Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

When we try new things that challenge the teaching and learning status quo, we are also challenging the experiences of our students' adult family members. When it doesn't look or sound the same, it can be intimidating. 

Sometimes we hear:
"Hey, that is the way I learned, and it was good enough for me. Why mess with success?"
"I want to like it, but is this going to hurt her chance of getting into a good school?"
Many times our stakeholders are conflicted between the objective, intellectual understanding of why change is positive, and the subjective, emotional side of how the change feels. This begs the question...
While you may be loved as an innovating educator today, will that still be true tomorrow when teaching, learning, and assessment shift to a place without context?
Last evening I took part in parent/teacher conferences at Forest Hills Northern, the site of our student voice project. Earlier blog posts detail our launch of a student-led school improvement process. During the open house back in the first week of school, parents were supportive of the project, and I wondered if that would still hold true 9 weeks into the school year. After all, there are no quizzes or tests to produce points and letter grades -- it is participatory action research -- so how might we demonstrate deep levels of learning? We were delighted to see that the support was still present, especially for the real-world learning students were achieving. But, I would be less than honest if I did not mention that parents asked about letter grades and the format of a final exam/assessment.

We need to be mindful about how we gain and retain support from our stakeholders for innovative projects. So far, these guidelines have worked in our student voice work:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. You cannot over-communicate.
2. Be transparent about the intended student learning outcomes, and how they relate to real-world learning.
3. Communicate actual student learning outcomes. 

When we focus on the learning results of our students, and consistently communicate that message, we bring our stakeholders -- and more support -- along with us. I believe they want to support us, and they will when we interact with them as full partners.

Join the conversation...
How have you engaged stakeholders to support innovative teaching and learning projects? What guidelines might you add to the list?

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