Learning Progressions

Learning Progressions

Today, the Social Studies research and design team met after school. After a 10 minute introduction and demo slam (check out Google Earth for geography, history, current events exploration), we split up into our respective divisions and choose our own adventures.

The middle school team collaborated on writing a learning progression for 5th Graders using primary sources. It was a fun activity for me. I felt stretched, creative, frustrated, and accomplished at different points throughout the process. My colleagues felt the same, but we all stuck with it and the result is a very solid, first attempt at a learning progress.

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r and d


Developing and Using Learning Progressions as a Schema for Measuring Progress by Karen Hess

Learning Progression Ninja Jill Gough gave us some encouragement and feedback…
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What feedback would you give our team on this learning progression? 

R & D Stations

R & D Stations

R & D Stations

Today, the Social Studies Research & Design Team met (as did R & D teams from several other disciplines). Teachers were given 3 choices:

  • Pick something that interests you from last session’s brainstorm (related to the 4 guiding priorities)
  • Work on the 9th Grade Humanities pilot (learning outcomes, ideas, etc.)
  • Teach social studies through interactive tech (drone w/camera) and badges

Team members collaborated in small groups and as individuals, sharing out at the end of the session…

  • Humanities: who will teach it? will it just be a combo of lit and history or will it include other disciplines like arts, theater, etc.? idea for teaching through geographical areas, idea for have the mindsets be a stronger, guiding factor throughout the course.
  •  1st Grade – each week a new country featured in a key doc. this week, Burundi – they have NO schools, “hurts my soul” – gives new empathy and informs how I teach
  • 7th & 8th Grade – Assessing a new unit, looking at last year’s exam, revising, “when you don’t get to claim your ‘rights.’
  • Lower School revisions of curriculum maps
  • Lower School – finalizing government assessment & proficiency scales

While it is a busy time of year and few folks want to stay late, I am proud to be part of this team. Also, I am grateful for all of the people who worked behind the scenes to make this session happen. I am grateful for the rough drafts and iterations. I am grateful for the feedback and brainstorming. I am thankful for the minutes and hours spent in preparation, and most of all for the positive attitudes. Thank you!

Measuring R & D Priorities


Measuring R & D Priorities

This afternoon, the Social Studies R & D team convened for its 3rd meeting of the year. Our agenda was as follows:

3:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Gallery walk: Small groups of 3-4 rotate among 4 posters. Each poster contains 1 of the 4 priority goals that every R & D team has been charged with accomplishing. On post it notes, team members write what each one means a) in his/her own classroom and b) for our R & D team at large.

The purpose was to
a) expose and remind team members to these priorities again
b) capture input and build common meaning among team members
c) generate ideas and obstacles as fodder for future meetings.

See the results below. (30 min)
4 cornersbraggpostitspostpost itNext, we used a “poll everywhere” to gauge how the team felt, in general, we were doing as a whole R & D team in regards to accomplishing these 4 priorities. Results are interesting, but scientific accuracy is disputable.Measuring R & D Prioritiespano4:00 p.m. – 4:35 p.m. – Discussions/Workshops: Team members choose 1 of the 4 that they are most interested in exploring in greater detail. They commit by writing their preference down. Two groups are designated as more “conversational” in nature, while the other two are classified as “workshops.” The goal was to try to manage expectations and help team members leave feeling like they ‘got something out of it.’ The feeling in the room was earnest dialogue and diligent production. I’m proud of this team.
4:35 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Share Out/Philosophy:  Finally, each group, pair, or individual shared out what they had accomplished or discussed. We ended by sharing the final draft of our co-written philosophy statement. Shelley read aloud…
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Here is the original draft of the plans for this meeting. We deviated a bit from our original timeline:

15 min – Gallery Walk
60 min – Discussions/Workshops
15 min – Share out/Philosphy


Building Our Learning Measures


Building Our Learning Measures
This morning, our monthly vertical team meeting focused on building our capacity with two of our ‘expanded learning measures’ – formative assessment and e-portfolios. Here is the agenda with some data added…

Essential Questions
What are the limitations of numerical grades as a single measure of learning?
How will we develop our understanding of e-portfolios as an effective measure ‘for’ and ‘of’ learning?

Desired Outcomes
Vertical Teams collaborate to implement formative assessment and e-portfolios.

Learning Opportunities
In advance, read Edutopia article: 11 Essentials for Excellent Eportfolios

    • Entry Ticket: Upon arrival, write on 3 separate post-it notes…
      • 1 idea this article sparked
      • 1 question this article sparked
      • the # of e-portfolio demonstrations you have currently assigned to your class

  • Create an entry ticket with your vertical team, using your learning outcome process standards, that you all agree to use for formative assessment in the next few weeks, that students will upload to their e-portfolios.
  • Share out your ticket with the whole team. Receive feedback. Iterate to improve.

Vertical Team Guiding Questions

How can you formatively assess one of these process standards as a vertical team?

How can students demonstrate their learning of one of these process standards? And make their thinking visible via e-portfolio?

How can we help students build the muscles of reflecting on their learning?

PL Team=============

Teacher Reflection on Understanding and Implementation of student e-portfolios

What problems have you encountered while implementing e-portfolios with students? How did you solve them?

Does student’s work tell a story?

What do the demonstrations of learning that students post in their e-portfolios reveal about what they are learning in your class?

If someone else were looking at the demonstrations that students post in their e-portfolios, what might they learn about the design of your class?

What things you might want more help with?

What’s the one thing that you have seen in your colleague’s work or process that you would like to try related to e-portfolios?

Post-it Note Results…

HMW entice students to see e-portfolios as ‘theirs’ rather than something the Ts want them to do?
What’s a simple and effective way for me to promote and support e-portfolios with student buy-in?
How do we continue to empower students to want to curate their e-portfolios?
Why/how do we spark interest?
How to get students/teachers to care about e-portfolios?
How effective are e-portfolios in increasing learning? (I loved this question so much I wrote a response!)
What is our e-portfolio purpose?
What is our purpose?

How do we help students preserve portfolios for future endeavors?
Will e-portfolios be out-of-date tomorrow? (technology changes so rapidly)
If they lose their ’email’ account at the end of high school, does it have longevity?
Do students know how this will be used?
How might I use two different approaches to e-portfolios over the next 9 weeks?
QR Code – love it! Wonder how to use?
Clarify positivist/constructivist approach?
Need to focus e-portfolios to ensure demonstration of learning (learning outcomes)
How do we get videos in to make it easy?
Have we learned to add video? Who will help us?
Are we using the positivist or constructivist approach?

e-portfolios can be used for a short-term learning project
projects on e-portfolios
I would love to make my 2nd semester project tie directly to e-portfolio
design students demos to really showcase a learning progression throughout the year
HMW ensure that e-portfolio updates are relevant to demonstration of learning (learning outcomes)?
the portfolio for learning, as learning
Enhance student meta-cognition, reflection, ownership
I would like to ‘practice’ demos in advisory
I can meet with 1 kid per day in advisory on e-portfolios, match with goals (for SLC)
Student Blog: maybe have students start a blog instead of their journal I have them do? They could keep a blog and blog every week about topics of interest.
Check out One Note and other resources
Instead of weekly journaling, students can add to One Note or Evernote – culmination activity is uploading unit post-its up with a reflection
Students can keep a hard copy of all work done in a 9 week period. At the end of the period, upload 2 pieces of work that were significant. This gives students more time to reflect and choose two of their best pieces.
Students write class blog and link e-portfolios there? Allow a specific timeline to post.
Still love video aspect, but it’s too hard to upload
Our NPS is good with timeline (?)
Use as a student website/blog
We should publish to parents.
Digital Media = blog? Do we want to use e-portfolios like this?

1 Demo – 6
2 Demos – 9
3 Demos – 2
5 Demos – 1

What are your questions about e-portfolios and formative assessment? What are your ideas? Please share with us!

A Brief History of Social Science R & D

A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS

For five years, I have had the privilege of co-chairing the Social Science Research & Design Team at Mount Vernon with Head of Lower School Shelley Clifford. We have worked alongside the incredible teachers from Preschool through Upper School to create, iterate, and reimagine learning outcomes, as well as innovative instructional and assessment strategies. Here is a succinct outline of the highlights of our team’s efforts…

– Audit of current learning outcome practices
– Compare/contrast MVPS learning outcomes to Georgia Performance Standards
– Compare/contrast MVPS learning outcomes to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and others (no common core for social studies)
– Creation of World Impact Curriculum
A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS

– Read “Being Global”
– Applied to 3 components of the School’s mission statement (college ready, globally competitive, engaged citizen leader)
– Discussed utility and significance of our learning outcomes (and overall program)
– Teachers shared strategies for infusing “globally competitive” into all classes
A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS Screen Shot 2015-09-08 A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS 10.52.05 AM2013-2014
– Reimagined what R & D could and should be at a school
– Middle School created and implemented two themed courses (Freedom & Conflict)

A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS 2014-2015
– Split PS/LS and MS/US
– MS/US focused on defining units (UbD), simplifying outcomes and attaching essential questions to each unit
– All MS classes are themed (Pioneer Course and Passport/Human Geography)
A Brief History of Social Science R & D at MVPS 2015-2016
– Stepping back from learning outcomes to clarify overall Social Studies philosophy at MVPS
– more TBD…

There are 4 over-arching goals or purposes for All R & D Teams at MVPS…

  • Foster a deeper, shared understanding and continued iteration of learning outcomes
  • Design and curate demonstrations of learning and evidence of understanding
  • Explore paths of implementation within respective discipline and make connections across disciplines
  • Utilize the Design Principles & Practice (Learning Essentials) from MV Continuum

3 Tools for Teaching with Primary Sources

Earlier this week, our Social Studies R & D (Research and Design) Team met to discuss our philosophy. We had a rich discussion and there were several threads that I hope to follow up on with colleagues. I love hearing their thoughts and learning more about their approaches to teaching, especially social studies. One great discussion was centered around the use of primary sources. Days after the meeting, I’ve been reflecting back to my own teaching practice and what I would hope the teachers on our team would know and use as it relates to showing students how to analyze sources. I hope these tools are useful and spur other ideas.

social studies R & D

Why use primary sources?

  • Learners act as historians, learning to analyze and draw their own conclusions
  • Sources are real, allowing learners to get as close to historical events as possible
  • Sources help students develop inquiry; the ability to formulate meaningful questions
  • Secondary sources are valuable too, though more likely to be biased or subjective
  • They learn that history is always incomplete and open to interpretation

3 Tools for Teaching with Primary Sources

Tool #1: The Future Coin


Give every learner a penny. Ask them to imagine it is 5,000 years in the future and they are archaeologists who have just dug up this coin. The United States of America does not exist 5,000 years in the future and you/they have no prior knowledge or reference for it. Ask learners to individually study the coin and write down anything they notice including any questions that arise. Use the 9 questions in Tool #2 below, especially the last questions, “What does this coin reveal about the society/civilization in which it was produced?”

Learners may determine that the “ancient” American society was monotheistic. And that their God was a man with a beard. They would notice the year 2006 and maybe assume this person was a leader at that time. They might assume the USA was bilingual (English and Latin). Let them come up with their own ideas and you’ll be amazed at the kinds of insights they possess. This same exercise can be done with paintings, speeches, music, etc.

Tool #2: 9 questions for analyzing primary sources

  1. When was it created?
  2. Who wrote/created it?
  3. What was its original purpose?
  4. Who was the intended audience?
  5. What kind of source is it (document, artifact, etc.)?
  6. What feelings does it evoke?
  7. What is the point of view?
  8. Is there any visible bias?
  9. What does it reveal about the civilization/society in which it was created?

Tool #3: Football Point of View (credit to Larry Treadwell)

Compare types of music and types of instruments as primary sources representative of ancient and modern civilizations. Here are samples of ancient Chinese, Celtic, modern top 40 pop, and a showcasing of ancient Irish instruments…



Recommended Resources:

Guidelines for Using Primary Sources in Your Classroom

Four Reads: Learning to Read Primary Documents

3 Tips for Educational Research of Best Practices

Educational Research
Tips for Educational Research

3 Tips for Educational Research of Best Practices

Educators must strive to discover and utilize both “tried and true best practices” and experiment with “new, innovative” approaches to teaching and learning. Tapping in to educational research and expanding your PLN (Professional Learning Network) is a great way to accomplish this.

It is vitally important for educational practitioners to base their teaching habits and tools in strategies supported by research. Teachers often use research based practices without even knowing it. Conducting a little research can confirm that your pedagogy is solid. On the other hand, teachers frequently utilize tactics that are not effective, but they continue anyway because they are not familiar with the research. It takes a little time, but not much to conduct a little, specific research on a particular pedagogical area.

Here are 3 quick, simple tips I have learned when conducting research for best practices…

1) When you google it, (ie – best practices for grammar instruction), look for responses that come from universities.

2) Look for reports and studies with recent dates (ie – 2011 is better than 1976 – maybe).

3) When you find a report or article that references another, more in-depth study, search for that study. Dig deep. Beyond the surface. That’s where the best stuff can be found.

Here is an article with tips related to conducting your own educational research project.

Research & Development in Education?

We have R & D teams at our school. In my experience, this is largely unheard of in the field of education. Though innovation happens inside individual classrooms, having official teams and time dedicated to research and development around teaching & learning is rare.

For three years, I have co-led the Social Science R & D team for Preschool through Grade 12. We have realigned learning outcomes vertically, to our school’s mission and mindsets, and we have run them through the filter of a book called “Being Global” by Cabrera and Unruh.

Article/Blog: Where is R & D in Education? by Jeff Utecht

R & D development-processCycle_of_Research_and_Development