“The business of schools is to design, create, and invent high-quality, intellectually demanding schoolwork that students find engaging.”
– Phillip C. Schlechty
The key to school success is to be found in identifying or creating engaging schoolwork for students.
– Phillip C. Schlechty
The Working on the Work (WOW) framework is an outline for improving student performance by improving the quality of schoolwork.
– Phillip C. Schelecty
These are some quotes I have used before when talking to teachers about student work. I am once again trying to make teachers understand that having a class sit in rows and face the front for a 90 minute block is just not conducive to learning for all our students. My curriculum coordinator and I are trying ti find engaging lessons that we can document for future staff developments, and here is an interview we conducted Friday. We asked these students 3 questions:
- Describe the assignment your class is working on.
- How is it related to your class subject matter (in this case 7th grade Social Studies)?
- How would you rate this assignment on a scale of 1 -10? Why?
I am surprised at how well the students in this group answered. They spoke the TRUTH! The assignment was to create a VoiceThread about a Revolution. The teacher for this class had collaborated with me in the library to plan this project, and even completed most of it in the library. He is pleased as punch about the results, as I am too. But I want to focus on what an engaging lesson looks like. Here are the design qualities of an engaging assignment:
- Content and Substance: Educators, in collaboration with the community, identify the essential learnings and skills that students must master.
- Organization of Knowledge: Content is organized so that access to the material is clear and relatively easy for all students.
- Product Focus: Engaging work almost always focuses on a product or performance of value to students.
- Clear and Compelling Product Standards: The Standards for assessing the products or the performances are clear and important to students.
- Protection from Adverse Consequences for Initial Failures: Students receive feedback on their work and have opportunities to reach the standard throughout the process.
- Affirmation of Performance: Student products are observed by persons other than the teacher.
- Affiliation: The design of the work requires cooperative action among students and adults.
- Novelty and Variety: The work is varied in methods and format so that students use a variety of skills, media, and modes of analysis.
- Choice: Students are provided with choice in the ways of doing the work and the methods of presentation.
- Authenticity: The work has significance and is related to consequences in the present lives of students.
In no way do I think the assignment we collaborated on exhibited all these characteristics, but a good many of them were visible, even to the students who so innocently expressed as much in the video clip I shared. Comments (not all from the tape) that reaffirm to me that the kids felt it was an engaging lesson:
“We got to choose our own topic.”
“We didn’t just use a book to learn about Revolutions.”
“We made…a powerpoint with pictures to tell about a Revolution.”
“Oh I need to redo that b/c I sound dumb!”
“We learned that a revolution is not just about conflict, but about change.”
“My VoiceThread showed how the skateboard changed over time.”
For there to be learning, a lesson has to be engaging. I am happy to say I think this one accomplished its mission.
We asked some students Friday; trying to insert video here: