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VT-HEC WORKshops Focus on Application

VT-HEC WORKshops Coming in 2014-2015

Research on professional development producing actual change in schools and classrooms has not always been great. To better ensure the practical application of the knowledge and skills presented in our offerings to the work settings of the participants, the VT-HEC is designing a special series of professional learning opportunities that will focus on application of the content topic in the classroom or school. These sessions will be designated as WORKshops.

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Applying Neuroscience to Standards-Based Learning & Professional Learning Opportunities

TASS Consultants Practice What They Preach in a Series of WORKshops

This past year TASS consultants, Bill Rich, Wendy Cohen & Val Gardner, offered a very successful series of WORKshops focused on applying principles of neuroscience to the practical implementation of standards-based learning. The topics covered included developing learning targets, using performance tasks, instituting standards-based grading and utilizing management tools to  keep it all together.

Individuals and teams who attended experienced learning opportunities that were designed around the very principles from education neuroscience that formed the content of the series. They assessed their level of learning using learning scales, set goals and measured their progress. Participants devoted considerable time  working with the concepts to further their understanding and practiced applying the principles  to their own work with the support of Bill, Val and Wendy and others in the room. They were able to share their work, get their questions answered, see the work of others and get feedback on their efforts.

Participants worked with the teams they came with or with other participants to experience collaborative application of the principles. They were given access to resources and models that they could use during the session and in the future.  Not only was the content aimed at the practical issues facing educators implementing the Common Core and other sets of standards but they were able to experience the concepts in action applied to their own learning and work.

Based on this year’s success TASS will be offering this series again in 2014-2015. WORKshops may be taken individually, as a series or as a graduate course.  More details will be coming soon on how to register for these exciting and different sessions that will help educators put their ideas to work and reach their goals for the year.

  • Crafting Student-Friendly Learning Targets – October 9, 2014; Capitol Plaza, Montpelier, VT
  • Designing Performance Tasks to Power Student Learning – November 21, 2014; Capitol Plaza, Montpelier, VT
  • Getting to (& Surviving) Standars-Based Learning April 3, 2015; Capitol Plaza, Montpelier, VT
  • Data Tools to Keep You in Sync with Your Students – May, 1, 2015; Capitol Plaza, Montpelier, VT

 

TASS (Teaching All Secondary Students) is the VT-HEC program that supports middle and high schools in their efforts to improve outcomes for all students utilizing the best from research on the brain and learning, education and systems change. TASS works to offer schools a comprehensive and coherent approach to implementing standards-based learning and improving outcomes for all students. TASS can deliver a tailored array of coaching and consultation to teachers and leaders as well as embedded professional learning opportunities designed specially for individual schools.  In addition, TASS offers a variety of learning opportunities that are open to all but built on the same foundation and research.  TASS has an impressive team of experts who can meet most any school or professional learning need – all based on the same values and principles of learning.

VT-HEC’s WORKshops are special learning opportunities designed to put into practice what we know from neuroscience about effective learning design to better ensure the content of the session is applied in the school setting.  Each session will present some key concepts on the topic that is the focus of the day along with examples and models of application of the concepts.  Participants assess their current status, set goals for their learning and mark their progress using tools consistent with the principles being covered.  At least half the day is devoted to the participants applying the principles to their own work situation along with their colleagues. Support will be available from the presenters and other participants who have had experience with the work.  Participants get feedback and support on taking their work farther and, if they are taking the WORKshop as part of a course, they will get continued support in putting their new knowledge and skills into practice in their own settings. 

Part II – What Works in Middle & High Schools

More Stories from TASS Schools

In Part II of this series Nancy Cornell, long-time Assistant Superintendent and Curriculum Coordinator  shares her perspective about working toward improving their schools in partnership with TASS – Teaching All Secondary Students. TASS is the VT-HEC program that supports middle and high schools with a tailored and coordinated array of coaching and learning opportunities over an extended period of time.  Nancy confirmed the TASS belief in the Michael Fullan statement about school reform:

“The main problem with educational systems and corresponding innovation and policy making is that they are, intrinsically, endemically, inevitably, overloaded and fragmented. Therefore, the main solutions have to be ones that contribute to coherence making and connectedness.” Michael Fullan

Nancy told  about how Mt. Abraham middle & high school always had pockets of excellence and a history of starting many separate initiatives, some even garnering national recognition. There was not, however, a coherence of purpose and action that saw the whole school working and moving forward together.  Nancy recounted that in her 20+ years she had hired  many talented consultants who often did great work, but they rarely coordinated that work with other consultants or other parts of the school. In contrast, the TASS consultants were clearly reading from the same page and coordinating their efforts which greatly increased their impact.  Nancy joked that when she hired TASS she knew that when even when the TASS consultants were not actually working in her building they were out there somewhere coordinating and planning what they were doing at Mt. Abe because she could see the difference they were making and knew she was getting the most from her investment.

Another point Nancy highlighted was the focus TASS has on making change through collaborative implementation. TASS has the capacity, she said, to train facilitators to help make the school’s collaborative teams and Critical Friends groups work more effectively. That in turn had a positive impact on making progress in multiple areas, even beyond those that TASS was working on. Nancy noted here that TASS consistently acted on the belief that collaborative work was key to making lasting whole-school change.  As examples, Nancy told of TASS consultant, Wendy Cohen, providing instruction and coaching to teachers on their work as facilitators and the whole TASS team meeting regularly with the leadership team to plan together.

Nancy also recounted that TASS consultants, Wendy, Bill Rich and Susie Girardin, designed many different kinds of learning opportunities to meet the  specific needs of the moment for the teachers they were working with including designing inservice days, planning staff and department meetings, providing in-class coaching and offering graduate courses during the year and over the summer. Nancy told us that some of these courses were offered with Mt. Abe staff partnering with TASS staff to instruct the course as an example of TASS developing and utilizing the expertise found within the staff.

Lastly, Nancy talked about the work that TASS consultants, such as Val Gardner, had done with the leadership to plan for the year including outlining what they wanted to prioritize and developing a calendar that outlined their work, meetings, deadlines, etc. The leadership team also worked with Val to define what they expected from the teachers and to identify what support the teachers would need.  Nancy noted that it wasn’t just the building administrators that TASS supported but also the Supervisory Union administrators and leaders of the elementary schools to facilitate district-wide planning.

Nancy ended by saying that she could not speak highly enough about how the comprehensive and coordinated work of TASS had helped Mt. Abe.

For more information about the TASS program, the services it can provide and the findings of its eight years of experience in Vermont schools, go to our web site at vthec.org or contact Seth Marineau at [email protected]

 Teacher Quotes:

“It used to be that we were always alone, in a silo, and it was uncommon for me to really examine student performance, to find the time to actually analyze an assignment, determine which kids have evidence of understanding…now we are able to support one another  Our conversations have been really productive and exciting”

 Today I was reviewing Tier III questions with my students  I thought it was so affirming of our work together when a student said ‘Hey, we talked about Tier III questions in such-and-such’s class today!’  I responded, ‘Freaky, I know.  We actually talk to each other!’ It was great evidence of the collaborative nature and common learning that TASS has supported.”

 

What Works to Improve Middle & High Schools

TASS School Stories – Part 1

On a snowy afternoon in February school administrators shared compelling stories relating their experiences in working toward improving their schools in partnership with TASS, Teaching All Secondary Students. TASS is the VT-HEC program that supports middle and high schools with a tailored array of coaching and learning opportunities. Each administrator in their own way confirmed the TASS belief in the Michael Fullan statement about school improvement: (more…)

Using Technology to Support Struggling Learners

VT-HEC Announces New Learning Opportunities

The number of applications and computer programs that address specific learning issues and target particular skills has exploded over the past few years.  These new learning tools have greatly increased the options for helping struggling learners practice and apply the specific skills that they need and to become more independent and effective learners. There are so many choices and the quality of programs ranges so dramatically, however, that it can be very challenging to find the best programs and to know how to use them in an effective manner.

In the coming months the VT Higher Education Collaborative will be offering exciting new opportunities to explore the use of these new learning tools to support students with various learning challenges, from mild organizational issues to significant disabilities such as Autism.  These workshops are part of the VT-HEC’s continuing focus on helping to ensure that students who have barriers to their learning receive the most effective and appropriate learning opportunities and supports.

First, is a 2-part workshop series focused on how technology can be used with students who have a wide variety of challenges to their learning. Chris CichoskiKelly will explore this topic in depth and give participants time to address the needs of their own students. Chris will share a process to help choose which technology learning tool to try and how to collect the right data to evaluate its impact on student learning. Chris will also share his knowledge of effective programs to support students in reading, writing, note taking and others areas. Participants will have the opportunity to try out programs with students between the two workshops and receive direct feedback and support from Chris. This will be a great opportunity to get practical support in using technology to address learning challenges from an accomplished expert in the field. http://www.vthec.org/documents/2013/11/technology-updated.pdf

Next, is a workshop that will focus on using tablets (Ipads, Ipods, etc.) when working with students who have Learning Disabilities (LD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or other moderate to severe developmental disabilities. Kathryn Whitaker will be leading the morning session targeted on helping students with Learning Disabilities to practice and learn new skills and become more independent learners.  In the afternoon, Kathryn will focus on ASD and other developmental disabilities. She will show how tablets can be used in areas such as scheduling and self-management.  Kathryn will also share how tablets can be used for increasing learning for students who are more concrete learners. Kathryn serves as consultant and trainer for children with autism spectrum and other neuro-developmental disorders in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. She is also a trainer for Structured Teaching as well as being an instructor and presenter for the VT-HEC.

To find out more about these exciting learning opportunities see: http://www.vthec.org/documents/2013/10/autism.pdf  and http://www.vthec.org/documents/2013/11/technology-updated.pdf.

 

ASAP: VT-HEC’s Comprehensive Training Program on Autism Spectrum Disorders

ASAP  - Approaching the Solution to the Autism Puzzle

The Vermont Interagency White Paper on Autism Spectrum Disorders of 2006 confirmed what all school districts in Vermont have been experiencing: a dramatic increase in students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) over an extended period of time.  Among the things the White Paper identified as being critical to address this growth was a significant increase in professional development to expand the capacity of case managers and staff to meet the needs of these students. Unfortunately, research has shown that most inservice training never results in the new skills and knowledge being consistently applied to benefit students.

VT-HEC’s new program, ASAP, aims to change that by developing a sustained, comprehensive and coordinated professional learning program on ASD that includes graduate courses, embedded professional development and workshop series that provide multiple year-round options for effective professional learning on ASD.  ASAP graduate courses can lead to VT-HEC’s Autism Specialist Certificate and include two courses to be offered this spring, ABA I starting in January, and ASD: Issues in Assessment & Intervention taught by the distinguished Dr. Particia Prelock of UVM. (If you have not taken a course from Patty you are missing a great opportunity to learn from an extremely knowledgeable and accomplished educator)

To help ensure professional development actually results in changes for students ASAP is providing a coordinated program of sustained and embedded inter-disciplinary professional development and supports for schools working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The ASAP team of experts takes the best interventions and assessments from multiple perspectives and delivers training and coaching to the school team to help them work together to apply the new skills to the students they are working with. Ultimately, it is the goal that these local school teams will be able to act as supports for other members of their school community in addressing the needs of all their students with ASD. ASAP has been piloting this program in Barre City and is now ready to accept new school districts in the program.

To compliment this work, the ASAP program is also offering a series of three workshops this spring focused on increasing learning opportunities for young children with ASD as well as a special workshop focusing on using iPads with students with ASD.  Chris Knippenberg, OT, will be the lead presenter for the series of workshops that will have participants actively engaged in developing the kind of appropriate tasks and materials for pre-school and early elementary-aged students with ASD that will result in increasing their engagement, independence and learning.

Kathryn Whitaker will be leading the workshop that will show how iPads can be used effectively and creatively for students with SLD in a morning session and ASD in the afternoon.   To find out more about these exciting learning opportunities see: http://www.vthec.org/documents/2013/10/autism.pdf  and http://www.vthec.org/documents/2013/11/technology-updated.pdf.

If you are particularly interested in how technology can be used with students who have challenges to their learning, the VT-HEC is offering another interesting option: two workshops with Chris CichoskiKelly that will explore this topic in depth and give you the opportunity to try out programs with students in between the two workshops http://www.vthec.org/documents/2013/11/technology-updated.pdf

For more information on ASAP and VT-HEC’s other related offerings contact Joy Wilcox, ASAP Coordinator  ([email protected])

 

Making Standards Work in the Real World

Exciting New Workshop Series and Course for Middle & High School Educators

Can a standards-based approach to education actually work in today’s schools? Using Neuroscience to Make Standards Work for ALL Students  is a new series of four workshops that address real-life issues encountered when implementing a standards-based learning approach, such as crafting student-friendly learning targets; designing performance tasks that get students excited about practice; making the transition to standards-based grading and using data management tools to make standards doable for teachers and students. The series is being designed and presented by: Bill Rich, Susie Girardin & Wendy Cohen.

The roll out of the Common Core, new science standards and new assessments have set significant challenges for education across the nation, but teachers in real-world Vermont classrooms need to figure out how the new standards and assessments will actually work with all their students, their curriculum and grading system and any school-wide standards that already exist in their schools.

To help teachers work through such practical questions, the Teaching All Secondary Students (TASS) program of the VT-HEC is developing an annual series of workshops and courses.  TASS has been working in VT middle and high schools for the past eight years to support their efforts to improve by applying the best research findings from neuroscience and education. It is this knowledge, experience and expertise that will go into the design of these new learning opportunities.

The workshops can be taken individually or together as a three credit course.  You won’t want to miss these days.  To find out more go to:  http://www.vthec.org/documents/2013/11/standards-based-learning.pdf

Grant Wiggins: Current Views on Curriculum, Testing and HS Diplomas

What if Curriculum Focused on Performance & Ability and High School Really Prepared Students for Their Adult Lives

In a couple of deeply thought-provoking articles the co-author of books such as Learning By Design and Schooling By Design asks us join him in thinking about some basic assumptions about what the goal of education should be, how we should determine what should be taught and how we should measure progress. In a recent post to his blog, Wiggins asks us to think of action, not knowledge, as the essence of an education; to think of future ability to perform, not knowledge of the past, as the core . (more…)

Culture, Caring and Character – All Linked to Student Gains

While the emphasis on school transformation focuses on standards, cognitive skills, and teaching strategies, research is mounting that character, culture and social/emotional development may be just as important.

The programs described below may emphasize different qualities and have somewhat different strategies but they have strong common themes and have all been associated with increases in student progress and/or improved student behavior, perseverence, etc.

  • Character education focuses on a curriculum teaching students qualities like honesty, kindness, perseverence and responsibility.
  • Social/emotional development programs key on relationships, problem solving and caring.
  • Some efforts put the focus on increasing positive feelings and interactions.
  • Other efforts  put the focus on school culture and look to apply similar qualities into the whole school environment. (more…)