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Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

A Modest Proposal: Taking Your Program to the Next Level

common core

As Common Core gets underway, we have a great opportunity to take our programs to the next level.

We can ensure that students aren’t just consumers of knowledge, but creators, critics and communicators of ideas! We have a chance to become more student-centered, to be guides-by-the side and facilitators of learning rather than adults who are in charge of what kids learn or what they experience.

We can expand on youth development as a principle and practice by making 21st Century skills real and relevant through student collaboration, leadership, critical thinking and problem solving and capitalizing on kids’ ingenuity and imaginations. We can help youngsters learn to navigate across and appreciate the value of integrating multiple disciplines and not just single subjects. And, we can hold the highest expectations that they, and we, will survive and thrive if we shift the emphasis from us to them!

I’d like to propose three ways to do this relatively easily.

First, change the way you approach staff development.

Instead of providing a series of trainings, create a learning community where ideas, knowledge and experiences are shared in environments that are safe and positive – and learning is meaningful, memorable and transferable. Model what you want your staff to do with students, not through role-playing but by the way you lead this community. Keep in mind that if you want students to think and act differently, you and you staff will have to do this as well!

Second, restructure your program.

Restructure to replace one-off activities with a six to eight week project-based learning format where student work collaboratively in small groups, take responsibility for their own learning and create and produce a culminating project or event. In multi-site programs, establish learning communities among staff who will be facilitating similar long-term projects (based on their interests and passions) and can share their experiences, ask their colleagues for advice and strengthen the process over the course of the year.

Third, spend more time building your staff.

Build your staff’s confidence in the 21st Century skill development process and less time teaching classroom management techniques and establishing discipline policies. Students who are engaged and excited about what they’re doing don’t act out in negative ways. Kids who are expressing their ideas, thinking critically and working with their peers aren’t disruptive, they’re focused. Children and young people who feel honored and valued feel the same way about their peers and their staff.

These approaches aren’t the answer to everything, but taking them will go a long way to improving the quality of your program and strengthening the outcomes for students – and they will put your program ahead of the Common Core curve!

Breakfast? Coffee, yogurt and granola while I’m watching the videos and celebrating the successes of the programs I’m working with that have begun to put these practices in place.

Author Profile: @andriaf

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