We are currently in the third quarter of the school year and this is a good time to check our bearings. As a New York State public school system, we assess the quality of student learning in accordance with indicators prescribed by the NYS Education Department. Through strategic oversight, the administrators and board of education collect and analyze evidence of success. These indicators are defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and include student academic achievement, student growth and school progress, progress of English language learners, chronic absenteeism, and, for high schools,
graduation rates and preparing students for college, career and civic engagement. This is the “view from 30,000 feet.”
While this strategic perspective is helpful, it is equally important to understand what the ideal classroom should look like at the tactical level (or from the perspective of the learner). I frequently visit classrooms to ensure that the policies articulated in the boardroom are supportive of the work that we do in the classroom. During my classroom visits, I’m essentially asking one overarching question: Who owns the learning? A very simple answer to the question of “who owns the learning” can be viewed in those classrooms where the students are working at least as hard as the teachers – this optic is presented when students contribute to the creation of content, seek meaning of relevant curriculum on terms that are important to each, and an expressed desire to learn more. Beyond this, I rely upon eight elements to determine how well we are empowering students to “own the learning.” These “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom” are described in detail in George Couros’ book, The Innovator’s Mindset and provide a framework of understanding as to how well we are meeting the needs of our learners (Couros, 2015).
8 Things to Look For in Today’s Classroom:
- Time for reflection
- Opportunities for innovation
- Critical thinkers
- Problem solvers/finders
- Connected learning
I am pleased to report that our teachers and students have taken this to heart when creating lessons and activities that empower and promote talent and creativity. If you would like to learn more about how we empower students, please click on the video below of our “Opening Day 2018-19” keynote address delivered to our staff on August 29, 2018. In this video, Dr. Nancy Sulla reviews how we promote executive function in our students to better foster student ownership of learning. Dr. Sulla has worked extensively with our instructional staff over the years to make our classrooms “learner active.” This video is about 40 minutes in length and captures those essentials that we use to develop lessons that build executive function in our students.