Project Based Learning Workshop

Project Based Learning WorkshopExternal Experts Jill Akers and Shayna Cooke from the World Leadership School lead the Upper School team in professional learning focused on the inquiry-based, teaching approach known as PBL or project based learning. The Upper School team learns how to lead a class discussion without a teacher “at the front.” Each person must speak at least once before the next prompt/question is posed. Someone at the board maps out the discussion to make sure each person speaks and that no one monopolizes the air-time. The teacher does not make eye contact and does not allow the students to engage him/her, but “snaps” when the text/article is referenced. What does assessment look like, feel like, sound like? What does it look like at the “end”?

Watching a clip from “The Karate Kid.” Mr. Miyagi is the ultimate teacher. His preferred strategy is not lecture, but hands on, real world engagement. Daniel doesn’t even realize he has been learning karate.

Any professional learning workshop is incomplete until Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy makes an appearance.  See Bloom’s question stems.

First Day

Firing up the blog. Though I’m not “new” to Mount Vernon, today was my first “official” day of work as the new Head of Upper School. It was productive on many fronts. Much remains to be done to prepare for new and returning faculty. There are several facilities improvements happening and though the bustle hasn’t fully started yet, there is a buzz of excitement in the atmosphere. Feeling well rested and ready for the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Songs from 1976

Today’s my birthday and I’ve enjoyed listening to some great music from 1976. That’s right, I’m 41. I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do.

Celebrating iPlan17: The Mindsets

Launched in Fall 2012, Mount Vernon’s 5-year strategic iPlan17 has laid the groundwork for MVX; the new strategic plan launching in Fall 2017. This week, we look back at some of key moments in celebration some of the highlights and insights you have achieved related to the Mount Vernon Mindsets.

(Note: This is not an exhaustive history, but merely one perspective. There are many, many other contributors to this story not represented in this brief post.)

Celebrating iPlan17: The Mindsets
Our story begins with a book chosen by Dr. Jacobsen. In 2010-2011, the entire faculty read Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap, sparking discussions about 21st century skills.








That same year, the Strategic Planning Committee of 2010-2011 hosted screenings of 3 educational documentaries, capturing the questions, thoughts, and ideas of all stakeholders represented (students, parents, faculty, and trustees). (Copies exist of the documentation, though mostly in Word, Power Point, or physically printed because we had not yet converted to using Google Docs.)






The 6 MV Mindsets were created not only as a result of the feedback and conversations sparked by the Global Achievement Gap and the 3 documentaries, but also as a result of several professional learning workshops involving all faculty across Preschool through Grade 12.

Once created, it was important that the mindsets be branded and cascaded throughout the entire program, but it was more important that we made sure the experience matched the messaging. In other words, the mindsets couldn’t just be an attractive admissions insert or a poster on the classroom wall (although both looked nice!). We had to infuse the mindsets into the curriculum at the DNA level.
Teams in each division set out to clarify and quantify student progress on the mindsets by creating detailed rubrics. The rubrics were helpful in generating discussion around what the mindsets actually meant, how to infuse them, and how to measure/communicate student progress. However, they were different in each division and bulky. Teachers were encouraged to take pieces of the mindset rubric and merge them with rubrics that measured other indicators customized to whatever particular project or performance task was being designed.
On January 7, 2013 – Our team held a professional learning conference on How to Infuse the Mindsets. Teachers rotated through 6 sessions (1 for each mindset) throughout the day where they discussed ideas and received strategies for intentionally infusing mindsets with other core content learning outcomes. An early obstacle to overcome was the mindsets that said, “I’ve been teaching these my whole career.” or “This mindset is already present in what we’re doing.” It was a shift for all of us to realize that the intentional infusion, design, and assessment of the mindsets was something new. And difficult. While also fun.

(insert link to google site resources)

We designed locker magnets as a way to recognize and celebrate students who demonstrated key attributes of the mindsets. Teachers had fun discussing who demonstrated the mindsets each week and gathering the students to celebrate. #Culture

Eportfolios Built around Mindsets using Google Sites

Mindsets included in Honors Assembly

What you recognize and celebrate is what you value.

Group Work Norms Created as a model for infusing the Collaborator Mindset

Mindsets intentionally observed and measured via Instructional Rounds

Mindsets connected to the greater MV Continuum

MVIFI Summer Grants focused on Mindsets

Collider Sessions focused on Mindsets






Innovation Diploma is assessing and communicating student progress around the mindsets, specifically the 4 C’s utilizing PowerSchool capabilities and the Ed Leader 21 rubrics.

Visible Thinking Routines designed to help infuse and assess Mindsets

Badges created to differentiate and celebrate faculty efforts around 4 of the 6 Mindsets
And a fun blog post about Star Wars characters who embody the mindsets.

And the work continues…

Introducing Faculty Badges: Winter Edition 2017

Today was the grand unveiling of the new suite of badges designed for faculty by Amy Wilkes and Katie Cain. Like a kid at Christmas, I still get excited when new badges are designed and introduced. These badges are only available through the end of April, so don’t let them pass by you.

Remember, a badge has six elements to its design. Although the artwork is often the most visible and appealing aspect of a badge, it is only 1/6 of the design. Like a quarterback who gets all the credit when a team wins, the artwork can overshadow the other 5/6 of the badge. 

There are a number of things I really like and wish to highlight about these particular badges. First, I love how we have developed specific ‘families’ of badges. For example, there are now 3 badges related to PBL (project based learning). They look very similar, yet they are distinctive. True learners and die hard badgers will collect them all.






Next, notice how the badges offered are not only highly relevant to the larger mission and work of the whole school, but also how they combine multiple school initiatives. For example, the Spotlight on the 4 C’s incorporates the wildly important Mount Vernon Mindsets (4 of the 6 21st century core competencies) AND the spotlight feature of Folio Collaborative along with the important practice of learning walks (see more on learning walks).

Finally, the Random Act of Kindness badge breaks new ground by being the first badge you cannot apply for yourself. A colleague must apply on your behalf. I’m interested to see how this one plays out in the weeks ahead.

And on a final, final note…I think my favorite ‘family’ of badges currently are the Challenge Badges. I love the colors and ‘look’ of these badges. And, I love each of the challenges associated with them. To me, they are the most ‘fun’ of all the criteria. The Blogger Challenge was an early success last summer. The Visible Thinking Routine Challenge was equally fun as teachers posted their classes in action to twitter and Ann Plumer featured the work on bulletin boards in middle school spaces on each campus. I hope our teachers will go for it with the Virtual Reality challenge.