Learning by Doing for Students and Teachers Alike: Education for this Century

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May is one of the busiest school months in the year. It’s a time when the learning that has been growing all year comes together for young people and they have opportunities to show what they know, understand, and can do. Recently, I heard a medical professor who teaches at the University of Virginia comment that students need to “show what they can do – the know should be embedded in that.”  What this professor describes as learning represents far more than what can be measured in the new, more difficult multiple choice SOL tests being rolled out by the Virginia Department of Education.

IMG_3561Instead of focus upon standardized tests with limited response choices provided by outside “test examiners”, teachers across Albemarle are using more contextual opportunities for young people to show what they’ve learned through performance tasks, projects, portfolios and analytical writing and problem-solving that integrate content from curricula. This kind of deep learning represents competencies essential for young people to be successful after graduation, even though such learning can’t be easily or efficiently tabulated and converted into test score data.

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Educators and parents know that children are not “test scores,” and that traditional tests only capture a slice of what young people need to become adults who can draw upon lifelong learning competencies associated with excellent communication, sustained creativity, critical thought and actions, and collaboration within diverse teams – all of which are important in the contemporary workforce, communities, homes, and post-secondary education.

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 Young people create videos, blog, and build “livebinders” to share and show learning. They complete performance tasks and teachers use rubrics to assess their specific skills and knowledge. Learners ask questions, conduct research, and develop projects individually and collaboratively, using both creative and critical thought processes. Parents and teachers see evidence of students’ learning at Quest Fests, Inquiry and STEAM Fairs, History Expositions and Arts Festivals. Learning jumps out from musical and drama performances by elementary singers, middle school orchestra musicians, and thespians. They are not just performers, but also producers.

Monticello High Music Industry Class Writes Lyrics and Records Music

Young people who are inspired learners will search, connect, make, and communicate with passion and interest, not because of school compliance. It’s why educators in Albemarle County Public Schools believe that learning in this century must represent what students can do, not just remember. However, it takes time for teachers to redesign spaces, shift teaching, and learn to use technologies to promote interactive and engaged learning. That’s why educators at Red Hill Elementary are working in teams this year to collaboratively learn from each other. Principal Art Stow has flipped faculty meetings so that teachers have time to do the important work necessary to educate young people for their century, not the past.He sees this as an important shift for the teachers and for him. Here’s what he wrote in a recent post.

Red Hill Elementary – Principal’s Blog

How Teachers and Students Learn Alike

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Teachers and students learn and work using similar strategies. Principals are lucky people. We get to visit classrooms any time we want, so we get to see great things happening everyday we are at work! As a principal, I learn so much when I enter a classroom. I see the effective strategies that teachers use when grouping and creating work stations for students to develop skills, collaborate on projects and work through problem solving activities. So I’ve learned, if this approach works with kids, then it can certainly work with adults. As a result, at our faculty meetings, like today, there will be time for discussion and group input, but there will also be time set aside, in “work stations” for teachers to collaborate, choose, and check some things off that mile long to do list. It’s a great place to be when working together means learning together. Three cheers for SCHOOL!

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