As we continue down the road of implementing different PL models, the question often comes up about what makes it different than really good standards-based instruction. Really, the difference is in student agency. Just like in a high impact standards based classroom, a core element of successful, rigorous learning is that there are clear learning targets with clear measures of the goal. Kids need to know what they are learning, to what end they are learning it, and how they know when they have mastered it.
On any given day, with any given student, kids should be able to articulate the work they are doing and what they need to do to demonstrate mastery and that answer should be grounded in the language of the standards/competencies.
If you are doing station-rotation with choice boards where kids are choosing must-do, can-do and earning points up,down, and diagonal – you are creating the illusion of student agency. Agency isn’t about doing whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. Its about giving kids clear and unambiguous learning they need to do and then giving them the space to do it.
The way administrators can tell if this is happening is by examining the work that is asked of students and examining the scaffolding/support/instruction teachers provide to kids as they DO the work. If the work is DOK 1- it may take a long time and it may fill up a day, but it doesn’t advance the cause of ensuring success for each student. If the work is DOK 4 and the teachers provide little or no feedback and supportive instruction to students, then it doesn’t advance the cause of ensuring success for each student.
Each of you are working hard to change the student and teacher school experience and you considering all aspects of a student’s life. We are attending to the social-emotional needs, the learning styles, and the environment and all of that matters to help make school a high quality experience. But, that is all in support of the academic and 4C’s expectations we have for them.
Spend time evaluating the quality, rigor, and connection to standards/competencies of the work your teachers give kids to complete. Ensure that what mastery looks like is clearly defined through rubrics and scoring criteria and that parents, kids, and teachers all know that.