School

(May 10, 2019) Stephen Decatur High School teachers have changed their teaching practices over the nearly two years they have been working with Learning Sciences International.

Tom Sites, principal at Stephen Decatur High School, said the school has used the consulting firm since May 2017. Sites discussed the school’s developments during an April Board of Education meeting.

“The traditional classrooms of yesterday are long gone,” Sites said last week. “Lecturing in the front of the room for an entire period has gone by the wayside. It’s now about great learning and that only takes place when you allow students to collaborate and work together to solve problems.”

Learning Sciences International “empowers schools and districts to transform core instruction and leadership practices, resulting in rapid gains in student learning.”

The Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Washington’s College of Education has the “Five Dimensions of Teaching and Learning” using the following components: Purpose, Student Engagement, Curriculum and Pedagogy, Assessment for Student and Learning, Classroom Environment and Culture.

Sites said Stephen Decatur High School introduced the program six years ago, and “the rubric is very large and covers so much of what we are trying to do in a classroom.”

There was also some difficulty with experience levels associated with the Five Dimensions approach.

“With a staff of over 100 teachers, we had to be understanding of the idea that people are in different places with regards to implementation and progress,” Sites said. “Some teachers are using learning targets and success criteria throughout instruction, tying it all together with student performance and even having students create their own success criteria.”

For instructors such as April Kenton, who teaches math, it hasn’t always been easy.

“Some students struggle with self-reflection,” Kenton said in a PowerPoint presentation. “Some teachers are still struggling with the best way to write learning targets and success criteria.”

Since working with Learning Sciences International, Sites said his teachers have seen results.

“We are now giving them more tools in their toolbox to help our students succeed,” Sites said. 

Teachers at Stephen Decatur High School agreed, and said students have benefited as well.

“Students are more aware of the focus of the lesson. They know what they should be learning and how it will be assessed,” Math teacher Jamie Culver said in a PowerPoint presentation. “The learning is more intentional. They are able to critique and evaluate themselves.”

Sites added how students can get practical experience for the real world. 

“This really mirrors what the workplace environment looks like today when teams work together to accomplish goals,” he said.

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