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Teaching students to operate in an open learning environment without telling them how

Session 6
Michael Schneider, Shaun Martin, and Ryan McClintock — The Mosaic Collective, Douglas County School District

As educators begin to take over true reform efforts in this country, we become saddled by state mandates, district priorities, school perceptions, compliant students and concerned parents. We all want the same outcome: the best educated students ready to embrace their roles as true, successful member of their communities with a clear direction for their personal path to success. The question remains “How can this be done in a traditional neighborhood public school?"

As teachers in The Mosaic Collective, we challenged ourselves to achieve just that. 11 teachers, 1 administrator and more than 100 self-selected students embarked on an educational journey to ditch the pre-packaged education and begin to create one of their own. Mosaic is a place in which students have the flexibility to explore their own interests in a personalized learning environment. We encourage them to discover and pursue their own passions, take risks, think critically, and create meaningful connections between subject matter and the world around them, organized through co-designing projects or addressing community/societal issues alongside the teachers.

This idea often conflicts with the “needs” of a school - obedience, order, structure and standardization. While we implemented this program in the fall of 2014, we struggle with day-to-day obstacles, parental confusion and fear and a general disdain from many of our fellow professionals. We aim for continual evolution and a systematic method for sharing and assisting others as they begin to transform their space to fit their local community.

Conversational Practice

II. Introduction 1. Challenge: Alternative approach to structure: how do we teach students how to operate without telling them how to do it. 2. Introduction of discussion protocol, goals and steps. 3. Outline a Challenge or Success We outline our challenge. We answer three questions: Why? Why is this challenge a worthy endeavor? What? What are the obstacles in a traditional neighborhood public school? How? How do we overcome these obstacles? II. Split whole group into groups of 3 to 6. 1. Use a Twitter # to backchannel and curate group discussions. In Rounds 2. Presenters share what they’ve discussed. 3. Whole group asks 2 to 3 clarifying or critical questions. 4. Individuals talk among themselves, while the facilitator listens into the conversation, taking notes and pondering further steps. Reflection by the presenter to the group Repeat for each small group. III. Debrief and Now What Guiding question examples: What do you think you will remember or retain in other ways after the experience? Can you explain why this might be so? What will you probably verbally share with or demonstrate to others as you return to your school/work? Would you make any personal changes in how you will contribute to true educational reform in the future? What are some things you appreciate about this conversation? Where does Mosaic Collective go from here? How might we support others as they pursue reform at their own schools?

Conversation Links

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Presenter Profiles

Shaun Martin
Shaun Martin
The Mosaic Collective @ Castle View High School
Ryan McClintock
Ryan McClintock
The Mosaic Collective


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