With understandings established as the purpose of any course of instruction, we have adopted the approach of planning a course backwards from that understanding. Understandings are established first, assessments of those understandings are developed and instructional activities are planned to support success on the assessments.
Robert Marzano has famously calculated that it is impossible within a 13 year school history to address all the standards listed in typical district and state produced documents. A school must identify the most important learnings for all students. We adopt the thinking of Douglas Reeves and Larry Ainsworth in identifying the standards that matter most as they relate to our graduation expectations. These are a carefully selected subset of a longer list of standards (statements of understanding) that we prioritize. We engage all instructional staff in the norming and development of the few power standards. Other standards are addressed through students passing well crafted courses that are designed for that purpose.
Credit in Courses:
Students receive credit in a class when they can provide evidence that their learning meets the explicit learning targets of the course. Documentation of learning happens in every class, both in regular formative and summative ways. Examples include:
- Various types of portfolios: mastery, developmental, working, of possibilities, reading portfolio.
- Oral forms: presentation, facilitate community meetings or gatherings, podcast creations, spoken word pieces, dramatizations, scenarios, interviews, panel presentation.
- Written forms: research paper, report, blog entries, composition, poem, learning logs, dramatization, lab work, plan, graphic organizers, action plan and/or proposal for change, written statement.
- Combined oral & written: project, demonstration, videotape, multimedia, critique/defense, project design, review of performance, self-assessment, reflection, reading, listening, or speaking demonstrations of a language.
- Other: finished art piece (visual, dramatic, musical), sketchbook, journal, video analysis, infographics, mind maps, test results, others’ assessment of performance or work habits or attitudes, evidence of skills in other work (checklist), letters/notes from adults or peers verifying learning, exemplary record of something over time, use of a planner or organizational device, sign-off sheet, calendar record, physical demonstration of skills, performance scores over time, etc.
Presentations of Learning (POL’s):
Three times a year, at the end of every trimester, all students at Eagle Rock give Presentations of Learning (POLs). These are not about getting credit in courses; students either have or have not documented learning to a level of mastery in their courses. POLs are an overarching tool for students, allowing them to pause in learning, reflect, synthesize, and analyze. They consider both personal and academic growth, link their learning to past learning, and project future learning goals.
In front of a panel of people from outside Eagle Rock, they make a case that they have learned. They have already sent their panelists packets to introduce themselves. It consists of a cover letter; a trimester reflection; a service reflection; a list of learning experiences, a personal growth reflection called “I Used to Be … But Now I Am”; and a statement of their individual, evolving personal moral and ethical code.
For fifteen minutes, students present themselves as learners to this panel and an audience composed of their peers, staff, family, and friends. First the panel, then the audience ask questions of the student, forcing extemporaneous thinking and response. It’s a good learning experience as well as an accountability tool for the whole school.
The end-of-trimester POLs are not the only presentations students make; they learn how to make presentations when they first come to Eagle Rock. As the “running record” of videotapes of the POLs makes clear, students keep getting better at presenting themselves. And graduate POLs, a one-hour presentation, are unsurpassed!