Simon Sinek: "Start with Why"
We know that choice empowers and motivates our students. We also know that each child learns differently, and Colegio Roosevelt is dedicated to enhancing student learning through diverse teaching practices and styles. With this in mind, the Innovation Academy has been designed to create a culture of intrinsic learning and ongoing innovation at our school.
There are five key elements that enable us to build and maintain the IA culture:
1. INTERDISCIPLINARY COURSES
Real-world problems are rarely solved in segregated disciplines. When issues arise, they need to be tackled using a variety of skills: language, technology, business, media literacy, etc. This is why interdisciplinary courses are at the heart of the academy, and the research demonstrates the many benefits of learning in this way. We collapse English, business and media into the projects we do, rather than unnaturally fragmenting them throughout the day.
Creating work together breeds more learning and more innovation. So we encourage students to collaborate on projects, seek ongoing feedback constantly on their writing, and talk. Yes, we let our students talk, share ideas, and even help each other on their projects. Some call it cheating; we call it collaboration.
The three of us teachers also collaborate constantly. Too often teacher collaboration means that three 9th grade English teachers meet once a week to ensure they’re teaching the same thing at the same time. That’s not collaboration; that’s imitation. Collaboration is jamming. It’s sharing ideas, getting feedback, arguing, agreeing, and coming closer to clarity through this ongoing interchange.
Our students also collaborate with professionals in our community, whether it’s through their internships or by visiting experts when they’re working on their projects. Weirdly enough, school is often taught by teachers who have never authentically experienced their disciplines. Most of our math teachers never worked as engineers or statisticians. Most of our science teachers were never doctors or chemists. So the more our students can interact with real professionals in the field, the better. Which begs the question: what then should teachers be professionals in? How about professional learners who are experts in the natural way students learn.
Dan Pink: "The Puzzle of Motivation"
It’s unnatural for any of us to be forced into compliance. Humans yearn to be free, to learn from our own mistakes, and to poke at the world around us to see if it dents. If it doesn’t, we want to poke harder. But if that freedom to poke and prod and create is stifled, we naturally switch off. In the IA, we entrust students with autonomy to choose their projects, to leave campus, and to design many of their own learning experiences. Is it easy? Nope. But it’s worth it. Students in the IA who understand the importance of autonomy take ownership of their own learning, are more curious, and know who they are and what they want.
In a traditional English class, a lot of time is spent analyzing various texts, and many students wonder why they need to know anaphora, asyndeton and other literary techniques that they rarely use outside of school. Teachers often wonder the same thing. In the IA, students see the relevance in their work immediately, because the work we do always has value beyond school and often provides value to our community. We have kids create real products and real work for real people. Rather than passively absorbing content, we have students construct their knowledge and their skills through authentic inquiry
5. REDEFINING RIGOR
According to John Medina’s “Brain Rules” research shows that, “People usually forget 90 percent of what they learn in class within 30 days.” If the relevance piece isn’t enough to make us rethink our emphasis on content overkill, perhaps brain research should. In the IA, rigor for us is not defined by the quantity of stuff we do, but on the quality. In fact, we focus on one project at a time so students can go through several iterations to create work they’re proud of. And we try hard to make sure we’re letting students work at their own pace, because the pace of rigor isn’t the same for everyone either.