The Three ‘R’s | The Teacher's Path
Sep 11, 9/11/ 3. Growing Gap. School. Improvement. WHY. WHAT. HOW Restore the Relationships that satisfy an algebraic relation or. May 27, Envision Schools embraces four principles for preparing students for new four R's of education: rigor, relationships, relevance, and results. Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance: The Three R's of Engaging Students in Urban High Schools High schools that successfully engage students in learning.
In one school, it was a matter of changing an adult-only "Youth Voice" group to one whose membership was predominantly youth. Some schools set up new structures, such as one school's Breakfast Club, an early-morning open forum at which students and teachers can eat and talk freely about any school issue that concerns them.
Another school set up a Principal's Advisory Committee of students and teachers to assist in making decisions about policy.
In a third example, students began leading monthly Principal Roundtables to engage classmates in school decisions. Exploring Teaching and Learning Together Although governance is an important arena for sharing responsibility in schools, the most important focus is the teaching-learning process itself. This is the area where thinking of four Rs has yielded the most transformative work in the Vermont high school network.
As students are invited into the formerly closed territory where teachers reflect on their practice, defining effectiveness in terms of rigor, relevance, relationships, and responsibility provides both common vocabulary and a fresh starting point for youth-adult teams.
Students and teachers examine teaching and learning together through action research—collecting and analyzing data, sharing results in structured dialogue, and planning action steps. Each school team has followed its own path in implementing action steps. A school still in the early stages of inquiry supplemented its student and faculty surveys with interviews on the question, "What makes a good school?
The Case for the Missing R - Educational Leadership
Another team created an appreciation system for teachers who offer highly rigorous and relevant curriculums, have strong student-teacher relationships, and incorporate shared responsibility. Another team took a lead role in designing and implementing a schoolwide spring thematic unit, working to identify content that would embody the four Rs. At another site, the youth-adult team led faculty to examine the efficacy of mid-year exams; the discovery that neither students nor teachers found them an adequate measure of learning prompted a redesign of the assessment process.
These examples indicate the range of forms shared responsibility can take, but a more detailed account of one school's experience over time will show its depth. At a regional high school in central Vermont, a team of students and teachers began a cycle of schoolwide quantitative research seven years ago. Following our action research model, teams gathered data on the four variables from both students and teachers. They then brought results to the student body, the faculty, and community members.
The presentation highlighted strengths and concerns as a basis for structured dialogue that encouraged participants to determine possible root causes and brainstorm potential solutions.
The team then created an action plan and tracked progress throughout the implementation phase. One concern that arose from the school's initial survey was a "puzzling gap" between teacher and student perceptions. When asked to respond to the statement, "I regularly check in with students to see if they are learning and adjust instruction based on what I hear," 97 percent of teachers agreed or strongly agreed.
Student responses to the corresponding survey item—"Teachers check in regularly to see if I am learning, and they adjust instruction based on what they hear"—showed only 68 percent in agreement. Reducing this gap became a priority for both youth and adults in the school.
The team developed a simple mid-semester survey soliciting feedback on the classroom experience. Faculty members led follow-up discussions to share what was working well and brainstorm solutions to concerns. The team also asked students to assess their own attributes as learners, reinforcing the concept that learning is a partnership.
The practice of mid-course feedback has now become routine, giving students at least one opportunity each semester to reflect with their teachers on their learning experience and witness the impact of their feedback as classroom practice changes. In this school and in others, creation of a feedback system was a first step toward positive change.
The ongoing expectation that students will offer feedback also tends to foster such student-centered practices as greater differentiation, expanded opportunities for project-based learning, more independent and self-directed study, and shifts to more varied and more authentic assessment.
Shifting School Culture Although such data-driven actions are significant, the process of doing this work is equally powerful. When students and adults share responsibility for reflecting together on practice for students, on their own learning and for teachers, on their own pedagogythey develop new habits of mind.
As one teacher reported, "We are now aware of student voice and think of it when we're at meetings where the kids aren't included. We inform students in our classes about changes and explain why, so they understand. We value their concerns. We recognized that they were not simply a set of equally significant variables; instead, the fourth R is a central catalyst, activating and optimizing the other three. Shared responsibility, in other words, makes rigor, relevance, and relationships possible at the highest level.
Sharing responsibility requires students to become more active in their learning. Research also confirms that effective learning depends on learners' capacity to understand and self-regulate their own learning process.
The Case for the Missing R
When students develop metacognitive skills through reflection, they are able to plan, predict, and self-assess their learning. As students engage in these practices, they are better able to transfer their learning to new situations, promoting deeper and more enduring learning National Research Council, When teachers and students work together to shape the learning process, both engage in a continuous loop of reflection and co-construction.
In an extensive meta-analysis of key variables affecting learning, John Hattie concluded that "the remarkable feature of the evidence is that the biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers" p.Rigor, Relevance & Relationships
Such shared responsibility is the way to optimize rigor, relevance, and student-teacher relationships. The Fourth R Beyond School The cognitive and psychological benefits of learning partnerships are clear, but there are additional justifications for the fourth R.
One is workplace readiness. Employers have identified a set of skills as essential for the workforce in this new century, among them critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, communication, and initiative Wagner, Schools should provide instruction that responds to the wide differences in what students already know and that helps them acquire the skills necessary to master demanding coursework.
- Rigor, Relevance and Relationships
- The Three ‘R’s
Schools also are encouraged to abandon the practice known as ability "tracking," in which students of similar achievement levels are taught together, because it often isolates low-performing or unmotivated students and reinforces low standards and expectations. Educating heterogeneous classrooms with challenging curricula can be successfully accomplished, but only if teachers are well-trained, the report points out. Teacher-education programs should train practitioners to work effectively with academically and socially diverse groups of students and to use teaching strategies that actively involve students in problem solving.
School districts should provide experienced teachers with ongoing opportunities for professional development and collegial exchanges to expand their knowledge of adolescent behavior and development, and to enhance their mastery of subject matter and innovative teaching techniques.
In addition, standardized tests commonly used to evaluate students should be better aligned with academic standards that promote deep understanding and critical thinking, the report says.
Currently, standardized test results rarely offer teachers the feedback they need to improve instruction or learning. Also, educators should use various classroom assessments to routinely monitor the effectiveness of specific curricula and teaching practices.
High schools that meet urban students' academic and developmental needs look more like well-functioning families than the mass-production factories that were templates for the organization of America's contemporary high schools. All students — urban, suburban, rural — need and benefit from supportive and stable relationships with adult staff members, the report emphasizes. One way to encourage personalization is to create small "learning communities" or mini-schools within large urban high schools.
Organizing education in a way that allows students and teachers to spend more time with each other is also useful. Two common techniques are "block scheduling," where classes meet for 90 minutes or more, and "looping," where teams of teachers are assigned to the same group of students for multiple years. Counseling services should be totally revamped, the report says. In many large urban high schools, individual guidance counselors are overwhelmed by the responsibility of working with hundreds of students.
Monitoring the needs and progress of individual students should be done by all professional staff members, including teachers, administrators, and counselors, as well as any qualified support staff. A promising new strategy is to pair each student and family with at least one trained adult advocate on staff who, as part of an ongoing relationship, can consult with or refer the student to experts for specific needs.
Further, community assets are important for urban high schools, the report says. School administrators should establish or strengthen partnerships with local groups and social-service providers to help students address health problems and other personal issues that interfere with their education. And the broader community should be regularly mined for experiences and resources that can enrich classroom instruction, such as community internships and direct interactions with local civic or business leaders and artists.
Much is known about what needs to be done to raise the level of academic achievement in urban high schools.