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design for progression

Environmental scientist Donella Meadows defines a system as “an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized to achieve something.”​ These workshops are about how we can coherently organize the elements of instruction—lessons, discussions, activities, and assignments—so they work together towards a meaningful outcome. That outcome can be more than successful learning; it can be learning students find important and fulfilling.​ 

Although these topics are serious, the actual workshop is more like nerdy teacher game night. Come ready to write, draw, cut and paste with actual scissors and glue, use a criminal number of sticky notes, play with cards and dice we make ourselves, and embrace our collective nerdery.

All sessions are two hours long. Any session can stand alone, and any two or more sessions can be combined into a longer workshop or multi-day series. When logistics require it, any session can be cut down to 90 minutes, split into hour-long parts, or presented virtually (which makes them not nearly as fun).​​

Session 1: Design Meaningful Units. In this session, we’ll learn about three unit functions—exploring a topic, developing a skill set, and creating a product—and three corresponding structures: the inquiry-based, rehearsal-based, and project-based unit. We’ll see how to create learning cycles for each type of unit so students feel like they’re not simply attending class and completing assignments; they’re progressing toward a goal they find meaningful.

Session 2: Use Orienting Rituals. Orienting rituals are classroom routines that help students navigate their learning by connecting any given lesson or activity to the unit’s overall purpose. This session offers specific rituals to use at various points in any unit so students know where they are in their learning, where they’re going, and why it matters. We’ll also see how these rituals connect students to each other as members of a learning community. 

Session 3: Connect Units Within and Among Courses. This session is about how to help students see their work as part of a single, meaningful whole. We’ll learn protocols teachers can use alone or with colleagues to find and build disciplinary and cross-disciplinary connections.

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