45. Gaining Support of Stakeholders

The Language Arts SAC proposal is development of a curriculum that combines language arts, technology, and project-based programs.

Other subject area committees will be asked to do the same. To prepare interdisciplinary approaches that connect traditional subjects such as mathematics, science and social studies to technology and project-based learning.

Ken, Rebecca, Barbara, and Bryon are members of a small group of leaders. Attempting to address basic implementation issues such as stakeholder acceptance, teacher preparation and accountability.

Rebecca Suggests a “Student Mastery Profile”

Most of America’s public-school districts use mission statements. Lofty language to describe their program goals. What students—in a general sense—should know or do when they complete requirements.  

Our mission statement is used primarily on our website and other media. A verbal flag to salute.

Short mission statements are inspiring, sometimes valuable as tools for envisioning how graduates or those finishing programs will conduct themselves.

But mastery statements are different. The two we have been working on are still somewhat tentative. We have a general statement the language arts committee used to nail down mastery for its discipline:

Students completing the full program of studies at XYZ School District will have skills that expand their understanding of reality. A deeper understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world.

To solve complex problems, think and act creatively, and manage their own needs responsibly.

Graduates understand and can act on principles associated with entrepreneurship. The ability to become lifelong learners through knowing how to learn and being motivated to do so.

Curious about ways they can stretch boundaries into new and different realms. An inherent drive to learn continuously, to ask good questions and become part of diverse communities where feedback is vigorous and stimulating.

They will understand the importance of self-confidence, gained through experience with widening groups. They take meaningful initiatives (reaching out), receiving consistent encouragement from respected associates.

Graduates will practice mindfulness in clarifying priorities and actions each day.

They are open to others from different backgrounds. Understand and work to achieve self-discipline and personal values. Create and maintain the convictions to pursue these values.

Students completing the full program of studies at XYZ School District will also speak and write effectively. Know how to make people feel at ease, those from every walk of life. Enter conversations with others and show genuine interest in their ideas and activities.

While each academic discipline is important, graduates will grasp the idea that problem solving is associated with a complex and interactive system. Solving problems requires collaborative skills, allowing all disciplines to work in concert.

Graduates will understand the meaning of intellectual passion. Not simply a passion for attaining more knowledge, but in comprehending its significance and value.

The tentative language arts statement:

The ability to communicate expressively both orally and in writing. Life is more than a single dimension. It is an assortment of experiences that make it worth living.

Students participating in and completing the district’s language arts curriculum will master outcomes corresponding with written intentions for learning at grade level. Among those intentions for learning:

  • Defining reality in the context of decisions made valid through background knowledge and evidence.
  • Gaining insight into human interactions and behaviors as depicted in literature. Discussing cultural influences, thereby gaining an appreciation and respect for diversity.
  • Interpreting problem solving as the ability to consider challenges, weigh the accuracy of options found in literature, conduct trial and error tests, and work in teams to create and evaluate possible or probable solutions.
  • Establish a working definition of creativity as being an authentic learning goal. Characterized by the dynamic nurturance and acceptance of novel ideas, proposals, and behaviors that depict curiosity and devotion to some endeavor.
  • Demonstrating responsible behaviors in the context of what is read as valuable. Good taste, logical reasoning, instructive to readers as guidelines for living and learning. Responsible behaviors manifested in written works reflective of the writer’s own creativity. The ability to express ideas, opinions and factual information offered through quality syntax. 
  • Developing, through reading and writing, an appreciation for competition. Based on valuable insight, examples of moral/cognitive/physical self-improvement, and willingness to take risks for reasons other than self-aggrandizement. Accepting persuasiveness based on conviction. Improving the common good as the appropriate model for entrepreneurial enterprise.
  • Accepting that reading, writing, speaking, listening, and interacting through language is the basis of lifelong and worthwhile learning.
  • Using literature and other media as catalysts essential for making learning a conscious, intentional, and ongoing part of life.
  • Making curiosity a fundamental part of living and becoming, through reading or accessing diverse forms of media on a regular and ongoing basis.
  • Inquiring appropriately and regularly.
  • Participating in the interchange of vigorous and stimulating ideas where feedback is welcomed.
  • Recognizing the acquisition of self-confidence, the result of taking initiatives in widening groups. Using insights taken from literature and other media. Applying skills in speaking, writing, and listening to the act of reaching out.
  • Placing oneself where encouragement of others is given and received.
  • Practicing the art of mindfulness. Being sensitive to prioritize actions and responses, particularly through effective oral and written communication.
  • Articulating the meaning and practice of self-discipline. The development of personal values, reinforced by reading quality literature and viewing uplifting media.
  • Interacting with others based on the art of conversation. Staying engaged with the world and listening carefully.   
  • Pursuing knowledge and sharing that knowledge with humility and sincerity through both speaking and writing.

This set of behavioral profiles describes what those leaving our program can do in terms of intellectual and interactive capabilities. Not subject or topic specific but cutting across all disciplines. Behaviorally driven within collaborative scenarios.

Conventional school mission statements are like aspirations. They cannot be held accountable for results. They only accept responsibility for the instructional effort needed to make learning happen. They do not accept responsibility for student effort and ability. The understood escape clause is, “We did all we could to teach the students, but they had neither the ability nor the desire to learn.”

Mastery statements are performance declarations with no escape clause. Their impact cannot be assessed in a social or intellectual vacuum. All skills involve interactions and participatory situations.

Our challenge is to convince the curriculum council, board members, and all other stakeholders in the district. Mastery statements, whether general or subject specific, are what we really want.

To gain stakeholder support for a curriculum that merges language arts, technology, and project-based learning, requires painting a picture depicting what students WILL know and do in the context of real-life settings. Measurable verbs and clearly articulated content fields are critical elements for describing a mastery profile. A profile that includes character descriptions within situational narratives.

All is tied together by a written agreement between and among the key players involved in teaching and learning.  That contract idea was developed and used years ago and, while time-consuming and daunting at first, it is what I believe is the basis of what we are calling the new learning infrastructure.

©2021 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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