Focusing on Four Topics
FLC members completed a survey in August 2022 to determine the council’s strategic focus areas. Members replied that they wanted support with Instructional Frameworks, Competency-Based Learning, Microschools, and Strategic Planning. These four topics will drive the FLC’s professional learning and collaboration over the course of the 22-23 school year.
Instructional frameworks provide a clearly-defined set of teaching and learning practices that lead to positive outcomes for all students. The district vision, framework, and learner profile fit together to form a comprehensive approach to reimagining a more responsive and effective educational program. The framework is the “how” a district vision gets executed and is the basis upon which true learning transformation is formed.
In partnership with Getting Smart, the FLC has initiated a multi-session professional learning effort to understand, construct, and execute instructional frameworks. Districts have begun to examine their learning organization visions, identify and align their instructional practices, and publish their learning goals and outcomes using “Portraits of a Graduate” or learner profiles.
Described as a modern-day one-room school house, Microschools can have anywhere from 15-150 students; they generally operate as independent or private schools. There are several iterations of Microschools, but some common characteristics include: multi-age classrooms, self-paced and personalized instruction, project-based or community-based learning, and non-traditional or flexible schedules. Some also incorporate online learning options. The Council is interested in how the Microschool model might inspire new education offerings for students in Michigan by allowing leaders to innovate in small scale concepts and develop larger models over time.
The FLC plans to visit innovative learning models in action and interact with students and teacher teams in schools across the country. Members will go on structured site visits to observe learning environments as well as engage in quality reflection time with innovators in the field. The objective of the site visits is to provide leaders with real examples of models that may be adapted to their local learning communities. Site visits to model Microschools will provide leaders with the opportunity to “see what it looks like” prior to investing time and resources locally.
Competency Based Learning
Competency-Based Education (CBE) is a comprehensive curriculum, instruction and assessment system where students advance through their education pathway upon mastering the subject-area or course competencies (standards). CBE learning is best measured by students mastering concepts rather than time spent in the classroom. Aurora Institute’s CompetencyWorks, a CBE research hub and online resource, defines this approach as a holistic system made up of seven distinct elements that address content pacing, learning pathways, and instructor feedback.
In 2018, Michigan invested in piloting and expanding CBE through the 21j legislation. The FLC is excited to recommit to the development and implementation of CBE opportunities in the state and continue this movement toward mastery-based learning. At the core of CBE learning becomes fixed and time the variable. By designing models which allow students to advance based upon mastery and to move at their own pace, districts can create a personalized learning experience for every child.
As districts have emerged from the pandemic, many are realizing the importance of reflecting on their existing strategic plans or designing new plans that reflect the current and future state of the district. Though the pandemic was incredibly disruptive to the traditional model of school, it has also provided the opportunity for leaders to reflect on systemic gaps that may have been exposed and to begin taking intentional steps to fill those gaps. While strategic planning can often be viewed as a mundane task, leaders are realizing that now, more than ever, we need clarity and coherence in our work. This includes the development of a shared vision amongst staff and community as well as identifying short term and long term goals.
Throughout conversations and professional learning with the FLC, professional development is connected to the strategic planning process. By sharing this work collaboratively, leaders are learning strategies for addressing local challenges, listening to how others are adapting their systems, and brainstorming new ways to improve upon the traditional model.