Getting started assessing proficiency
School systems in Vermont and elsewhere are in the midst of a shift to proficiency-based learning. At the early stages, this transformation can feel overwhelming even for educators, even if they’re excited by the idea.
Where to start?
Start with scales for assessment.
Test the waters with “Genius Groups”
Start by turning your class over to students.
You heard me. Set aside classroom time to let your students design their learning. If you’re not quite ready for a full-on Genius Hour (where each individual student pursues their own learning passion), think about dipping a toe in the water by giving groups of students the space to create and implement learning activities for the rest of the class.
Let’s look at how it’s working for one math class down at The Dorset School, in Dorset, VT.
8th grade scientists tackle carbon emissions at a busy traffic circle
This past year, Shelburne Community School middle grades students took part in Idle-Free VT‘s ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions from idling cars near schools.
The students’ outreach efforts led to a 79% measured reduction in carbon emissions at the school’s traffic circle, while an unanticipated response from drivers led the students to initiate a change in the study’s protocol.
“I don’t believe you can be an educator committed to student voice and not be a powerful advocate for equity.”
This past August, the University of Vermont played host to an international conference focused on ways to amplify student voice and increase student partnership in the classroom.
Attendees were lucky enough to hear an address by Vermont Secretary of Education Dr. Rebecca Holcombe, who spoke powerfully on the need for intersectional equity in Vermont, in supporting students.
On exploring flexible pathways to learning
This past August, Vermont Secretary of Education Dr Rebecca Holcombe addressed the 2016 Amplifying Student Voice & Partnership Conference on the topic of equity in education. She was also kind enough to allow us to record and share her remarks.
In the first of two installments, we hear from Secretary Holcombe as she highlights the story of one particular student from Randolph Union High School, who, along with support from his community, found a way to channel his passion for farming into work-based learning in Vermont, and from there, a world of high-level business skills.
Structures & examples for student filmmakers
Many students love working with video. Students can create videos for any subject to show specifically what they’re learning, how they spend their time and to demonstrate proficiency. But it’s not always obvious how you, as an educator, can help students see the connection to specific content areas.
Let’s take a look at some examples and think through how to scaffold students in sharing their work.
Two examples of implementing proficiency-based scales of learning
Vermont educators and their students are on a journey. Let’s look at how one school is implementing proficiency-based learning in a way that ensures all learners have the opportunity to thrive.
When we clearly articulate learning targets both for and with learners, the end is clear to all and learning can proceed along a progression with multiple opportunities for demonstrating growth and mastery.
8 great ways to approach PBL in the primary grades
Picture this: you have a class of primary-grade students. Say grades K-3. They are learning their letters, and how to tie their shoes, how to go to the bathroom independently and write their names. This list of what to learn is long!
But we also know that students at this age also need to be developing their ability to collaborate, problem-solve, and communicate. And believe it or not, PBL is a great way to do this.
The key is to start small and make it manageable. Let’s break it down.
Achieving escape velocity with students as partners
Congratulations for making it through the first month of school! Whether it’s your first year as an educator or your thirty-first, the launch of the school year is a special — and especially challenging — time.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect and imagine how to build on what you’ve started.
How 30 minutes can leave a lasting impact on the day.
Advisory: the first 15 to 30 minutes of every middle school day, during which you’re trying to build relationships with your students and engage them in meaningful social interaction.
You also might be fighting off the administrative minutiae of the morning: Attendance. Lunch money. Permission slips. Bus notes.
Let’s look at some strategies for powering up advisory programs