Learning What Works Through Looking at Student Work

Craig Gastauer

Craig Gastauer is currently Internal Director of Pedagogy at Vista High School in Vista, CA. He is proud to be working with great teachers and students to create a more learner-centered public high school experience.

We are a fairly large comprehensive high school in North County San Diego which continues to see our student population shift. Similar to all schools in our area, our diversity and socioeconomic levels continue to expand. Knowing that traditional lecture based methods alone can never provide students with the learning opportunities necessary to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need for our ever evolving 21st and 22nd century futures, we are in the second year of a transformation to co-create personalized learning experiences with our students through contemporary, fresh, engaging, and inspiring curricula.

A continuous reflective feedback cycle

To ensure that our efforts are positively impacting all students in the way we intend (and they need), our staff is adopting a continuous reflective feedback cycle to learn from each other’s efforts. Based on the feedback cycle detailed in the books Dispositions (Costa and Kallick, 2013) and Students at the Center (Kallick and Zmuda, 2017), it is our hope to have flexible groupings of teachers come together around student need by:

  • setting goals
  • intentionally planning ways to develop dispositions and thinking skills
  • implementing the strategies and activities intended to positively impact learning
  • and creating opportunities in which students and teachers co-create their learning experiences

Teachers and students may manage their process, gather evidence (or the lack thereof) to monitor their learning, and modify actions to ensure goals are achieved. As teams may also bring in “critical friends” to engage teacher groups through protocols to examine the collected evidence more objectively, we can work to ensure that our efforts are helping ALL students rather than perpetuating existing learning gaps.

Finally, we will compile a “library” of strategies, activities, and lessons that will help our entire staff better understand how to help all students learn, regardless of “where they are.”

In what ways do you and your school monitor efforts and actions to help students co-create and direct their learning? How does your school collect strategies, activities, and lessons to build capacity in your staff and students?

Please add your ideas to the comments section below to help us curate the powerful ideas that may help us all work more effectively to meet the needs of our students.

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