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Maine Cohort for Customized Learning

January 22, 2012

Student-based Learning

Last week the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning brought together arts teachers from their districts to begin some of the work that will help guide the teaching in arts classrooms in the cohort. At this point the cohort districts are:

  • RSU 57: Massebesic
  • RSU 15: Gray-New Gloucester
  • RSU 18: Messalonskee and China
  • RSU 2: Hall-Dale, Monmouth, Richmond, Drescen
  • RSU 82: Jackman, Forest Hills
  • Milford School Department
  • RSU 3: Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Libery, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity, Waldo
  • Sanford Schools
  • RSU 25: Bucksport
  • RSU 4: Oak Hill

The participants started the work to create Strands, Measurement Topics and Learning Targets. This which will be the basis for the work in determining what students will need to learn to show proficiency before they leave high school. The arts teachers doing this work are:

  • Wendy Burton and Leone Donovan, visual arts, Pam Rhein, music, Messalonskee
  • Michaela DiGianvittorio and Sarah Gould, visual arts, Gray New Gloucester High School
  • Jeff Orth, visual art, Richmond Middle/High School
  • Cynthis McGuire, music Hall-Dale Elementary School
  • Carrie Abbott, visual art, Jackman/Forest Hills
  • Cathy Geren, visual art, Massabesic High School
  • Matt Doiron and Carol Baker-Roux, music, Sanford High School
  • Theo VanDeventer, music/drama, Mt. View Middle School, Eric Phillips, visual art, Mt. View High School

The work will continue in February and I will keep you posted on its progress.

In the words of music teacher from Sanford High School, Carol Baker Roux:

Sanford is new to the cohort, so this was the first meeting for Matt Doiron and I.  I was glad to see people at this meeting who are also working on the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, as I am hopeful that the cohort’s work will dovetail with the Initiative’s work, as well as the work being done currently on the national standards.  Some concerns raised at this meeting were, “Is this another passing fad?” and “Are we re-inventing the wheel?”  I think these are valid concerns and am hopeful that these will be addressed as we continue to work on developing shared, consistent strands and measurement topics.  The general sense of the people at this meeting was that the Visual and Performing Arts have good Maine Learning Results and we hope to maintain the integrity of that document going forward.

Every time I get together with arts educators in this state I am completely impressed with their intelligence and commitment to their craft.  As a discipline that has always understood meeting and demonstrating standards at a high level, we are the perfect group to model the cohort’s goals of student-centered, performance based learning.

And in the words of art teacher Leone Donovan from Messalonskee High School:

Various members of the 11 cohort schools gathered in Topsham to begin the shift towards a standards-based learning plan. It was a harder two days then I expected with less accomplished than expected. The representatives from the different schools really are at different levels in the process. Some of us needed to learn the language of this version of standards-based curriculum. Others were already working with a version of those concepts this year.

What I like about the conversations that I’ve been involved in, both in my school and at the cohort meeting, is the concept of the learner at the center of the process. I want to believe that there’s a method to create or encourage students to become active, enthusiastic managers of there own education. As a veteran teacher and a lifelong skeptic, I am still yearning for more evidence that this is truly possible. I want to see a school where it is in process with solid evidence that it is working.

We heard that transparency in the curriculum gives the student clear goals and, thus, a clear path to success or as we say in mass customized learning speak, proficiency. Students will know what we, as teachers, want them to learn. We will act as facilitators pointing out ways to master those concepts or techniques. Students can then seek, plan, and follow their own best path to achieving proficiency.

I love that theoretical view of students and learning. But, again, as the veteran and skeptic, I believe that most, if not all of us, are now very clear about our reasons and goals for the lessons we present. I keep wondering, aloud and to myself, how assessing with a 1-4 scale instead of 0-100 scale, how calling it proficiency instead of whatever our current language is, and by rewording existing curriculum yet again will inspire this change.

I hope that we learn more about places where this is in use and has concrete progress recorded. And, despite my skepticism, I’d be thrilled to see more inspired, successful, and enthusiastic students.

3 comments

  1. Sorry I couldn’t be at this event, but I’d like to respond to Leone’s interpretation of the standards work:

    “how assessing with a 1-4 scale instead of 0-100 scale, how calling it proficiency instead of whatever our current language is, …”

    The apparent difference in scales is not simply a difference in symbols and labels, but the elimination of the “low but passing” grade, such as a “D” or a “70.” There is a change to a higher standard, whether you call it a “3” or “proficient,” or a “B,” or an “84,” it is required to do a higher level of work to “pass.” So there is a meaningful (more than semantic) difference between the two systems. Also the current 100 point system allows mean averaging, which is often abused with the introduction of zeros for punishment, etc. so levels (whatever you call them) are better indicators of achievement.


  2. Where would I find the scopes and scales for visual art?


  3. I understand that the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning resources are posted on their site at http://mainecustomizedlearning.org/.



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