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Changing Digital Learning From the Inside Out:
System-level considerations for shaping online experiences
that engage learners and teachers (2020)
Online teaching and learning can be more engaging and effective for students and teachers alike if districts take into account several key considerations when formatting their digital plans and processes. Combining and building on ideas from change management, improvement science, and inside-out systems development, Dr. Kris Rouleau from McREL’s Learning Services team offers seven guiding principles for district leaders who are looking to refine their systemwide approach to digitally mediated learning.
Student Engagement: Evidence-Based Strategies to Boost Academic and Social-Emotional Results (2019)
Researchers have been refining their thoughts on student engagement for decades, and teachers who familiarize themselves with this history have an advantage in identifying opportunities to make their own work resonate with students, according to McREL’s Cheryl Abla and Brittney R. Fraumeni. The authors present McREL’s definition of student engagement as “A condition of emotional, social, and intellectual readiness to learn characterized by curiosity, participation, and the drive to learn more.” Research shows engagement is correlated with academic success and reductions in antisocial behaviors and substance use. And thankfully for teachers, there are evidence-based tactics that can be used to assess and improve students’ engagement, several of which are detailed here.
Instructional Models: Doing the Right Things Right (2019)
Adopting, adapting, or creating an instructional model for your school or district could be the key to boosting instructional consistency while also encouraging teacher creativity, suggest co-authors Elizabeth R. Hubbell and Bryan Goodwin in this new white paper. That may sound like an easy sell, but the process is rife with opportunities for crossed signals and misaligned ambitions. Whether you’re a superintendent or a teacher who wants to see some things change, learning the basics of group dynamics will keep your project moving forward.
Personalizing Professional Development: How Empowered Teachers Can Take Charge of Professional Learning and Growth (2019)
McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin teams up with ASCD authors Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral to tackle a question of urgent interest to teachers at all career stages: Can professional learning be better? It can, they argue, if the profession recognizes that large PD sessions—while an appropriate starting point to share foundational practices—should be followed up with a highly personalized plan of action. Reflection holds the key to identifying and addressing problems of practice as teachers advance in their skills. Also important to bear in mind: Teachers are most effective when they develop an understanding of why certain techniques work, not just what they are.
Improving Teacher Practice: Debunking the Myth of the Performance Plateau (2018)
The CEOs of two of America’s leading education consultancies join forces to argue for school districts to play a more active role in teacher development. The “disheartening” but tenacious myth that new teachers improve for a few years and then coast is dangerous because it causes HR departments to focus on the wrong things, write Bryan Goodwin and William Slotnik. Newer studies have debunked the “performance plateau” and should lead districts in the direction of career-long development for career-long improvement. They propose a four-part plan for making it happen, and point out that a handful of districts have already started.
Student Learning That Works: How Brain Science Informs a Student Learning Model (2018)
Surgeons learn about the body before operating. So why don’t more teachers learn about the brain before educating? In this free white paper, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin makes the case for incorporating brain science into the practice of teaching. Knowing how memory works can suggest classroom tactics that aid the acquisition and recall of information. Furthermore, adopting a model for learning rather than relying solely on the increasingly common (and increasingly detailed) instructional framework can help teachers layer innovation upon tradition, in the much same way that models help screenwriters and composers to be creative within the audience’s expectations.
Curiosity Works: Moving Your School from Improvement to Innovation (2018)
What if every student were curious, self-motivated, and passionate about their learning? Wouldn’t our classrooms be more joyful and dynamic and our schools be more innovative? In this white paper, Kristin Rouleau lays the groundwork for a powerful new model for school improvement—an inside-out, curiosity-driven approach—that looks for and builds on schools’ bright spots in ways that go beyond improvement and help unleash both student and educator curiosity. This innovative approach relies on a school’s readiness to commit to shared values within a purposeful community, a focus on teaching and learning, support for professional growth among teachers using a triad peer coaching model, and a consistent, deep practice that weathers the storms of change.
Peer Coaching That Works: The Power of Reflection and Feedback in Teacher Triad Teams (2017)
Teachers are surrounded by the greatest professional development resource ever created: other teachers. So, doesn’t it make sense to team up for mutual support and growth? In this white paper, we describe the research that supports peer coaching and lay out the components of an effective coaching triad, with participants taking turns coaching, being coached, and observing. While school leadership can promote an environment that values and encourages trusting working relationships, the real work of coaching needs to be planned and executed by teachers themselves, the authors say.
Finding Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity: A Strategic Planning Process Streamlines District Work and Improves the System for All (2017)
Managing a school district has become an increasingly complex endeavor. But one school district in Pinedale, Wyoming, has found that taking a systems approach to strategic planning not only simplifies district work but also increases the success of principals, teachers, and students. In this white paper, Jay Harnack, the superintendent of Sublette County School District #1, and Matt Seebaum, senior director at McREL, show how a strategic planning process reduces redundancy and workload by integrating district goals, strategic planning, and school improvement into one streamlined process. By establishing conditions for success rather than reacting to problems, this process creates meaningful, sustainable change that results in the ultimate outcome: improved student achievement districtwide.
Let’s Rethink Online Learning (2017)
In this white paper, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Erika Twani from the Learning One to One Foundation propose a new way of looking at online learning—not just as a different way to deliver standard classroom instruction, but as a way to provide personalized learning to students who may not thrive in typical school settings. Goodwin and Twani argue that low success rates in online schools may be, at least in part, the end result of translating a typical Carnegie-unit approach to a digital learning setting, rather than personalizing the learning process to encourage problem solving, curiosity, and real-world learning. The paper describes a research-based framework for creating learning paths for students based on their abilities, interests, and preferred learning styles, while leveraging the promise of education technology to serve struggling groups of students.
The Road Less Traveled: Changing Schools from the Inside Out (2015)
In this white paper, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin urges education leaders and policymakers to rethink the way we’ve been approaching reform for the past three decades and consider what might happen if we improved schools not from the top down but instead from the inside out—putting curiosity at the center of learning and unleashing a powerful, more engaging system of schooling.
Rebalancing Assessment: Placing Formative Assessment at the Heart of Learning and Accountability (2015)
In response to high-stakes testing and top-down accountability, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and co-authors from Measured Progress propose in this white paper a new, more balanced formula for assessment based on curriculum-embedded performance assessments (CEPAs), which better support the deeper learning expected of students today. They also outline how states can use CEPAs in accountability systems and reduce the emphasis on end-of-year summative assessments.