Showing posts with label High School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label High School. Show all posts

Monday, 9 June 2014

Thinking Differently to Meet Students' Needs

Two years ago, I posted “Reinventing the High School Experience,” which reflected upon one educator’s claim about the need for high schools to “revolutionize” themselves. As the postings on this blog over the past two years demonstrate, Greenwood has made great strides in this direction.

Here are some of the highlights:
  • 15 high school courses, ranging from Grade 9 to 12, are now delivered using a blended learning model. Using this approach has allowed students to learn at their own pace and freed up class time for more individualized and small group learning. 
  • Non-blended courses continue to leverage new types of learning technology, such as Oxford Next and The Academic Zone, which enable students to customize their learning. 
  • 6 Grade 7-10 subjects are now scheduled in a block format, which enables flexible grouping based on readiness or interest within a grade cohort. 
  • Our Grade 7-8 Arts program has introduced a major/minor approach where students can specialize in one or two of our four arts electives. 
  • 75% of our teachers now use Hapara on a regular basis. Use of this Google tool allows teachers an overall snapshot of individual student learning. 
  • We have re-modeled two classrooms to create one flexible learning space, equipped with state-of-the art technology and furniture.

Ann Marie Kee, the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Independent Schools, recently observed that independent schools are often reluctant innovators. I am proud to be leading a team of educators that have the expertise and courage to think differently about high school and how it can be improved to better meet the needs of our students.

Allan Hardy
Principal

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Personalization Through Writing

This year and last we have had the unique opportunity in our Grade 11 Learning Strategies classes to work with Brock University to design and implement an online writing program. Academic-Zone™ is an innovative online learning resource that takes our students through a series of modules designed to enhance their writing and research skills and prepare them for postsecondary writing.

As this is an online program, it allows students to work at their own pace and, with teacher support, personalize their experience based on readiness. There are activities associated with each of the eight modules. A student is not able to move on to the next module until they have mastered the skill found in the current module.


As the classroom teacher, I am able to support or extend as needed based on each individual student. For example, in the “Developing a Thesis Statement” module, some students require additional support beyond the program. We work individually or in small groups on breaking down a thesis even further into concrete steps. Other students who need little support in this area can continue with the module and extend into developing thesis statements for argumentative, comparative and expository writing.

I find the Grade 11 students feel empowered and challenged knowing that they are able to work at their own pace and receive support when they need it. Because they are working on a writing program that is intended to prepare them for postsecondary writing, they see value in the program and want to learn.

Jennifer Lillie
Teacher, Student Success Centre

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Project-Based Learning Drives Personalized Learning

“When will I use this in real life?”

This is the infamous question that many students ask math teachers. The math department at Greenwood uses that question as motivation to change the stereotype that math is only useful for mathematicians. Our hope is that by making mathematics applicable to real life and more meaningful to each student, students will be able to answer this question themselves: math is used each and every day by everybody.

In the split-level college preparation mathematics course (MBF3C/MAP4C), we have just completed our first project-based learning unit. In this unit, students learned about scale diagrams, units of measurement, optimization and cost estimation by designing a new kitchen.
Students posed as designers for HGTV, with the task of designing and planning a kitchen renovation. They were given a floor plan and dimensions for an existing kitchen, as well as an allowable area for an optional extension. The students had to interview their client (a Greenwood teacher) to determine his preferences, taste and needs for his new kitchen.

Students then used the program Homestyler to create both 2D and 3D scale diagrams with many views of their design. Lastly, they had to present their design using a sales pitch to a panel which included the client.

Rather than completing lessons on topics and then completing a project as follow up, in this project-based unit, students:
  • Had a real-life goal with a specific role and audience;
  • Determined which mathematical skills they needed to learn to achieve the goal; and
  • Accessed several resources to determine required information or to find inspiration for their designs. 
This project was personalized for each student. They received the necessary structures to be successful, the freedom to work at their own pace, a variety of resources to access information and complete control of the creativity of their design and sales pitch.

Erica Keaveney, a student in MAP4C, says “The project was very hands-on and realistic. I enjoyed it because I was able to be creative with my design, but also learned skills I will use in real life.”

Amanda Lester
Math Instructional Leader

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Reinventing the High School Experience

I read an interesting bit of commentary in a recent edition of Education Week which argues for a radical change in the organization and operation of high schools. According to Jerry Y. Diakiw, a former school board superintendent who now teaches at the Faculty of Education at York University, “we need to revolutionize our basic high school structures: We need to tear apart the school day, the high school timetable, the school year, the four-year diploma.”

Diakiw’s claim is supported by the sharp decline in student attendance and student engagement that takes place between the fifth grade and high school. According to a study by the Canadian Education Association in 2006, student engagement declined from 62 per cent to 30 per cent.

Diakiw attributes this lack of engagement to the structure of high school which, “imposes dependence on, and withholds responsibility from students.” Citing other reputable, educational commentators, Diakiw notes that high school students are often passive participants in classrooms dominated by teacher talk.

As followers of this blog will realize, personalized learning is one way of reorienting high school classrooms so that students - rather than teachers - are at the heart of the classroom experience.  Diakiw refers to the Khan Academy and flex schools in San Francisco which combine face-to-face learning with online learning as approaches which are transforming the traditional high school experience. Both of these models have been discussed in some detail in earlier entries on this blog.

Diakiw’s call to arms, “is that we must stop tinkering with an antiquated model.” As we have tried to articulate throughout First Person Plural, we share Diakiw’s viewpoint.

Ultimately, schools will only realize the full benefits of personalized learning, if they have the courage and wisdom to thoughtfully reinvent the high school experience.

Allan Hardy
Principal