Aligning AIW and PBL


abeo school change This post originally appeared on Abeo School Change’s blog, an education design and implementation group that partners with schools and systems to make powerful learning a reality for every student. View Original >


A blog I read from Abeo School Change reminded me of the work I have done as a teacher as a both a practitioner of PBL and of AIW. Both AIW and PBL aim for the same goals and can align quite well. The four components of AIW were explained in the previous blog, although elaborated communication is explained a little more explicitly here. So how do the elements of AIW explained in the previous blog to AIW?

Construction of Knowledge – When students create products for a PBL projects, they should not simply be regurgitation of knowledge in a new genre. PBL products are not low level performance assessments. Instead, PBL products demand that students innovate with the content being assessed. Instead of a podcast on World Religions, students would create a podcast to debunks myths and stereotypes of a specific world religion. They must grapple with the content to create something new with it.

Disciplined Inquiry – PBL is inquiry. Students are given the project up front, as well as a driving question to help focus and engage students in the inquiry. An entry event is utilized to spark the inquiry and get students excited. Students research, ask questions, interpret the information found for their project and critique. This in turn demands this process of inquiry continue until the project is completed. Students delve deep in the content by being a complex and engaging project to address.

Elaborated Communication –
In PBL, both presentation and written communication on demanded as part of the assessments. Related to the last component of “Value Beyond School,” PBL also demands presentation to an authentic audience. This might be in the form of pitch or defense, or could even be expository in nature. PBL leverages communication as critical whether it is verbal or written.

Value Beyond School – This component is the crux to any good PBL project. The work that students do must have value. It must mean something beyond the classroom. When I visited High Tech High, a PBL school, one of the teachers told me that they never ask students to make something or do something that they would great rid of. They demand that their PBL projects have students created products that will be valued now and into the future.

If you do want to learn more about AIW, go to AIWs website. There are links to literature, resources and more. It remains one of Abeo’s areas of expertise and is utilized in our school coaching frequently.

Collaboration – Integral in Common Core Assessment


abeo school change This post originally appeared on Abeo School Change’s blog, an education design and implementation group that partners with schools and systems to make powerful learning a reality for every student. View Original >


One on the most striking and pleasant surprises that I encountered in the Common Core Standards, was the prevalence of Collaboration. This alone says that we are on the right track with common core. What is a needed 21st Century Skill? Collaboration. What does Sir Ken Robinson say is required for a change in education? Collaboration. He says eloquently, that “collaboration is the stuff of learning.” What are experts and writers calling out for in books such as Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and 21st Century Skills by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel? Collaboration. Whenever I conduct a training with teachers as ask them what they want their students to be able to do when they leave their classroom or school, what is the hot word? Collaboration.
If we truly want and need this for our students, they will need to teach and assess it. It needs to be leveraged in the grade book. This of course means we need to arm educators with the skills to effectively teach to the standard of Collaboration in the classroom.

Let’s be honest. I doubt many of us have our state standards by our bedside as inspiration reading. But I would say the standards including collaboration can allow for exciting and engaging teaching and learning. Here is the power from the English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.
K-5 and 6-12 Speaking and Listening
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners,
building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

This standard is even broken down with specific criteria for each grade level. Collaboration is going to look similar and different across grade level. Your job is to figure out an assessment that will accurately show that they have performed that criteria and made that criteria clear to all partners in the student’s learning, from the parent, to the administrator. Collaboration is best seen in solving a problem, so of course, I am bias towards PBL, Project-Based or Problem-Based Learning. This sets an authentic task in motion for students to work on collaboratively to problem solve.

So what could an assessment look like? Let’s use the example above as our focus. Here the content of the actual collaborative effort is completely open. In fact, this could be done across the classroom. Although this is defined as a Listening and Speaking Standard, there is no reason why it couldn’t be leveraged in a variety of disciplines, as it is a 21st century skill. So what could show these criteria regardless of the content?

Perhaps students create a portfolio defense for a one on one with the teacher, bringing a variety of pieces of evidence. Perhaps students create a podcast articulating how they solved problems and met criteria for collaboration. Perhaps students journal daily to critical thinking prompts on their collaboration, which is then collected as a summative assessment at the end of the unit or project. Perhaps teachers use a rubric to grade them as they actually work in class on specific day.

Of course these great summative assessment ideas need to be supported with ongoing formative assessment. Journals could be used as this as well as a summative. If you plan on grading students on collaboration, then you must provide feedback to the students using the rubric as the focus piece. You can set goals with groups and let them know you will specifically look for that in the future. You will need to collect drafts of a podcast and give specific coaching on what they can do to make it better. Again, you cannot assess what you do not teach, and good teaching includes useful, ongoing formative assessments.

There of course are more places to “push” and explore in terms of assessment of Collaboration. Perhaps you have students work collaboratively on a Common Core in a project that has a culminating product that showcases they know that standard. The key is to have both a Collaborative product, to grade them on collaboration, and an individual product that holds students accountable to the other Common Core Standard. If students are creating a research project that is targeted toward to a Common Core Research standard, have them create one product collaboratively and a separate on their own. Look, you have head students accountable to two powerful Common Core standards that are rigorous and real. Just remember you must teach your students how to collaborate before you can assess how well they do collaborate. This is good practice.

Online Learning Needs True Student Collaboration


abeo school change This post originally appeared on Abeo School Change’s blog, an education design and implementation group that partners with schools and systems to make powerful learning a reality for every student. View Original >


Steven Johnson
, the author of “Where Good Ideas Come From,” was recently featured on CNN where he shared his ideas from his TED talk aired earlier this summer. Learning does not occur in isolation. Great ideas do not occur in isolation. Why then are most online courses structured in a way that fosters mostly the teacher-student relationship?

If we look at the way many learning management systems and courses are setup, it is still very traditional. Students have an assignment, they complete it, and they turn it in. The material is geared toward multiple learning styles, but authentic learning style of collaboration may not exist. Now there may be occasions where discussion board posts are required, or peer review. In fact the best online teachers are using these tools synchronously and asynchronously. The best teachers are doing their best to create activities and routines that foster student interaction and collaboration. But is the curriculum and structure set up in a way that requires collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking?

One of the biggest strengths of online learning is fosters true student-teacher relationship in order to create an individualized education plan. Parents say this, teachers say this, and students say this. Julie Young, CEO of Florida Virtual Schools, recently shared in an article that “it is perhaps one of the greatest ironies of online learning that teachers and students often find it more personal than the classroom experience.” She then goes on to advocate for more hybrid programs, in order to balance face-to-face learning with online. I would agree that with the hybrid model, you can build face-to-face experiences that foster more collaboration, but this is one idea.

If we truly want the 21st century skills, we need to create online environments that truly require collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking. Are students working together to problem solve and create while still being held accountable individually? Are the student forums open so that students may collaborate? Are students leading discussions and live class meetings? Are students allowed voice and choice in their assessments? These are just some of the questions that educators of the online world need to consider.

In online education, we are in danger of replicating a system that has only worked well for some. The traditional classroom, where the teacher is the center and the students do the assignment, has not worked for all. We in the world of education reform agree on this. We believe in these 21st century skills. We have seen brick and mortar and hybrid programs that have worked, where collaboration and innovation is occurring regularly. We need to look at these examples and learn from them. We need to ensure the structures and curriculum foster not only online individualized instruction, but collaboration for the purposes of innovation. As Steven Johnson says, “Chance favors the connected mind.”

Professional Development Tool – Inquiry Circles


abeo school change This post originally appeared on Abeo School Change’s blog, an education design and implementation group that partners with schools and systems to make powerful learning a reality for every student. View Original >


Inquiry is a “buzz” word education, and thrown around often, but this it not because of bad intent. We really do want our students to engage in inquiry, but what does it look like? More importantly, how do we get educators to internalize the process. One of the best tools that teachers can use to not only internalize inquiry, but also DO inquiry on topics of their choice is the Inquiry Circle.

The Inquiry Circle replaces the “book club” or “book study” model with a more authentic and inquiry modeled process so there is voice and choice for teachers in terms of learning targets, but also a better understanding of inquiry. It is modeled after the PBL process as well. Here are the steps for an inquiry circle:

1) Craft a Driving Question: This question can either be created by administrators, or co-created with faculty and staff. Perhaps it is something like: “How do we make culturally responsive curriculum?” or “How do we create tasks in the classroom that truly make students college and career ready?” You can even have groups create their own questions and jigsaw the faculty and staff appropriately.

2) Entry Event: Engage participants in a intriguing video, provocative reading or similar. It can help to frame the future exploration and get participants excited about next steps.

3) Research Questions: Have teachers or groups of teachers generate questions they want to know about the topics. After generating, have them share out with other groups to help build transparency and interest.

4) Expert Groups: The DQ question is the big umbrella question of the Inquiry Circle model, but from the research questions, sub topics are formed. Have teachers choose into a subtopic group.

5) Product: How will each group share what they have learned by the end of the process. Give them a list of possible products and allow they the flexibility to choose how they are assessed and to pick a product that will be authentic and useful.

6) Facilitate Inquiry: After these initial steps, teachers must choose literature, books, and other resources to explore. Teachers will meet periodically over an extended period to share learning, engage in reading selections, and generate further questions to explore. Participants will need to find more resources and continually draft and revise their final product.

7) Present Products: After an appropriate amount of time, teachers should present their product to the entire faculty and staff. These presentations should be done by the whole expert group. Encourage creativity! Have the entire faculty, after seeing presentations, generate ideas for next steps and implementation.

In order to rethink how we use professional development time, we must have the tools to do it. The Inquiry Circle is one way to allow for collaboration, voice and choice, and focus in professional development that teachers need.