By inviting learners to coauthor experiences we help them build the most important skills and dispositions they’ll need to succeed in a changing world. Incorporating student voice and choice in learning design builds agency and promotes ownership of learning.
“In our ever-changing and unpredictable world, learners need to master the skill of knowing what to do when they do not immediately know what to do. Doing this effectively involves the development of agency and executive function skills, which is made possible through the learner’s active engagement in experiences they typically do not encounter in today’s schools,” explains a recent . “In order for learners to develop these skills, they must be empowered, proactive agents—or co-authors—of their learning journey.”
Following are coauthoring resources for project-based learning, teacher tools and competencies for coauthoring, and a list of systems that are best in class at coauthoring.
Big integrated projects build agency–the knowledge and confidence that you can contribute. They teach project management, research, problem-solving, writing, collaboration, and presentation skills. Team projects develop collaboration skills.
About 75 high schools in more than 40 systems in metro Kansas City are adding more including community-connected projects, entrepreneurial experiences, and internships.
The offer a great framing of project topics. They include ending poverty, decent work, reducing inequality, clean water, and clean energy–all timely topics.
Science Fairs and Capstones
sponsors middle and high school science fair competitions and shares with 5,000 high schools.
Building on work by and guidelines for (developed by and partners with support from ), the attributes of good capstone projects include:
- Engaging students as active participants in an authentic learning experience;
- Intellectual challenge that promotes higher-order thinking and problem-solving;
- Emphasizes making connections across disciplines and steps in project management;
- Involves teachers as advisors, community members as mentors; and may involve other students as teammates; and
- Involves a public product and final presentation before a panel that evaluates the project.
in Western Colorado (and many in the network) have a great tradition of . They define it as a “culminating academic and intellectual experience that: encourages students to think critically, solve challenging problems, and develop skills such as communication, public speaking, research, media, teamwork, planning, self-sufficiency, or goal setting; helps prepare students for college, modern careers, and adult life; and develops character and life skills.”
To help teachers develop a picture of what good project work looks like, , Chief Academic Officer at , worked with Steve Seidel at Harvard to develop , a collection of quality project artifacts including hundreds of exemplary works.
A few examples of California schools with great capstone project traditions include:
- Senior engineering projects at , Redwood City.
- Senior Legacy Experience projects at , north of Fresno.
- All learners in , north of Santa Clarita, have a culminating capstone experience that concludes each year in the form of a Showcase Of Learning.
Teacher Tools & Competencies
and published . The competencies stress student engagement in learning design including:
- Develop and use assessment tools that are flexible, involve students in their creation and clearly articulate standards and criteria for meeting those standards.
- Co-construct and offer choice among multiple means of assessment for students to demonstrate mastery.
- Encourage student “voice and choice” via strategies such as enabling students to choose and co-design curricula.
Within the domain of Teaching and Learning, a learning indicator describes student agency as more than “providing paths, but also knowing when to step back to let learners lead.”
Supporting Self-Directed Learning
The from four New Hampshire school districts provides resources around four learner competencies: Initiative and Ownership, Goal Setting and Planning, and Engaging and Managing. Self-Awareness and Monitoring and Adapting. Grade span rubrics illustrate growth progressions (the high school rubric is shown below).
The published a series on including a post on which outlines the benefits of giving learners the freedom and autonomy to choose the what, why, how, and where of their learning. It notes four dimensions of self-directed learning:
- Self-Regulation is the ability to plan, direct, and control one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors during a learning task.
- Motivation is the desire to engage in an activity that emerges from the inherent enjoyment of an activity or a sense of obligation to engage in a task. Growth mindset is a major factor influencing motivation: believing that intelligence, personality, and abilities are flexible and dynamic, shaped by experience, and changing over the lifespan.
- Personal Responsibility (also called initiative and ownership) is a willingness to take full responsibility for one’s actions.
- Autonomy is the ability to recognize available choices and take charge of one’s learning, and to control choices through ongoing reflection and evaluation.
“Schools that adopt constructivist and socio-cultural learning approaches, such as personalized and problem-based learning, are better equipped to facilitate self-directed learning,” recommends the Center. “By adopting these approaches, furthermore, teachers have the flexibility to personalize the level of self-regulation, choice, and independence to which students are exposed as they work toward self-direction.”
“The best way to assess self-directed learning is through authentic, performance-based tasks that allow students to demonstrate their ability to apply self-directed learning skills,” adds the Center (see a for more).
, a book by , outlines the benefits of co-constructing success criteria with students. Sackstein discusses the topic with Jennifer Gonzales on the podcast.
Systems That Support Coauthored Experiences
- : 200 K-12 schools (90% in districts) with wall-to-wall team-taught integrated projects. A great guide the incorporation of agency, collaboration, and communication into co-constructed projects.
- defines its unique learning model as collaborative with a commitment to learning with students.
- is a national network of project-based schools (as well as a leading provider of literacy curriculum). A recent book, , and associated are a great guide to building student voice and agency. The toolkit include resources to build student-owned learning targets.
- : a San Diego network of 16 schools that share a commitment to learner-centered project-based learning. Their highlight equity, personalization, authentic work and collaborative learning design. A Student Work section of the website highlights and that illustrate student coauthoring (see covers of the book published by elementary students below).
Schools in the XQ network including , , , and engage learners in developing community-connected projects.
is a global microschool network where students set daily, weekly, and session learning goals. Near-peers (middle with elementary, high school with middle) support goal setting and monitoring (see by co-founder Laura Sandefer).
is best in class at daily goal setting. Learning facilitators (teachers) ensure learners internalize short- and long-term goals that build toward a meaningful purpose for learning and serve as guides for daily work (see ).
hosts an annual event, Remake Learning Days, where student-led learning has energized Southwest Pennsylvania and now 17 regions of the country (see their podcast ).
More Resources on Coauthored Experiences
Getting Smart Books on Coauthored Learning
- makes the case for personalized and project-based learning and describes leading project-based networks.
- argues that student agency is developed through meaningful work.
- illustrates how every place can contribute to student-centered inquiry-based learning.
Getting Smart Podcasts on Coauthored Learning
- , EL Education, discusses , his book on advisory systems that empowers student learning. Berger also describes , a gallery of quality student work that sets a standard of quality for student-directed learning.
- Rebecca Wolfe, KnowledgeWorks, and Ryan MacDonald, CCSSO, discuss their new report
- , High Tech Explorer Elementary on helping students do meaningful work.
- on civic and community engagement to incubate changemakers.
- on self-directed projects after school. TKS Founder real-world learning.
- , Iowa Big, on community-connected projects.
- on science fairs.
- on the future of learning.
- on contributive learning.
- on Leading in a Culture of Change.
- on educating on climate change in Portland.
- , Kettle Moraine, on high school transformation.
For more, see:
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