It will come as no surprise to anyone that when people ask me what they need to be doing differently in their classrooms, I often approach this with questions and piles of examples. Regional context requires great nuance for the work of teachers, so I always hesitate to say… this will work or that won’t…I try to say often, you know your kids and let’s go from there. Creating learning experiences for students was one of the most interesting tasks I had as a teacher, and I fear it is something we are losing facility for as we mechanize, standardize and teacher-proof curriculum. It is an art form worth curating and growing. When you see a school full of teachers asking important questions of themselves as creators and working with each other to continually improve, it is a joy to behold.
In support of more teacher created units–whether you are trying to pursue inquiry or personalization or PBL or student centered or 'fill in the blank’ learning–we must ask some critical questions as we design those learning experiences.
Is interesting to kids?
If no, reassess what in fact might be interesting to kids and work from there.
If yes, how might you increase that interest and find new angles for exploration?
What is the engagement hook for this learning experience?
Why will kids care about this standards/learning target(s)?
What experiences can you build into the learning experience that will increase engagement/relevance?
What are your essential questions?
Are they actually essential?
How are you using the essential questions to ground the learning experience?
Who is learning the hardest/doing the most work?
What are you currently doing to and for students that could be done by and with them, instead?
How much are you talking at kids? How might you do less?
How much of the student is present in the experience; does who they are and what they think have an opportunity to drive their learning?
Where in this learning experience can students make decisions?
How are you helping students to sharpen their tools for this type of experience?
How much flexibility can you build in to allow for increased student agency?
For each prescribed part of the learning experience, is there a flexible way for students to demonstrate their learning?
For the summative assessments, how might you offer significantly different options to demonstrate learning?
How might you increase the level of complexity?
What is the current level of the formative and summative assessments?
How might you increase the level of those tasks and instructional activities?
What different kinds of 'knowing' can you infuse in your learning experiences?
What types of texts and multimedia can be offered as options for obtaining information?
How might you increase choices in resources that help students gain the background knowledge to effectively use the information for higher levels of complexity and application?