In southern Maine, the little corner of the world where I teach, coach and learn, we are in the midst of transitioning to a student-centered learning (SCL) model. The Biddeford School Department is a public, K-12 system serving 2,425 students. I am an instructional coach at the middle school and am in my second year serving as the coordinator of the K-12 peer coaching program, a program that we created as a way to support our staff in building and sustaining a student-centered learning system.
Since our journey began, district leadership has encouraged collaboration among all stakeholders. School leaders engaged staff, students and parents in conversations about what our students need to be college- and career-ready in the 21st century. With the support of our school board, Superintendent Jeremy Ray made sure the message was clear: we were engaging in this transformative work because it’s what is best for children.
Part of our student-centered approach is that it is proficiency-based (also called competency-based). Maine passed a law in 2012 requiring that every school district determine standards for proficiency in eight areas and award diplomas, beginning in 2021, based on those standards being met.
Our SCL Road Map
The state has left it up to educators in each district to collaborate, plan and implement their version of proficiency-based education. The district must provide students with timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. It became apparent that supports would be as necessary for the educators —who are also new to student-centered, proficiency-based learning— as they are for the students. For help conceptualizing an SCL implementation plan, we reached out to Reinventing Schools, and they provided training and coaching. Reinventing Schools is a division of Marzano Research — one of the most well-known proponents of proficiency-based education.
The Launch Training
Teachers were invited—not mandated—to participate in a training session with an educational consultant from Reinventing Schools. The first group of enthusiastic staff members, about 25 in all, learned how to transform their classrooms to more learner-centered environments, including how to use the Affinity Diagram process with students to create a shared vision and code of cooperation—critical to the infrastructure of the new approach. They also spent time considering how they would build collegiality in their schools to pave the way for the acquisition of new skills among colleagues who did not attend the training session. These early activities were necessary to lay the foundation for our continued work with essential standards and to build a transparent, rigorous curriculum for our learners.
Using the skills acquired at the training, teachers worked with their students to develop shared visions, codes of cooperation and standard operating procedures for their classrooms. These exercises provided the opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning, one of the four research-based tenets of Jobs for the Future’s (JFF) Student-Centered Learning Model.
Peer coaches conferenced with colleagues around the topic of student engagement and during classroom visits solicited feedback from students about their Habits of Work rubrics.
Peer coaches offered informal opportunities for conversations about competency/proficiency-based teaching and learning, supported staff with the online data management system and helped staff design curriculum documents aligned to the essential standards.
Peer coaches have been involved in developing learning progressions, capacity matrices and rubrics for students to track their learning progress. They have also provided professional learning sessions for staff.
Anytime, Anywhere Learning:
Peer coaches have facilitated conversations related to the use of technology tools and project-based learning to support anytime, anywhere learning.
Photos from our all-day peer coaching retreat in June 2017, when we reflected on that school year and set goals for this year. Here, peer coaches identify activities they did this year with colleagues that fall under each of the four tenets of JFF”s student-centered learning model.
Part II of this series will share some of the lessons learned from creating our peer coaching program.
Questions? Contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org