Friday, February 22, 2019

Hitting Targets, but Missing the Point? Take Stock & Make Adjustments...but Don't Delay!

In his 2016 NYT editorial How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers, Robert M. Wachter describes how medicine and education (“our most human and sacred fields”) have taken measurement and data-based decision making too far too fast. Measuring health and learning, it turns out, is far more complex than calculating quarterly profits. “The focus on numbers has gone too far,” Wachter argues. “We’re hitting the targets, but missing the point.”

What an apt description of many Vermont schools in the Age of Act 77 & Education Quality Standards (EQS), which require that all high school seniors, starting next school year, graduate from a proficiency-based school system, using their Personalized Learning Plans (PLP) to meet proficiencies set by their local school system. Next year’s deadline has many Vermont educators, especially in our high schools, scrambling to comply with these connected mandates. Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements? Check. PLP for all? Check. New grading system? Check.

Targets hit, but are we missing the point?

Many schools are missing the point. They are complying with the letter, but not engaging with the spirit, of Act 77 and EQS. And this should shock no one, given the scope of the ask--a paradigm shift, for sure, not a mere tweaking of the system--and the fire-hose of initiatives that preceded and accompanied the arrival of Act 77 and EQS. Worn out and whiplashed, some Vermont educators have developed the very habits their students exhibit when asked to do too much too fast with too little support, resorting to retreatism and compliance. And as next year’s deadline nears, some are engaging in rebellion.

But not all Vermont educators and schools are missing the point. There are plenty of bright spots out there, educators and school systems that understand that Act 77 and EQS are Vermont’s antidote to the dis-ease that’s spread through our nation’s schools, infected by standardized tests and a race to the top that’s divided, rather than amplified, our efforts. These clear-eyed and inspired educators experience Act 77 & EQS as long-overdue relief that puts the reins back in their hands. They’ve stopped the wholesale adoption of nationally published standards; instead, they’re identifying and prioritizing with their colleagues the type and number of proficiencies that all students will meet locally.

And even more exciting, they’re involving students in the process, learning with them where things are working and what needs work. How many proficiencies are too many to do well? What type of proficiencies tend to bring out the best in learners? And what kinds of instruction and experiences do students need in order to meet and exceed these expectations?

And most promising of all, educators and schools are networking with each other in new and deeper ways, something that would not be happening without the momentum and focus of Act 77 & EQS. You might disagree with the direction Vermont’s schools are headed, but there’s no denying the brightness of our north star. And thanks to our thriving local professional community--nourished by our AOE, the Great Schools Partnership, our Educational Service Agencies (E.S.A.), and a wide range of local and national providers of professional development--Vermont possesses the expertise and resources we need to recapture our agency to make continual progress toward our mission of excellence and equity for all.

This doesn’t change the fact, unfortunately, that many Vermont educators are weary, which makes it hard for them to believe that Act 77 and EQS, rather than being two more piles on their already overloaded plates, are opportunities to create a new plate. Exhausted and even a little irritable, they’ve had it. “Whatever. Just tell us what to do.” Right when we most need all of our educators’ deepest engagement and creativity, too many of their tanks are empty.

What to do?

Well just about the worst message we could send right now is, “Hey, this is getting really hard, so let’s delay.” We, and our communities, deserve better.

A much better message would come in three parts.

1. We hear you. Yes, this is hard, and yes we are expecting a lot. You and your students are worth it.
2. You’re not alone. Will you show and explain what you’ve done so far, and share your current sense of what’s working and what needs work? 
3. We can figure this out. Will you propose your most sensible next steps and pose your most pressing questions? How might we / others help?

In other words, we should stick to our north star and make it possible for all Vermont educators and students to head that direction, regardless of the different paths and paces they might need to take. If we do this, we’ll be modeling the spirit of Act 77 and EQS and the mission of our public schools: excellence & equity for all.

I started this post with Wachter’s NYT editorial How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers because he takes such elegant aim at the false dichotomy far too many of us still fall for, one that pits measurement (proficiencies) against relevance (personalization).

Rather than delaying the use of metrics to improve medicine and education, Wachter urges doctors and teachers to proceed more cautiously and in partnership with their patients and students. “Measurement cannot go away,” he argues, “but it needs to be scaled back and allowed to mature. We need more targeted measures, ones that have been vetted to ensure that they really matter.” This is what teachers and students who are fully engaged with Act 77 and EQS are doing, determining locally and together the number and kinds of proficiencies that will matter most.

Second, Wachter quotes Avedis Donabedian, “a towering figure in the field of quality measurement” and “hard-nosed scientist” who, before his death in 2000, declared, “The secret of quality is love.” This is what teachers and students who are fully engaged with Act 77 and EQS are also doing, determining locally and together the most meaningful ways for learners to engage deeply with what matters most.

We are still new to the powerful & paradigm-shifting practice of making performance the coin of the realm, regardless of when or where learning occurs. Thanks to Vermont’s Legislature and State School Board, we’re on the right road to increasing excellence and equity, but we need a lot more practice and feedback to determine what next turns to take. This complex and at times threatening-feeling process exposes vulnerabilities in teachers and students. They must be handled with care, if they’re going to engage fully in the process of actualizing the promise of Act 77 & EQS.

And let’s not confuse delaying with caring. Delaying will undermine hard-won momentum, while wrongly suggesting that schools on the move, but a little off pace, will somehow be punished. That’s not true. The only teachers and schools rightfully worried are those willfully disregarding our common charge.

So onward, I say, from wherever you are, committed to the cause, and with the wisdom of William Hutchison Murray at our backs.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance…”

Below I’ve included a list of organizations that have been helping Vermont educators make their way during these exciting times. By no means is this exhaustive! (Please share your favorites in the comment section below or on twitter: #nodelay @rhlearning.) And here’s a single-page instructional sequence for anyone interested in inviting your learners--be they students, teachers, parents, or community members--to help you take stock & make the kind of mid-course adjustments likely to improve learning.

Helpful Organizations
Vermont AOE Proficiency-Based Learning
Vermont AOE Personalized Learning
Great Schools Partnership
Tarrant Institute for Innovation in Education (TIIE) & Blog
Middle Grades Collaborative
PLP Pathways
Standards-Based Learning and Grading Facebook Page

Bill Rich
Red House Learning, LLC

Friday, February 15, 2019

Why Should We (& How Can We) Engage Students in the Assessment Process?

Today I’m kicking off Teachable Moments: Timely Mini-lessons & Practical Resources for the Time-Starved Teacher. Each Teachable Moments blogpost will include a short slide show / voice over to frame the topic, along with suggestions for how to use a few practical resources (included below) to apply.

  • This is what the original cover page looked liked when my Bread Loaf professor, John Warnock, first asked me / my peers to complete one. Here’s a modified cover page that you can adapt to any product students are working on. Please make a copy and adapt this for you and your students’ needs.
  • Consider regularly inviting your learners to share with you what’s working, what needs work, and what can be done about it. So simple. So effective.
  • Short piece by Robert Marzano that describes the powerful impact of having students join us in tracking their learning. Such a simple way to get students more engaged in the assessment process!
  • When students can compare their works in progress to exemplary models, they can determine what needs refining.  Begin collecting and saving exemplary models of what we seek from your students. Over time, invite students to compare their work with these curated student products to determine how to close the quality gap.
Bill Rich
Red House Learning, LLC

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Why, What, and How of Learning Scales

Why Learning Scales?

In their remarkable book, Made to Stick, the Heath brothers describe a compelling and instructive experiment. Participants are divided into two groups, the tappers and the listeners. The tappers study a list of well-known American tunes (Happy Birthday to You, The Star Spangled Banner, etc.) and practice tapping out the melodies. Each listener then pairs up with a tapper, who taps out the melody of a song and then waits for the listener to name that tune.

The tappers predict that the listeners will correctly guess 50% of the songs. But the listeners only correctly guess 2.5% of the songs. Why?

It’s pretty simple. The tappers (teachers) forget they have the entire tune playing in their heads as they tap, and the listeners (students) do not. The listeners, according to the Heath brothers, hear a kind of “bizarre Morse Code”, while the tappers hear the whole score.

Ironically, teachers’ expertise--the very trait that enables them to become teachers--can blind them to the reality of the beginner’s mind. The more expertise we possess, the more susceptible we become to what the Heath brothers memorably call The Curse of Knowledge & The Expert Blindspot. And each year this gap can widen, tempting teachers to stare at their learners with the same condescending astonishment of a tapper whose listener just can’t seem to recognize Three Blind Mice.

Drafting and revising learning scales over time provides an antidote to The Curse of Knowledge & The Expert Blindspot. The process requires educators to slow down and imagine in detail what it is that learners can do to make progress toward an important learning outcome. Over time educators become more clear themselves, not just on paper but in practice, and this clarity helps learners, who use learning scales as a formative tool (diagnosing progress and needs during learning) and as a summative tool (communicating levels of performance after learning). Learning scales, at their best, help educators better anticipate and prepare for what their learners will need, while enabling learners to play a more active role managing their learning.

And, over time, teachers learn a potent lesson: tap less; listen more.

What’s the Difference between a Rubric and a Learning Scale?

To understand the main difference, take five minutes to compare the rubric and learning scale below. Which one would be more helpful to learners? Make a list of the specific design features that make one more helpful to learners than the other.
Everyone agrees that the learning scale would be more helpful to learners. Not so surprising, since learning scales are designed to provide formative information to learners so they can determine the kind of practice they need to improve. Rubrics, on the other hand, tend to provide summative information to teachers and students so they can calculate grades.

Learning scales:
  • Are written in first person and present tense.
  • Emphasize what students can do (strength-based rather than deficit-based), so descriptors begin “I can….”
  • Describe a specific progression of development to help learners (and teachers) determine what to do next to improve learning.
  • Calibrate grain size of the target with the duration of the assessment window.
  • Bold the learning target.
  • Target skills that are moving toward transfer (rather than the characteristics of a specific product).
  • Include headings (Getting Started, Making Progress, etc.) or a simple arrow that points to progress, rather than the grade (1-4 / F - A).
  • Can include links to resources that will help the learner identify and take their very next steps.
There’s no need to pit learning scales against rubrics, though. They’re both seeking to make clear what matters most, a necessarily ongoing cause for educators. (Plus, how teachers and students use these tools trumps their differences.) But rubrics do carry the baggage of being born and raised in 100 point / summative-minded school systems; even as teachers tweak them to make them more formative, rubrics retain features that can keep students (and teachers) counting points rather than tracking learning.

Learning scales have baggage, too. Born and raised in school systems transitioning to proficiency-based learning and reporting, they strive to make clear to multiple audiences what learning matters most, what it looks like as it progresses through predictable stages, and where students and teachers should focus to accelerate progress. That’s a big ask for educators, who struggle to identify right-sized standards, let alone describe the stages students go through as they make progress toward and beyond those standards.

All of this would be so much more simple, of course, if educators were in the habit of showing students what we expect, rather than describing it. Imagine where we’d be in just a few years if all educators began curating (with their students!) examples of student work / learning that show what our rubrics and learning scales are trying to describe? Imagine how much easier it would be to write learning scales if we were staring at actual samples of student work that show what learning looks like as it progresses towards and beyond a standard?

How to Begin (and Get Better at) Writing & Using Learning Scales?

Getting clear about what matters most, and getting better at communicating that clarity, is one of education’s (and life’s) most enduring and meaningful challenges. One never reaches the mountain top. Below are tips and resources for accelerating your progress on this career-long hike.
  1. Here is a simple set of directions for getting started. 
  2. Use this learning scale to guide your journey. You’ll find all sorts of resources, some for novices and others for the experienced. (Two of my favorites: Introducing & Acclimating Students to Learning Scales & Tips for Refining Learning Scales Over Time.)
  3. Read this excellent description (thank you, Cult of Pedagogy!) of the types of rubrics out there, and cross reference these ideas / examples with this single-page description of the purpose and design features of learning scales. (Tip: the single-point rubric described by Jennifer Gonzales can be a great way to begin transitioning to learning scales.)
  4. Since the road to clarity is long and steep, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves why we need to keep at the climb, so check out the Heath Brother’s description of the Tappers & Listeners experiment, on page seven of Teaching that Sticks, an inspired executive summary of the Heath Brothers’ magnificent Made to Stick. This humorous and compelling read reminds us why it’s so difficult (and vital!) for educators to be clear and understandable to those we instruct.
  5. Resist expending your precious clarity-seeking energy pursuing low-level, topic-bound learning outcomes. The best way for students to meet those lower-level outcomes is to inspire them to aspire to higher-level outcomes. Here’s a single page doc and a helpful guide for determining the complexity of your outcomes. While it might take time to figure out how to teach to these more sophisticated levels, it’s the key to making the learning compelling, meaningful, and enduring.
  6. Develop the habit of (and a system for) collecting samples of student work that show what learning looks like as it progresses toward and beyond specific standards. Curate as you go, and when summer comes, consider how to use these samples next year as instruction and assessment tools to clarify what you’re after. Over time, invite your learners to help you locate more samples of their work to widen your collection of models. 
  7. Make the climb with clarity-seeking colleagues. Without the sounding board of others, we reside in an echo chamber of our own minds, thinking we’re getting clear, when we’re deluding ourselves (and eluding our learners). Share your ideas / products and study theirs. Revise again. Repeat.
Bill Rich
Red House Learning, LLC

Monday, March 27, 2017

Re-Imagining the PLP: A Systems Approach to Increasing Student Ownership

At last week’s Standards-Based Learning Symposium at St. Michael’s college, I orchestrated a workshop that shared this blog’s title. Not having any particular expertise with PLPs (but committed to making our schools more learner-centered and brain-friendly), I sent out an email to a swath of colleagues whom I knew had the PLP expertise I lacked. I asked them if they would help me prepare for this PLP workshop by answering these questions:

1. As you look out over the Vermont learning landscape regarding PLP, what are some of the bright spots--successes worth celebrating and emulating--you've encountered?
2. What are some of the most pressing questions educators and their learners are posing (or should be posing) about PLP?
3. What resources--texts, conferences, websites, human, other--do you recommend to educators looking to make PLP more robust and meaningful for their learners?
4. What other ideas / tips do you have that might help me become wiser about the ways--real and hoped for--of PLP?

I edited / organized the responses I received into a google doc (Our Collective Wisdom about PLP), and I invited participants in last week’s workshop to add to this document. (I’m sharing it here with editing rights in hopes that you, Dear Reader, might also add ideas / resources that contribute to our understanding of PLP.)

Here are the slides from the workshop, which I annotate here in hopes that they might be of help to others.

Slides 1 - 4
As participants arrived they were greeted by Bob Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody, which forecasted the workshop’s organizing question: Whom do we serve, and how might PLP help?

Slides 5-10
I then posed the obvious-yet-often-missed point about personalizing instruction: When we know and understand our learners, it’s a whole lot easier to personalize learning. I then shared a few photos and anecdotes about a few young people that I know well, making the point that when we really know and understand others, personalizing instruction becomes a natural response to their ways of making sense of the world. Participants then identified a young person they know and understand well, and they partnered to introduce those young people to each other, making sure to describe the young person’s distinct personality / nature.
The takeaway of this set of slides: the depth and quality of a PLP depends on the depth and quality of our relationship with, and commitment to, our learners.

Slides 11- 13
We then pivoted to the field of cognitive science, exploring the central thesis of Thomas Armstrong’s The Power of the Adolescent Brain: Strategies for Teaching Middle and High School Students. Armstrong argues that schools, in a well-intended effort to manage the challenges that adolescents pose, inadvertently create conditions that suppress the miraculous learning powers of the adolescent brain. Adolescents need learning experiences that tack with the stormy-yet-predictable winds of their adolescent brains and bodies, working with their biological pull for risk taking, sensation seeking, peer to peer meaning making, and reward seeking. How might PLP rooted in the reality of who our students are be part of a systemic effort to create conditions that tack with the winds of the adolescent brain and body, rather than creating seemingly-safer, but stultifying, harbors?
We also explored a central idea from Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Pink shows how humans are motivated by conditions that feed our need for mastery (getting really good at something), autonomy (owning what & how one gets good at something), and purpose (feeling the personal relevance and importance of the work). How might PLP help more students experience greater mastery, autonomy, and purpose?

Slides 14-20
We then  looked at a short excerpt from a NYT article, How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers, which quotes a “towering figure in the field of quality measurement”,  Avedis Donabedian, who pronounced, “The secret to quality is love.” And then to the wisdom of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and assign tasks, but rather teacher them to long for the sea.” 

But how can this work in schools where students are taking 5-8 disconnected classes? How can students be expected to long for so many different and seemingly-separate seas? And how can teachers be expected to elicit longing for their disciplines when they don't have time and space to really know and understand their learners? We then reminded ourselves of what great teachers do, and how PLP could do what great teachers do.

Slides 21-22
We then did a Think, Pair, Share in response to this prompt: When you’re asked “Why are we doing PLP?” what are the reasons you give? After pairing / sharing, we considered the question: Did anyone write down, “Because our mission makes it clear that we must”? No one had. We then studied a document, which showcased the mission statements from all of the attending participants’ schools / school systems. We paused to read through these mission statements, considering the question: What do these have to say about the need, or not, for PLP?
We considered how leaders and educators have messaged the PLP, and whether there’s been proper attention to the why, before settling into the what and how. We also returned to the question posed by Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody: Whom and what are we here to serve?
We also considered the brain truisms, Practice predicts performance and We become what we do over time. Are students practicing, or just preparing for, what these mission statements describe? How might PLP be a way to get students engaged in practicing what these mission statements describe, so when students graduate, they are skilled at the performance that lies before them?

Slides 24-25
We then turned to a list of Principles and Practices for designing and implementing PLP in ways that can leverage the power and potential of our learners. All of these principles and practices, though, are rooted in the questions: What would happen if we flipped the notion that “students come to school to study” to “students come to school to be studied”? Rather than seeing school as a place to prepare students for their future lives, what if, as John Dewey continues to urge us, education became about life itself?

Slides 26-28
We read through and discussed Cecil W. Morris’ poem, Teaching Dreams, a great poem that raises many questions about teaching and learning, in particular, the way the human brain often learns best the unintended lessons schools and educators impart. Our brains, outside of our conscious awareness, pick up on implicit messages that our environments send us. How might we be more intentional about the implicit messages our schools send students, creating conditions that invite learners to describe matters to them and what they really are learning throughout their years of school, rather than “covering” the learning?

Slides 29-30
I then described my own experience in the last few years, as part of a team that designs and orchestrates What’s the Story? (WtS), a credit-earning, flexible pathway that personalizes a proficiency-based experience for middle and high school students. This blended learning environment, as well as I’ve ever seen, brings out the best in adolescent learners because the designers, instructors, and mentors tack with the winds of who their learners are, while leaning on the rudder of proficiencies to target transferable skills. Recently our current cohort of students wrote blog posts about what WtS is and means to them so that prospective students can hear it from the students themselves. Here’s a link to one of those blog posts, and here’s where you can access the rest. Just listen to these voices! Are they cooped up in a harbor, or out sailing the seas they long for?

Slides 31-34
To wrap things up, we read this excerpt from Adrienne Rich’s Stepping Backwards,

So I come back to saying this good-by,
A sort of ceremony of my own,
This stepping backward for another glance.
Perhaps you’ll say we need no ceremony,
Because we know each other, crack and flaw,
Like two irregular stones that fit together.
Yet still good-by, because we live by inches
And only sometimes see the full dimension.

A re-imagined, systemic approach to PLP might help end the fragmentation and disconnectedness that mark our current students’ experience as they make their way through our school systems, and help replace it with a coherent and connected system whose mission is to help each of our learners realize and bring their very best selves to each other and our world.
I then shared some mind-boggling photos from an incredible book Overview, which Amazon’s describes this way.

Inspired by the "Overview Effect"--a sensation that astronauts experience when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole--the breathtaking, high definition satellite photographs in OVERVIEW offer a new way to look at the landscape that we have shaped. More than 200 images of industry, agriculture, architecture, and nature highlight incredible patterns while also revealing a deeper story about human impact. This extraordinary photographic journey around our planet captures the sense of wonder gained from a new, aerial vantage point and creates a perspective of Earth as it has never been seen before.

How might a systemic approach to PLP provide an “overview effect” that helps educators diminish our learners living by inches (experiencing separate, discipline-centered approaches and disconnected grade levels) and enable our learners to experience the full dimension of themselves, others, and the world they live in?

Slide  35
One of my favorite slides, conveying the latin derivations for the word education.

Summary of the Entire Workshop
The health and vitality of PLP depends on our school systems’ unstated-but-practiced missions. In school systems committed to the traditional factory model of discipline-centered learning, PLP will be marginalized and become an irritation to most educators and students. In school systems committed to creating a 21st century model of student-centered learning, PLP, will, over time, thrive.

Finally, a big thank you to all of you who responded to my initial call for help, and a huge thank you, in particular, to Don Taylor (Main Street Middle School, Montpelier), Chris Palmer (BFA, Fairfax), and Life LeGeros & Susan Hennessey (Tarrant Institute for Innovation in Education), who provided information and resources that made this workshop work.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cool, Sexy & Fun! Time to Re-Brand Our Standards

Lately I’ve been thinking about the great American songbook, that collection of standard-setting tunes that have inspired generations, while setting the bar for newcomers. Then I got to listen to some friends perform a selection of those standards for an audience of hundreds; their masterful playing evoked the cool of Miles, the sexy of Holiday, and the humor of Hank.

All this has got me thinking: How in the world have we so botched the marketing of what should be learning’s foundation, our standards?

To make my point, take a trip with me back to 1983. I was sixteen and living in Oregon for the summer, when I got a call from my then twenty-one-year-old cousin, who offered me tickets to a rock & roll concert, my first, if I could get to Seattle for the show. Forty-eight hours later I found myself walking toward the stage, ticket in hand, stunned when I sat down in the center aisle, a mere 20 feet from the action.

And then the lights dropped, the crowd erupted, and out walked Neil Young, who sat himself in a semi-circle of the most beautiful objects I’d ever seen, a collection of honey-hued acoustic guitars; he played each, along with haunting harmonicas. Next he sat at a battered piano, over which hung a Count Dracula-like chandelier, and sang of silver seeds flying into the sun. And for an encore? Neil Young and the Shocking Pinks, an eight-piece Rockabilly band, decked out in matching pink tuxedos and pompadoured hair.

My brain was never the same. This show became my standard bearer for all future musical experiences, and it fueled a passion to learn how to make music that packed this kind of emotional punch, a fire that still burns strong today, 32 years later.

For most educators, somewhere along our paths we’ve had our “Neil Young” experiences with our disciplines, transformative encounters that caused us to fall for what we teach. These standard bearing experiences—a life-changing novel, a nature-inspired awakening, a mind-bending museum visit—inspired us to pursue our discipline, practicing, struggling, and ultimately reveling in the understanding and competence we gained.

And yet, we’ve allowed education standards to become associated with tedium and test taking, rather than passion and elegance. We’ve allowed them to become checklists of proficiency rather than steps to excellence. What would Miles, Billie, and Hank have done, if anyone tried to strip their standards of their soul? I think they would have raised holy hell.

What can we do to put the cool, sexy, and fun back into our standards?

Begin with Our Disciplines at Their Finest
Learning requires a massive output of energy. Our brains won’t generate this energy supply without a desirable destination in mind, one well worth the inconveniences that go along with getting there. The more vivid and pleasurable the destination, the more energy our brains will commit to the process of making the trip, regardless of the hurdles.

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina urges educators to apply this principle: whole before parts. The brain works better when it sees the big picture—where the learning is headed—before engaging in the minutia and headaches of an arduous journey. Too often our standards are like so many pieces of Humpy Dumpty, broken and fragmented into jigsaw-sized puzzle pieces. Rather than asking our students to do what all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not, we should begin with Humpty Dumpty himself, in his whole-egged, awe-inspiring self, atop that wall.

Forecast the Upcoming, Multi-Disciplinary Performance
Whenever we experience an inspiring example of our discipline at work in the world, the discipline is interacting with other disciplines. Always. So if we’re going to expect students to imitate what our standard bearers do, we should expect students to perform in the world in ways that embody the habits, ideas, and skills that connect our disciplines.

So imagine and design performance-based assessments with your colleagues, within and across disciplines, and fuel your students’ learning with visions of how today’s practice connects to that upcoming, multi-disciplinary performance. And please: beware of creating too many of these. One well-designed assessment of this type per year could fuel a year’s work of focused practice and preparation.

Model What We Seek
Teachers who model and exude a joy, pleasure, and enthusiasm for their discipline—treating it like a great friend that their students just must meet and get to know—are more effective than those teachers who don’t. Be the type of learner you want your learners to become; model for them the thrill and satisfaction of the discipline. Help them understand that the challenges and frustration that attend the learning process are so worth the effort!

So let the re-branding begin, and let’s take back our standards, keeping in mind the enduring wisdom of a standard-bearer himself, Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

“If you want to build a ship, 
don’t drum up people to collect wood and assign tasks,
but rather teach them to long for the sea.”