Shifting the Culture in Learner-Centered Environments

CBE

Reposted from CompetencyWorks:

In 2012, the Maine Legislature passed into law LD1422, An Act to Prepare Maine People for the Future Economy. The key element of this legislation is the transition to a standards-based educational system in which graduation from a Maine high school is based on students demonstrating proficiency. The policy was set, but what does it mean to a district and school to ensure their students are proficient? What had to change? I’ve worked in one district that has undergone the transformation and I’m currently working in another that has started their transition to a proficiency-based system. Each one began by transforming the culture to a learner-centered approach. In both districts, consultants from the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, a division of Marzano Research, provided us with training and resources to aid in our implementation of this challenging work.

It starts with fully embracing the fact that students learn differently. As we put our beliefs that learners learn in different ways and in different time frames into practice, we began taking bold steps toward creating a meaningful, personalized learning experience for each child. Early on, we gleaned the importance of including all stakeholders, including community groups, students, staff, and parents, in thinking and talking about a culture of learning. We hosted many conversations about our current cultural reality and reflected on needed changes moving forward. Our essential question, “What does a successful learner in the twenty-first century look like?” guided us through a lengthy process of discussions, gathering, and then analyzing the data from our various stakeholder groups. Once our district shared vision of “Preparing respectful, responsible, and creative thinkers for success in the global community” was established, teachers found innovative ways to make this statement have meaning and relevance for our learners at both the school and classroom levels. I have seen teachers incorporate our vision in creative ways, such as student-created posters, songs, and chants.

These conversations and collaborative processes around culture became the roots that grounded us. Once these cultural roots took hold, we could add other essential nutrients to start growing our personalized, proficiency-based system of learning. I believe that taking the time to fully develop our shared vision in the beginning has been a significant factor in the progress students have made with their academic learning goals. This shift in culture allowed us to establish positive learner-centered environments, where our students became more engaged and had increased ownership of their learning pathways.

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