We are preparing to work with teachers to unpack expectations for Social Studies within New York State and map curriculum. Which has me thinking about expectations in general. We have all heard and read arguments supporting and refuting the Common Core Standards (and now the Social Studies Framework) and sometimes the question “are we expecting too much of students” enters into the conversation. Our colleagues in special education and working with students from poverty also have at times voiced this question and wondered just what are expectations for all students. However, others in the education community look at the future and thresholds for success and propose that current expectations for students are still not advanced enough.
My experience and research suggests that we frequently underestimate what students are capable of accomplishing given a supportive environment within the classroom, clear communicated expectations, measure of success defined and constant feedback aimed to shape and nurture growth. I believe that given interest of student, relevance of content and appropriate challenge (and let’s also not neglect the important role of relationships of mutual respect), students are likely to be motivated and engaged and are capable of high expectations.
Project Based Learning is but one approach that can offer students learning with relevance, interest and challenge that motivates students to achieve high expectations. In introducing PBL we talk about the 8 essentials:
- Driving question or challenge
- 21st century skills
- In depth inquiry
- Need to know (student driven learning)
- Voice and choice
- Significant content
- Critique and revision
- Public audience
However, as educators we don’t need to wait until our district, school or team is implementing Project Based Learning. There is nothing wrong with starting by adding in one or more essential component into our existing lessons. For example one might include a driving question to frame the why and relevance for learning. Or one might incorporate multiple opportunities for students to make sense of their learning or demonstrate their learning through student voice and choice. Or students may share their learning with an authentic audience. You see where I am going! What is important is that we as learners also have opportunity to scaffold our learning and experiences. What is important is that we keep moving ahead with purpose to include student interest, relevance of content and appropriate, and rigorous challenge to achieve high expectations.
One last thought before leaving this blog- within the education community we have been immersed in recent years in looking at standards. We have engaged in lively debate regarding what are high expectations. We have revamped curriculum and lesson design to clearly articulate expectations. We have explored varied means to design learning experiences to promote high expectations and high levels of student achievement. However, one might ask what are the expectations a student might hold for their school community and teachers? This video sponsored by Leaving to Learn raises this question and leaves us with 10 imperatives to consider. If we listen to this voice, expectations might even be higher!