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The Learner Centered Innovation book study wrapped up on April 12, 2020.  Below is a guest blog post from a participant in the book study. 


A Shift in Mindset is Needed

By: Traci Byrnes, Allamakee Community Schools

In Learner Centered Innovation by Katie Martin it is stated that “the world today needs creative, passionate, and skilled individuals (pg. 314)” I completely agree with this statement. The COVID19 pandemic that our world is currently facing is proof that our youth need to be prepared to investigate and solve unknown problems. But, how as educators do we get our students to be creative, passionate and skilled?

I believe that it needs to start with a shift in mindset. It needs to be a shift in how teachers, students, parents, and our community believe schools should function. I remember sitting in a PD session led by Keystone AEA staff when NCLB first was introduced. This presenter shared that the days of sit and get professional development were over. That was shocking to hear at that time. Teachers did not collaborate and analyze data at that time. We would learn about something new and the district would hope it was applied to our practice. It has taken a long time to get to the point of active professional development. It has taken too long. We as educators need to be willing to move forward and not worry about breaking traditions. Martin shares on page 315, “The education system was designed by people, and the only way it will change is for people to change it. Thoughtful leaders in 1892 created rules and systems that made sense in the world then. Today, it is up to us to believe in our collective future enough to make the changes that are necessary for tomorrow.” The shift is happening for educators. I believe students long for the shift. They realize that knowledge level answers can be found on Google. They want to be problem solvers. There has been a shift in parents. They are aware of the data that educators look at. But, have we gone too far with data expectations? We have created parents that feel test scores in early ages predict future success. Creativity and passion may not show up on a standardized test. We need to let parents know that these areas are more important than knowledge regurgitation. I was appalled the other day visiting with a PreK teacher. She has had parents concerned about their child falling behind with the school closure due to COVID19. Since NCLB and ESSA our nation has been completely focused on student progress. Our parents are centering in on this. It saddens me that we are putting student achievement ahead of their development. At this early age, students need to be allowed to grow and develop socially. Not just complete academic tasks. We need to educate our parents and community about the need for this shift.

As an Instructional Coach, I have the opportunity to work with students in all subject areas at all grade levels. Recently, I worked with a high school English teacher on a culminating activity. The students worked in small groups to break into a “Break-out box” by determining the combinations on locks. The teacher and I had worked together last year to write this particular break-out activity. During our debriefing of the activity, a student asked if we had a break out box for the next book they were reading. I replied, “No, but do you think you could write one?” I challenged the teacher and the class to think about creating their own. The teacher jumped on board. The students were divided into groups and had to create clues, red herrings and the combinations needed to open all of the locks. The students also had to set all of the locks. This simple activity provided the teacher with more knowledge of student learning than any worksheets or essay writings could. The students worked together to create problems, provide information, and solve problems. I can honestly say, they had challenging combinations to solve. I hadn’t read the book. But, if I had I don’t think I would have been able to get all of the locks open. Did I mention that not all of the groups were able to open all of the locks? This led to discussions about misleading information that was given and the lack of detailed information provided. The discussions that took place were amazing. In the group, I observed when unlocking the boxes, there was a lot of discussion about the book. At one point it was stated that the main character had dyslexia so maybe the letters are turned upside down and backward on the letter lock. They were really having to think through the story to solve their problem. We need our students to be problem solvers. We must encourage them to think for themselves and “outside the box”. It is our job as educators to support students in their journey to becoming creative, passionate and skilled.

Our schools need Learner Centered classrooms. There needs to br support from all aspects of our community for it to be successful. As educators, we need to promote this idea and introduce it in our classrooms. Professional Development has started to be innovative. We need to move innovation to all aspects of education.


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