Guest post by James Murray, the Principal of Waukesha STEM Academy in Waukesha, Wisconsin. James also works in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Educational Doctoral Program in their Personalized-Learning research project [PIP], to align research with application.
At Waukesha STEM Academy, we’re taking the traditional model for a parent-teacher conference and flipping it on its head.
Traditionally, parents-teacher conferences have a parent sitting across the table from a teacher being told what their child is doing well or needs help with. With this model for information sharing, the student is removed from the process. They are not owners of their learning.
At Waukesha STEM Academy, we want students to be able to articulate:
What it is that they have learned
Why they have learned it
How they know they have learned it
How they have applied this learning in a real-life scenario that will help them down the road to become successful in life and beyond the four walls of a classroom
To help foster our learner-driven environment and maintain the transparency essential to personalized learning, we created our STEM Student Showcases, or S-3 model.
Our goal was for our students to own their learning and demonstrate this ownership by sharing out what they were passionate about, as far as their best work samples and proudest moments. STEMfolios, or digital portfolios, are like a scrapbook of a student’s learning highlights. With carefully crafted, reflective conversations, our advisors and content-team teachers spend time with each student to help facilitate this process.
When we have S-3 evenings, what would traditionally be parent-teacher nights, parents come in and students share their STEMfolios. Our advisors help build context, guide conversations and support and steer feedback sessions. Students able to share why they have chosen certain samples of work, articulate what they have learned and go through next steps. The process and reflective questions are what make S-3 evenings impactful.
In an effort to honor the Learning Independence Continuum, we have also worked to strike a balance between our progressive S-3 model, as well as more traditional models where parents and/or guardians visit our campus and meet one-on-one with content-specific teachers. We know that while many students are able to clearly articulate their successes and areas in need of growth, not all students may be there yet… and that is okay. As students move through the Learning Independence Continuum, we know that they will reach that level of articulation.
As we continue to build learner independence, S-3 evenings are becoming milestone events integrated into the learning experience where connections, communication and growth are a constant