A Virtual Symposium in Response to the Pandemic

“From Gathering to Transformation” is a weekly virtual collaboration with global partners in education to move towards learner centered transformation. Each week, our summit is introduced with a mini keynote by a leader in education, followed by the exploration of two guiding questions in small breakout groups. On April 23, Suzie Boss, an influential leader in the Project Based Learning community, challenged participants to explore, “How are we going to use this catalyst for change to shape the story going forward in your community?”


Suzie Boss is a writer and educational consultant who focuses on the power of teaching and learning to improve lives and transform communities. She is a member of the PBLWorks National Faculty and a long-time contributor to Edutopia. She has worked around the globe to support schools that are shifting away from traditional instruction and engaging students in real-world problem-solving. She is the author of 10 books for educators, most recently Project Based Teaching. She collaborated with award-winning educator Stephen Ritz to tell his inspiring story about the Green Bronx Machine in The Power of A Plant: A Teacher’s Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools.


Suzie Boss illustrated how we can all move from catalyst to lasting change through three examples of successful transformation. While each story represents unique communities and problems, they all share three compelling emergent themes. 

  1. Students as head of table: In order to move beyond tokenistic student involvement in transformation we must be willing to honestly listen to students and allow their insights to inform the trajectory of change. Are we merely allowing students to participate in these conversations or are we truly allowing students to shape them? 
  2. Dynamic traction: “If we want to have real traction we must get every stakeholder on board in the early phases.”  One of the more challenging, yet rewarding parts of gaining strong momentum, is the ability to bring people together across generational, pedagogical, and societal divides. This may require us to find innovative ways to invite diverse populations into the conversation. We may also consider how to skillfully offer value propositions that reflect the incentives of different sectors (or groups). This is the call to “reimagine how we can bring people together.”
  3. Recognizing allies: By the time we are at this phase of transformation we more than likely know who our allies are and have aligned vision, mission, and values. Yet Suzie points out that if we want to move from catalyst to lasting change, it will be necessary to connect with voices outside of our echo chamber. How can we look beyond our differences and find common ground and experience? 

Much of the discussion that ensued from Suzie’s inspiring keynote centered around the roles students and teachers can play to reimagine school to be more learner-centered. Consistently, breakout groups talked about the hierarchical power dynamics of school crumbling; giving more ownership of learning to the young person while shifting the role of the teacher to be that of a guide. The notion that young people and adults can shift to be authentic collaborators and co-creators of the future of learning came up several times. One superintendent joining the call went so far as to say, “Student voice is the greatest asset in developing the new normal.” 

When it came to addressing Suzie’s question, How might we reinvent assessment systems so that students choose how to SHOW what they KNOW and get the help they need to GROW? Overwhelmingly participants honed in around the idea of “addition by subtraction.” That is, the group feels right now there is still abundant pressure on educators at the high school level to standardize assessments and drive narrowly-measured academic achievement. This approach impacts a lot of school and district wide decisions including programming and creates obstacles for innovations and teacher risk-taking. “Addition by subtraction” in this context looks at what can we get rid of or shrink so that students and teachers can get to more meaningful learning experiences. Some specific highlights of this were efforts to get away from A-F grading, moving from summative to formative assessment strategies, marginalizing the multiple choice test, and transitioning from transcripts to digital portfolios that demonstrate what students produce.

Findings from the Breakouts:

When it came to addressing Suzie’s question, How might we reinvent assessment systems so that students choose how to SHOW what they KNOW and get the help they need to GROW? Overwhelmingly participants honed in around the idea of “addition by subtraction.” That is, the group feels right now there is still abundant pressure on educators at the high school level to standardize assessments and drive narrowly-measured academic achievement.

This approach impacts a lot of school and district-wide decisions including programming and creates obstacles for innovations and teacher risk-taking. “Addition by subtraction” in this context looks at what can we get rid of or shrink so that students and teachers can get to more meaningful learning experiences.

Some specific highlights of this were efforts to get away from A-F grading, moving from summative to formative assessment strategies, marginalizing the multiple-choice test, and transitioning from transcripts to digital portfolios that demonstrate what students produce.

Collaborate with World Educators to Explore the Potential for Change in the New Normal

Register and Join the Meeting Every Thursday at Noon ET/11am CT (1600 GMT)

https://fieldingintl.zoom.us/j/497294924

The findings from each event will be summarized in our Insight section on this website, and will be shared on social. This work is meant to be shared freely, and expanded by your own community.