Invested… Stakeholders in Learning

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In the upcoming newsletter from our schools, Explorations in Learning, one GMS teacher, Leona Barnes is quoted — “Student engagement occurs when students are actively invested in their own learning . . . they see themselves as stakeholders in their own learning.”

This statement is the tip of the iceberg for Ms. Barnes.  She is the epitome of the teacher/facilitator who works daily to keep ‘her kids’ involved in learning.   When she was asked to define engagement she wrote:  ”Tom, thanks for asking me.  It really allowed me to step back and analyze what I do with the students.”  She appears to reflect frequently about the way she teaches.  Her full statement describes her philosophy of engagement.

Definition:  From my vantage point, student engagement occurs when students are actively invested in their own learning.  In other words, at this point in the learning process, they see themselves as “stake-holders” in their own learning.  I feel like I’m in “teacher heaven” when this happens in my classroom. 

 As I was reflecting on this question, I realized that there were several strategies that I keep in mind to foster student engagement:

1.  Each unit begins with a big question.  Students have to view their learning with a sense of “wonderment.”  Giving them an opportunity to express what they would like to learn in relation to our unit engages them right at the beginning.

2.  Material is presented in small “chunks.”

3.  Students are given a variety of ways with which to work with these smaller pieces of information.

4.  Once students have mastered all of these pieces of information, they have to put it together to make sense of the whole. (Sometimes, I start with the “whole” and then we analyze the “pieces.”)

 Because the lesson was broken into smaller steps, students will arrive at #4 feeling a sense of confidence and security, so it’s easier to take risks when learning.  I’m also very careful as to what kind of feedback I give when students are engaged.  The feedback must always be stated positively, so that students will continue to feel confident and secure during this learning process.

Thanks Mrs.Leona Barnes for your exciting teaching and your visionary instructional leadership at GMS.

Yes . . . STEM – Science Technology Engineering Math – Just This Week!

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Mrs. Curfman’s class designed a city of the future.

Mrs. Pechan’s firs grade class at Randolph Elementary School paired with Mrs. Ferguson’s fourth grade class for another engineering project!

 An assistant principal’s classroom observation found a focus on critical thinking skills and STEM taking hold within the classrooms at Goochland High School.

Robotics activities meet a STEM and the engaged, hands-on learning, criteria.

Fourth grade math this week about the properties for addition, and multiplication the science of ecosystems are both STEM highlights this week.

Low Retention Rate in STEM Majors?

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Dr. Richard Carchman, an active member of  the Goochland Public Schools STEM advisory committee, posed the question, why a low retention rate in STEM majors?  His question is based on an article Low Retention Rate in Stem Majors Prompts Study.

This is a good question for America but specifically for Goochland County Public Schools.

The answer may come from this research: “A new study being conducted by researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and the University of  Colorado Boulder will attempt to answer this question and look at what can be done to encourage more students to remain in  those fields.”

We need to look for some answers from this study.  Even without this research, good preparation from our K-12 schools remains a wonderful start.  I applaud the support of STEM by our Goochland School Board with the hiring of a STEM focused CTE director, Bruce Watson, and an active STEM advisory committee adopted by them last year. Our efforts in the secondary schools continues to be part of a larger emphasis on engagement and 21st Century skills.  John Hendron, our supervisor of instructional technology, addressed this at an advisory meeting last year by showing what we are doing with project based learning such as our G21 initiative.  We need to continue our exploration for answers to Dr. Carchman’s inquiry while we seek ways to inspire students to follow their intellectual curiosity.  
 
Additionally, I suspect from my personal experience with two daughters graduating from college in STEM areas, that an increased emphasis on aiding students with the rising cost of education will help. By offering more scholarships and assistance like Pell Grants and by finding ways to address the massive school loan debt issue, Americans can encourage students to enter and stay in expensive STEM related fields. The Goochland Educational Foundation (GEF) that meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. at our school board office is committed to providing more scholarship opportunities.  This is another exciting local response.

Teacher Generated Tests Online

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All Goochland teachers have a new tool to use to give quick online assessments with their students.  This Pearson Education product is called Schoolnet.   Our elementary grade level leaders and lead teachers gathered this afternoon after students left for home to have a training from Pearson with some special in-person training from Amy Spoonhower, our GMS science lead teacher. All teachers will be trained over the next few weeks and begin using this software to create and give short quizzes, classroom tests and district-wide marking period assessments.  This initiative that supports data driven decision making became a reality for Goochland Schools when Jen Bocrie to the lead for our technology team to write, win and now implement a $75,000 grant.

 

Teachers learn new software.