Wicked Decent Happenings @ Positive Youth Development Institute 2012

I spent today with two of my fantastic 10th grade IPBL/MCL/<Add Your Fave Edu-Acronym Here> Pilot Program students, JT and Sarah, and my vastly-more-organized-than-I-will-ever-be intern, Jenn, at the Positive Youth Development Institute on the fabulous Husson University campus in Bangor.

Superlatives aside, it was a rewarding, meaningful day for all and compelled me to share a mini-version of our mass customized project based learning hybrid pilot presentation.  It’s a tremendous undertaking we are starting in August.  I’m terrified and excited and amped and stressed out.

These are all good things.

Last October, one of my freshman English classes watched this video about an independent school within a school created by students for students with support from teachers and administrators.

We talked at length about the ideas those students were putting on the table.  Someone said, “That could never happen at Mt. Blue?” And someone else said, “Why not?”

The arguments for “Why not?” were not compelling.  And here the pilot was born.

In a future post I will outline our developmental process in more detail.  For now, here’s what will happen come fall.  Please note: every idea you see presented here was first conceptualized by students and given final approval by students.  I gave them a hand, made suggestions, and helped them to work within the defined parameters the incredibly supportive school administrators laid out.  We read McGarvey & Schwahn’s Inevitable as well and got many thoughts and notions about customized learning there. I created the visuals here — the content and the concept are all them.

We operate on a four-period ninety-minute alternating block schedule.  During the mornings, the pilot students will go about a typical schedule, working in their arts, languages, health, and elective courses. Every afternoon, however, during periods 3 & 4, the students will be in Grade 10 IPBL, Independent Project Based Learning.

Sidebar: I am still unhappy with the title.  It’s called Core Essentials in the course book.  Blech.  I would like customized learning represented somewhere there because it isn’t all project-based — that is just one possibility among many ways they may go about learning.  However, it is fully subject to personalization.  Sigh. We’ll get there.  Eventually.

Looking at the diagram above, you see students will be learning and demonstrating their knowledge in the four core disciplines during this program.  A huge distinction from typical class schedules is in the mentor schedule.  Rather than thinking of the students assigned a particular subject at a particular time, instead this program assigns a particular mentor to the program at a particular time.  (We have four designated mentors for this year.)  Thus, students do not have to work on math skills only during Period 4 Blue.  However, that is when their math mentor is available to help with the extra tough stuff.  They may well choose to spend a whole day working on English and biology work.  That is fine — they just may not have an English teacher or bio teacher to help with questions that day.  At least, not in person.

So what will they be doing?  Meeting the standards laid out in the district curriculum.

How will they do that?  Ah, that is up to the students.

Teachers and learners get together and unpack the curriculum, teachers explaining what all that gobbledy-gook means, learners then choosing focus points.

The collective body then works together to design assessment and learning experiences that will demonstrate the standards in meaningful, authentic ways.  (And also tests and quizzes if the student so desires.)

Assessments are developed, completed, assessed and self-assessed, recorded and reflected upon.  Then a determination must be made depending on the degree to which the student met or exceeded the standard.  If met or exceeded, the student may go on to choosing new standards to examine and developing a new assessment — or repurposing the same one just completed if it is in strong alignment to the curricular goals.  However, if only partially or not yet met, the student must continue finding a way to demonstrate the first standard, whether by repeating the same assessment or designing a new way to demonstrate that understanding.

Progress will be charted using a Google doc spreadsheet featuring the curriculum goals. After having the assessment scores laid in — exceeds, meets, etc. — students will have to comment upon each score, reflecting on the reasons for that score.  Teachers will be able to comment as well, and we hope dialogues ensue.

Sure, there are several concerns that need addressing before we get fully underway in late August.  Gradebook set up, grading practices, policies and rules in various learning spaces, and a few other tidbits.

Here’s the thing, though.  It’s happening.  These 15 kids made a thing happen. That’s worth a little mid-summer fuzzy ambiguity.


About Dan Ryder

Dan Ryder & Jeff Bailey, co-founders of Wicked Decent Learning, a blog, podcast, Twitter feed and who-knows-what-all-else devoted to teaching and learning in Vacationland and beyond. Teachers, dads, actors, writers, geeks, buds.

5 thoughts on “Wicked Decent Happenings @ Positive Youth Development Institute 2012

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  2. I get excited just by reading this! It’s great to see kids in the driver seat, dealing with the tasks at the levels we do to interpret what the standards mean and how they can be accomplished. I guess is that the grading piece will fall into place and work well but may not end up fitting a 0-100 scale. Hope you continue to update on this, maybe even some student work, reflections, video or guest blog? You’ve probably already thought of that but just putting it out there.

    Wicked Decent Learning

    • We will definitely be documenting the thing in a public way on its own — and I’ll be cross-posting here. I just have to figure out the best tool to use with the class. We will probably use WordPress as I’d like them to get used to using something that’s closer to a professional blogging platform than what they typically encounter.

      And Tumblr is blocked.

      And Blogger thinks we are spamming them.

      Wicked Decent Learning

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