Every school looking to make a change needs to read this book by Weston Kieschnick! It is a powerful book to remind us that with the right strategies we can start to make this shift in education. Travis Lape
In Harrisburg South Dakota we have taken on some BOLD changes to meet learners where they are at. With this BOLD move has come some mountains we have had to climb to get our community on board. I have learned very quickly in my new position as the Innovative Programs Director that it is super important to be transparent, and willing to sit down with parents to talk about this BOLD change. The one thing that is hard about this change is that we all have had an experience with school. This experience could be good or bad, but we have it.
I still remember sitting in class very similar to the image to the left. The teacher stood at the front and taught a lesson to everyone. Sometimes she would sit at the front as we read out class story out loud. I struggled in reading and dreaded reading the class story out loud. I spent more time reading ahead to make sure when it was my turn that I knew the words. Fast forward a little in my day and I would get pulled out to get reading support by our title teacher. By about 4th grade I knew I was different. I knew I was not able to read the same books as my class. Math on the other hand I was decent at, but my passion was more social studies and science. I enjoyed the hands on experiences that I had in science and social studies. What I remember the most of my elementary experience is that even though I felt different in 4th grade I was still expected to do everything at that level. As time went on and I got to high school that same feeling was there. I was reading better, but not like my peers and I knew it. I somewhat used it as an excuse rather than embracing it and striving to make it better. I was a good student I turned in my homework on time. I very rarely missed school because of being sick. I was quiet in class so that I did not draw attention to myself or my learning struggles. I wanted to fit in and I wanted to make sure I did not look different.
Where did it all go wrong in this school structure?
Somehow we made school a competition. As soon as school became a competition that is when I stopped focusing on learning and rather just surviving. I did not want to be different nor did I want to be the one who caused our class to not move on with content. I learned very quickly if I sat back and was quiet and did not advocate for myself that I could blend in. When I got to college I had to learn the hard way. I had to learn to advocate for myself and what I needed to make sure I was successful. I had to learn time management and how to use my time correctly. All through high school I was told everything and the time management piece was done for me. I don’t even want to talk about my organization skills. Those skills were not developed in High School because again everything was given to me. Those three skills I feel were the hardest for me to figure out in college, but once I figured them out I was able to be successful.
I wish my school experience would have had a BOLD school feel to it. I would have learned a lot more because of the structure of the teaching. One of the educational leaders in research John Hattie says
We know so much about the optimal learning strategies that students can be taught to make major differences to their enjoyment, involvement, motivation, and outcomes.
In the book BOLD School by Weston Kieschnick he lays out some powerful strategies that not only can enhance learning, but can empower learners to drive their learning. Here are the strategies that he lays out.
1.) Interactive Video – .54 effect size
2.) Questioning/Socratic Seminar .48 effect size
3.) Vocabulary Programs .62 effect size
4.) Direct Instruction .60 effect size
5.) Peer Tutoring .55 effect size
6.) Concept Mapping .64 effect size
7.) Worked Examples .37 effect size
8.) Self Assessment 1.33 effect size
9.) Reciprocal Teaching .74 effect size
10) Problem Solving .63 effect size
11.) Spaced and Mass Practice .60 effect size
When you think about the above strategies for teaching these are all items we have been told for years that are best practices. The problem is that our curriculum is typically not structured to allow for these practices. Our classrooms have a learning spectrum that is sometimes above and below the grade we are teaching. That is why we need to think BOLD and change our mindset on this. I think back to sitting in the classroom during reading time and just trying to survive. What if instead of sitting in my class feeling that way, I was in a room with like learners getting what I needed.
In Harrisburg we are striving to put these into practice.
Direct Instruction: This type of strategy is not bad if you have the right learners at the right time for that instruction. This is a great way to kick off what they need and then break it down into small group instruction.
Interactive Video: Another great strategy that we use to deliver instruction to introduce our learners to the learning targets. This can be done through using Edpuzzle and building in questions to check for understanding. This is a great way to collect information that will support your teaching in the small group lesson time.
Questioning/Socratic Seminar: This strategy can be used in several places in a personalized learning environment. I see it used a lot during our coaching sessions as well as our literature circles.
Concept Mapping: This is something that we continue to work on with our learners to get them to map out their learning and what they are learning. This can be done during their interactive video as well as during their other subject times.
Problem Solving: One of our favorite things is watching our learners problem solve when they get stuck. Thinking back to my growing up I never really had to problem solve because I was told everything. Here is what will be on the test on Friday. Study this and you will be fine for the test. I did what I was told and was successful. This was all fine until I went off to college.
Spaced and Mass Practice: This strategy is something we are problem solving right now. We need to make sure in our personalized learning environments that we are coming back to concepts that they have already mastered so they can keep applying it.
Overall to have a BOLD school feel you need to make sure that you are using the best instructional practices to meet the learners needs. This can be done, but you have to be intentional with what you are doing. We have taken those best practices and said we are going to not focus on grade levels, but the learners and what they need. I am so thankful that we have a BOLD school that is thinking about each learner.
Here is a glimpse into a learner’s lens into personalized learning.