Leaders Assessing and Setting Goals

My end of the year facilitation sessions, both live and on Skype, continue to focus around the examination of the gaps that exists between ‘what educators want students to experience and gain’ and ‘what is the current reality’.

A blog,  What Should High School Graduates Know And Be Able To Do?, by Tom Vander Ark,  provides some great resources for engaging teams in discussions around what they believe to be most important in setting a  vision and goals for student learning. The links in the blog provide several examples of organizations’ and school districts’ decisions about “what we want students to know and be able to do”.

I was particularly interested in the Summit Public Schools Network’s Deeper Learning aspirations. Their four elements of college readiness include:

Content knowledge: Engaging in learning that is personalized for each student, filling in learning gaps and moving students toward competency in all subject areas.

Cognitive skills: Developing the deeper learning, critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills needed to succeed in today and tomorrow’s workforce.

Habits of success: Empowering students to engage in self-directed learning and develop key habits that are invaluable for college and life success.

Expeditions: Immersing students in real-world experiences to help them discover and explore passions and careers, and apply their learning in authentic ways.

The importance of designing instruction around these four criteria is reinforced in my current reading of The Education Revolution: How to Apply Brain Science to improve Instruction and School Climate  by Horacio Sanchez. In the chapter that focuses on the goal of higher-level thinking (pages 53-60) he states:

  • Higher level thinking is the brain making connections, which allows students to link new information to old and draw unique conclusions based on prior knowledge
  • Science has dispelled the notion that higher-level thinking is correlated with intellect. It is a natural occurrence of the human brain. It is the brain making connections to prior knowledge producing deeper levels of understanding.
  • Neuroscience has provided concrete support that social factors play a significant role in human learning across domains and throughout our lifetimes.
  • Once higher-level thinking is rewarded, it creates a desire for additional higher-level thinking experiences. The more students experience higher-level thinking, the more they seek new learning opportunities

Bill Daggett writing in Preparing Our Students for Their Futures: WHY Innovative Practices are Needed  reinforces learning to value learning:

…… if we all band together around shared goals for students beyond graduation, collectively we can have a dramatic and lifelong impact on our students’ futures.

One of those goals must be to cultivate in all of our students an interest in and respect for lifelong learning. We have to impress upon students that learning never stops, particularly for those wanting to find themselves self-sufficient as adults. We will only be able to convince them of this if we can communicate why.

The trend—of currently employed and even self-sufficient people in the workforce finding themselves with skills on the cusp of losing market value—is here to stay and is picking up speed. Those who sink will be those who lack adaptability and the interest in learning new skills, no matter where in their careers they might be. Those who swim? These are the people we want our students to become. These are the people who will be able to navigate and stay afloat in a rapidly changing career landscape—technology disruption after technology disruption. [Think Uber driverless cars]

In working with a K-8 school leadership team, I asked the members to review the Vander Ark blog and linked sites while exploring these questions:

What do you identify as critical skills for students to be developing prior to high school graduation?

How does that understanding impact what students should be learning and experiencing in K-5 and   6-8?

After identifying common desirable learning outcomes, I asked the team to consider these questions to move ahead with goal setting and planning:

What assessments are in place to provide us feedback on these desired skills? How would you assess progress on those areas not being measured now?

Where do you feel we have in place the appropriate instruction and opportunities for learners? Where do we need to expand or change existing practice?

As the school year is finishing, how are you challenging yourself and your staff to envision innovations for teaching and learning?

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…