS from the standpoint of best instructional practices, it is perhaps the higher calling of promoting pragmatic steps towards solving real-life environmental, economic, and social problems that motivates us even more.
I am grateful to be a member of the faculty at South Burlington High School, where I have had the opportunity to help design and implement advisory programs for first- and second-year students. During the first year of advisory, our students explore ideas such as community, leadership, and diversity through experiential learning activities. The second year of advisory is based on reflection and self-assessment. All students build a portfolio by which they assess themselves as learners and citizens. These portfolios are presented to a panel of guests who are invited to provide feedback for the student. While our current advisory programs are very deliberate steps in the right direction, those steps stop at the end of each student's sophomore year.
My work as a 2014 Rowland fellow has two parts.
I will design an advisory program for juniors and seniors at South Burlington High School. To do so, I will spend time exploring successful advisory programs around the country. I will collaborate with faculty, staff, students, and parents at South Burlington High School to ensure that the program grows out of a shared vision from all stakeholders.
I will share a component of our reflective portfolio with high schools around Vermont. Together with the Flyin' Ryan Foundation, I will bring our core principles activity to other high schools. This activity, which was designed by a South Burlington High School colleague, asks students to write their own core principles. While this is a high-quality exercise that stands on its own, this activity is a perfect match for one of the Critical Elements of a Vermont Personalized Learning Plan.
Tony Wagner outlines 3 things adults need to reinforce in young people in order to prepare them for work, college and citizenship readiness: play (exploration), passion (interest), and purpose (make a difference). He urges schools to start with some essentials: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creative problem solving. I will design two elective courses with these skills, mindsets, and student choice at the center. Research as a Creative Act will slow down the research process, allowing students to explore an interest of their choosing while developing tacit skills that are rigorous and relevant to the future. Innovation Lab will build on this work but also embed elements from design thinking. Students will identify an interest or problem and follow a process that leads to a student-created solution. This course will extend research into a field study, internship, or work experience.
In tandem with the development of these classes I will engage school and district staff in dialogue about what creativity and innovation look like across grade levels K-12. I envision this as part book study group, part CFG: a collaborative group of educators who want to explore personalized learning. This study group will be charged with thinking deeply about creativity and innovation, but also acting on their findings by implementing strategies and practices into their teaching.
I will use the sabbatical time to visit schools and libraries, attend conferences, read, research, collaborate and reflect to deepen my understanding of creativity and innovation in schools. I will mine visionary practices, techniques and strategies and seek opportunities to extend collaboration around creativity and innovation in my school and district. I hope to create new leverage points for engaging students in personalized learning.
The work begun during my Rowland Fellowship continues to grow and bear fruit!
Research into Action
Research into Action is in its third year as a course available to any GM high school student. Students do a deep dive on a topic they are passionate about. They start by pre-searching before drafting research questions. Students create a Twitter personal learning network and curate and share a collection of materials on their topic. They evaluate sources for credibility, relevance, and purpose. Students demonstrate their authority on their topic by publishing an annotated bibliography. All of this leads to an action-oriented project. Students plan and develop a project informed by their research and share it with the GM community and beyond.
Green Mountain will host the fourth annual Exhibition Night in May, 2017. This event springs from the work of a group of teachers who visited High Tech High. It provides an opportunity for students to show off their work and demonstrate their learning. Teachers and students explain the work and answer questions while families and community members explore a variety of projects. Battle physics is one example of the kinds of projects we showcase at Exhibition Night.
Intentional Learning Communities
Educators around the district continue to work collaboratively to explore and refine project-based and personalized learning. By de-privatizing their practice and giving each other feedback they are growing a culture of rigor and excellence at Green Mountain and in the Two Rivers Supervisory Union.