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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.
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.
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]
“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.”
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: https://www.vthec.org/documents/2013/11/standards-based-learning.pdf
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…)
Mailing Address: PO Box 285, Montpelier, VT 05601
Phone: (802) 498-3350
Email: [email protected]