• Abner Oakes

More on Student Voice

As part of my post about student voice and agency, we reached out to several JumpRope users to ask them to share with us some on-the-ground examples of student agency. Here goes:

Pawel Nazarewicz, Salem (VA) High School math teacher and JumpRope teacher, had this to say:

Jumprope's color-coded progress bars simplify and focus conversations with parents. Red and orange bars highlight areas of greatest need. Thus, a conversation becomes "This is #1 concept/skill that your daughter needs to work on, and here is how she can do it. After she is ready, she can get reassessed." Conversations tend to be straightforward and everyone leaves satisfied and with a plan of what to do next. Rinse, lather, and repeat as needed.

Here’s what Kelly Orr from Harpswell (ME) Coastal Academy wrote:

One small example of student-centered learning happened recently with...[an] advisee of mine - we'll call her Patricia - who has decided she wants to expedite her path to graduation. We've recently launched a semi-elective structure for our division two investigations, and Patricia wanted to take an investigation that was very arts and creative-heavy. But after looking at a number of the reports [that our school] generates to review proficiency progress, it was clear that there were some real holes in [her] ELA and SS standards, and so we instead encouraged her to take a different investigation so that she could hit the standards she most needs to move quickly towards graduation. She completely agreed with our thinking and willingly relinquished some of her decision-making power because she could see that taking the arts investigation would not support her personal goals. The reports were essential in anchoring this conversation, pulling Patricia in as a co-planner in the learning journey and clarifying what her path was going to be moving forward.

Emily Rinkema from Vermont’s Champlain Valley Union High School - follow the Champlain folks here - sent me an email last weekend with these comments:

We had students look at their JumpRope reports for the year and choose a target they want to focus on improving this unit. They were so much more engaged in the work that followed because they had chosen the goal and were committed to improving in that area.

Also, in general, the reports have significantly changed parent meetings. Instead of talking about habits, which is what most conferences default to ("he needs to work harder" or "she has to write down the assignments" or "he's just not a good test-taker"), we now talk about specific skills.

Amy Engelberger from Maine’s Windham Middle School wrote this:

[Our district] has been working to increase self-directed learning over the past few years, and I have increased it in a few key ways. I post unit targets in the classroom and ensure we spend time understanding them before we start the unit. Right now we’re in the midst of a poetry unit, and I have five targets up in order of progression or rigor. I post daily targets for students as they collaborate on a poetry packet, and we wrote a “How to Read Poetry” SOP to refer to in order to work to uncover meaning and purpose in poetry. As partners complete the packet, they then take a partner formative assessment. I correct the assessment and give students feedback before they take the summative assessment. At this point, some students might need more practice and some are ready to move on. In our classroom, self-directed learning means that everyone is aware of the targets from the beginning and everyone is working at their own pace...This leaves me free to work with students who need more scaffolding and to work with pairs of students as needed.

A lot of students have become naturally more reflective and cognizant of where they are in their learning. They’re more willing to take feedback and return to an assignment they are partially meeting or not meeting because they know with this effort, they will meet targets.

Another step we’ve taken as a school is that students keep a learning blog where they post about learning. This is a place where they photograph assignments and experiences, describe the targets, and reflect on successes and areas that need improvement. Some students make video reflections and post these to their blog. Students then share blogs at our student-led conferences...They have enjoyed building this new digital portfolio and have become quite adept at thinking about their learning.

And, lastly, from our main man in Newark, Ohio, Wes Weaver, who is principal at Licking Valley High School:

One of the most immediate changes standards-based grading (and JumpRope) brings to the classroom is a transformed teacher-student conversation. I’ve seen students bring up their JumpRope mastery report on their netbook so they can ask a teacher how they can achieve mastery in certain standards. Over time, “What do I need to do to get an A?” gives way to “What do I need to get a 4?” and then to “Can you help me meet this standard?”

Actual student conversation:

Me: “How are you doing in English?” Student: “Pretty good. I’m getting better at citing textual evidence.” Me: “What do you still need to work on?” Student: “Thesis statements.” Me: “Are you going to have more chances to demonstrate that?” Student: “Mr. _____ helped me the last time, and I think when I do it independently I will get a 4!”

Bottom line: That’s a student who can direct her own learning!

Now, what stories can you share with us about student voice and agency?

(I got the above pic from here.)

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