Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Giving Students More Control Over Their Time

One of the challenges most organizations struggle with is having enough time to accomplish the goals it has established. Van Meter Schools is no different. We are constantly looking at ways we can improve upon how we use the time we have with students to provide the most meaningful learning experience possible for each student.

Schools are tasked with a wide range of challenges and expectations. Not only are we an academic institution, we are trying to help develop people who will contribute as citizens in our communities. Our vision is to empower students to be learners who:
  • Communicate
  • Collaborate
  • Create
  • Innovate
  • Adapt
  • Solve Problems
  • Think Globally
  • Live Ethically
  • Persevere (GRIT)

To help increase the opportunities for students to improve skills in these areas, we will be looking at other ways we can use our time more effectively. As a Competency Based Education (CBE) pilot school for the state of Iowa, we have been tasked with developing a learning model that is more flexible and personalized for each student which is right in line with our mission. Our teachers use project based learning (PBL) as a framework to get students thinking at higher levels.

The challenge we run into is how time is distributed each day for students. Though we run a flexible block schedule, we still are constricted by our daily periods of meeting time. After winter break, we are going to implement a more flexible and project centered schedule based around what each individual student needs to complete a quality cross curricular project that demonstrates mastery of multiple standards and competencies. Students will have some classes that will meet each day, but the majority of their time will be around completing their project with their team. Students will decide how to use their time to meet their objectives instead of the system deciding for them.

We are excited about the potential, but know that this will be messy and it may not go as well as we hope. Getting students to think at the highest levels in a rich engaging learning environment is worth the risk. Even though we may  have some challenges, we are confident that this will not be our last attempt to find a way to most effectively use our most precious resource, time. 

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