May 2013

The full post is available over at the Carney Sandoe blog, The Puzzle.

1.  Why are you assessing  learning outcomes?

In any endeavor, it’s important to begin with the end in mind.  No plan to improve your school’s Learning Outcomes Assessment (LOA) can be successful without first establishing strong clarity of purpose in assessing your school’s learning.

We do so to be accountable to our boards, parents, and accrediting associations; we do so in order share data with prospective parents in our marketing and admissions materials and for our prospective donors in our campaign communications and grant applications.learning outcome assessment

Most of all, we do so because we are committed to improving learning for our students, a purpose all the more important as the information revolution sweeps over us.   As Paul Arcario, the Dean of LaGuardia Community College, states,

whether or not we’re comfortable with it, assessment is about revolution

Through assessment we challenge ourselves to rethink our ways of teaching, structuring the curriculum, working together, even knowing itself.  It provides a mean for self-correction action and for the continual expansion of our thinking about the idea and purpose of education.”

2. How well does your community understand the meaning and purpose of LOA?

It is not enough for the leadership to know why it is conducting outcomes assessment; strengthening the culture of assessment in our schools demands that everyone understands the meaning and purpose of LOA.


I get asked this question often every spring, so I’d thought I’d offer a few thoughts here on the blog.

This list sticks to the (relatively) current, the books I’ve read or encountered since last May– obviously there are scores of fine books from years past every educator should consider for summer reading, but this is not that kind of list.

(If you are interested, here is my 2012 Summer Reading List. )

Asterisk by names are for “full disclosure;” they are friends and colleagues, so please recognize the potential of bias.

47a4034799f5351cb17ed9d767db9afc*Ken Kay, founder of Partnership for 21st century skills and edleader21, joined by his close associate *Val Greenhill, published this book last summer and it is, I think, a highly valuable guide for educational leaders.  Kay and Greenhill recognize the extent to which leading learning in fast-changing times is a traveling on a journey which will never arrive finally at the destination, a journey that requires not only a vision and a strategy but a process of inclusion and an obligation for communication and collaboration.  See my full review here.

richardsonHighly accessible, succinct, and compelling, this book identifies great questions we should all be asking about education in the future (and the present), and offers a set of valuable steps we could all begin taking now to realign.    Why would you not take the 80 minutes and $3 to read this book this summer?

november who owns Using farming as metaphor for 21st century learning is funny to me, but November makes it work, and helps us to see what is new is old: that we’ve always learned best by doing things, taking care, working together, tackling real problems, generating meaningful solutions, producing and sharing.    And now, with the information, resources and tools available online, this practice is more available and more meaningful than ever before.   Great practical suggestions along with good inspiration.   I quibble with some details: November twice offers the idea we shouldn’t try to measure creativity because it will only dampen it, and cites only Dan Pink as support: I think there is more to say about the matter than dismissing it out of hand, but this minor matter doesn’t detract from the value of November’s book as a whole.

net smartRheingold: I’ve been raving about this book for a year, since I read in on vacation last July: I think it was certainly THE book of 2012, the one book every educator– including, by the way, everyone who is educating themselves, which ought to be, in the fast-changing 21st century, everyone– needs to read to understand the opportunities and the obligations to be a responsible, effective, digital citizen, collaborator, and contributor.  It’s a bit of a heavier lift than many of the other books on this list, but it is entirely worth the effort.   See full post/review here. (more…)

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“There are so many variables in what Duckworth calls the Non-Cognitive mosh-pit: how do you organize them into a comprehensible and clear framework?”

“I see the value of assessing non-cognitive qualities, and grit/perseverance in particular, but the real important thing is to teach and cultivate it: how is the best way to do that?”

In the past few months, because of my work with the SSATB Think Tank on the Future of Admissions Assessment, both of the above questions have arisen multiple times during my presenting, discussing, and consulting about NonCognitive assessment.

For both, I’ve been working on developing better answers, and– wow– the University of Chicago CCSR report embedded atop is a tremendous asset and resource for answering and addressing both questions.

images (4)


The report came to my attention by being discussed, and indeed, celebrated at not one but two conferences I attended back to back in April, the Deeper Learning Network Conference at High Tech High in San Diego and the National Partnership for Educational Access in Boston.

But as much as I had heard it praised, it nevertheless exceeded my expectations.  This is a masterful overview and analysis of what matters among non-cogs in the service of supporting our students success to, through, and beyond secondary schooling.

Back to to the two top framing questions.  First, how can we best organize logically and coherently the array of attributes and activities that are aswim in this conversation?  In conversation recently with Angela Duckworth, she guided me toward what is a useful simplification, though really almost too much of an oversimplification, which is the same one used by the National Research Council in its highly valuable 2012 report, Education for Life and Work.

education for life and work key graphic

As stated, it is very simplified, but still useful: there are three domains, and we need to think about how we are recognizing, understanding, teaching and assessing each of them: Cognitive, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal.

But, the Chicago Consortium on School Research report takes it a next level of complexity while retaining reasonable clarity and coherence.    As the graphic below (labeled 2.1) from the report shows, and it is a graphic worth studying closely,  five non-cog elements play together and converge to generate improved academic performance:

  1. academic behaviors (like attending class and doing homework);
  2. academic mindsets such as optimism, locus of control, and the Deck growth mindset;
  3. Academic Perseverance, which is roughly equal to Duckworth’s grit, though the Chicago authors see it as a subset or specific manifestation of a broader grit personality trait;
  4. Learning Strategies; and
  5. Social Skills.

Chicago noncognitive report graphic

Onto the second question: what do we know about the malleability of these factors, and what is the best approach to teaching the one most currently being talked about, grit or perseverance.   The answer is in the graphic above, and I could just leave it at that, but at least for my own sake, let me spell it out.    (more…)

Sharing today 3 recent TEDx talks by three of my fellow travelers in the 21st century and deeper learning movement: Grant Lichtmann, Julie Wilson, and Marc Chun.

Grant Lichtmann is probably most familiar  to readers here:  formerly of Francis Parker School in San Diego, and just now a Senior Fellow of the Memphis based Martin Institute, he attracted, rightfully so, a great deal of attention for his “edu-journey” last fall  exploring and examining innovative practices at 60 schools.

In his talk below, he shares the news that schools are “bad at innovation,” but he won’t accept that change is hard– homesteading the prairie was hard, but change is uncomfortable.     The work is about teaching into the unknown, and because we know the future less well than we ever have known it before, most important is that we become, and we help our students become, self-evolving learners.

I love what Grant says about the new “sphere,” building on previous ec0-spheres such as the atmosphere and the biosphere, we have a new sphere only about 10 years old: the Cognitosphere.   Yes.   He doesn’t make these same references, but his term captures so much of what I am so excited about in my reading of John Seely Brown’s New Culture of Learning, Stephen Johnson’s Future Perfect, Wellman and Rainie’s Networked, and Rheingold’s Net Smart.

Julie Wilson is launching a new organization, the Institute for the Future of Learning, coming out of her graduate studies at Harvard with, among others, Tony Wagner.     In this talk, she speaks of the importance of making learning meaningful today, and doing so by being serious about student engagement, real world connections, essential questions, and authentic audiences.   She shares concrete and vivid examples of schools, some of them associated with the Deeper Learning and 21st century learning movement such as New Tech Network and High Tech High, doing this right, and she asks us to work together to bring this kind of authentic student work to all students.

Marc Chun, formerly of CLA/CWRA and the highly regarded Performance Task Academy, and now at Hewlett Foundation’s important Deeper Learning Initiative, offers an important talk about Transfer: What is it, What does it require, how do we support it?  Transfer may be among the, or the singular, most important goal of all teaching: can students take what they learn in one context and moment, in our classroom say, and apply it, later, to a new challenge, effectively.

There’s good stuff here: standout is Marc’s metaphorical examples of 007 and MacGyver.   Sometimes we want students to take what the tools we provide them, say an exploding pen, and apply it to the situations which they encounter– directly.   Relatively routine, something we can practice again and again: this is important to develop confidence and the skill of applied problem-solving.

But, it is also very limiting.  As Marc points out, most of our students will end up working in jobs which haven’t been invented yet.  In the case of MacGyver, problems emerge for which he hasn’t been trained exactly.   These novel situations demand novel solutions, which he must craft from the materials available to him, drawing from an array of prior knowledge, blending it and synthesizing it.   For these skills, students need the skills of collaboration, of critical thinking, of learning how to learn: of deeper learning.

Students do need experience with both 007 and MacGyver learning challenges– but in our schools today, we need to work harder to provide a lot more MacGyver.

Enjoyed greatly presenting this morning to several hundred CT educators at their annual summit.

My topic: What can we learn about creating 21st century learning from innovative PBL schools such as High Tech High, New Tech Network, Envision Schools and Science Leadership Academy.  

I should make a quick note here: my lessons learned analysis is based on my 15 days visiting innovative PBL schools such as High Tech High, New Tech Network, Envision Schools, and Science Leadership Academy.