2018-2019 In the Rearview Mirror
Today’s post is brought to you by Don Taylor, language arts and social studies teacher
at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier and co-director of PLP Pathways.
The PLP Pathways collaborative recently completed its fourth year of supporting educators implementing Act 77 across the state of Vermont. In the chaos and frenetic activity of the final days of the school year, it seems wise to take a pause, reflect on our growth and learning, and think about our mission and work with educators.
Our final webinar on June 13 focused on how teachers can use a variety of instruments to reflect on their practice and begin the process of adapting and evolving in preparation for next year (after a long and relaxing summer!). Here’s a breakdown of some of the key ideas that developed from our discussion.
Developing structures to reflect on growth and learning, both as an individual and organization, is a key part of finishing the school year. Just as we ask students to provide evidence of their growth and learning, educators should reflect on their personalized learning goals for the year, evidence that demonstrated achievement of those goals, and perhaps some of the new thinking or ideas that emerged from practice, professional development, or collaboration with colleagues.
Gathering student feedback in a systematic way is a critical element of evaluating programming. For example, every trimester we give our kids an exit survey targeting our organizational methods, personalized learning plans, student voice and choice, and general questions about our learning community. Often, that data is then shared back with students in order to gain a deeper understanding of the student experience on our team.
A new resource that I’ve been using to strengthen exit surveys is from Panorama Education. The student survey has excellent questions that can allow teachers to really drill down on elements of their practice that they would like to evaluate.
Evaluating personalized learning programs, systems, and the organization of your learning community from a perspective of equity can be extremely valuable. Coupled with the collection of data as mentioned above, using an equity lens can help uncover practices, systems, or material that may be reinforcing inequity. Voices of Vermont’s Children, in their publication Education Matters: The Impacts of Systemic Inequity in Vermont details a variety of data that highlights inequities in schools; the report also identifies a variety or strategies and questions that educators can implement and pose that can redress these issues.
Another excellent tool to use as a lens for reflection is Paul Gorski’s Equity Literacy Definition and Abilities. Gorski identifies specific abilities that educators can employ to address inequity and make personalized learning experiences for children more equitable, fair, and just. Again, reflecting with these tools is one way of evaluating your learning programs. It’s not easy, but it can have a big impact on developing an effective and equitable practice.
One new tool developed by the Vermont Learning For the Future is a series of rubrics that can help educators evaluate their programs through the lens of adult-student partnerships. The rubrics focus on advisory, community programs, integrated learning, feedback, restorative practices, and student governance. I’ve found them to be incredibly helpful for framing my thinking on these subjects. They provide outstanding benchmarks and proficiency criteria which I can easily develop into personal and program goals.
Many of you are already enjoying the first days of summer; some might be engaged in professional development; others making plans for next year. Wherever you are in your educational journey, consider a specific time and specific tools to engage in reflection. Evaluating your personal learning efforts and implementation, gathering evidence related to your work, and integrating those findings into your future practice is worth the effort.