The MPS Climate Suite was a direct response to wanting to transform the learning experiences for students and teachers and take into account their feedback. The very first step in doing so was to build classroom environments where students understood that their voices were heard.
Student-centered learning, in the way that Meriden now defines it, looks and feels different from the traditional model our teachers experienced in their professional training and own experience. And we needed their help in defining it. Before transferring this experience to students, we needed help from teachers in building our roadmap. We created a wide variety of professional learning opportunities for teachers, with lots of choice, so they could grow their understanding and practice, and we could meet them where they were in their own development. Examples were no-agenda meetings and professional development sessions that embedded choice.
Think about instructional coaching and technology support in creating professional development options. Technology can serve to support teachers implementing student-centered learning, but for many reasons, teachers are at different levels in their understanding. Be proactive about this.
We developed a set of “look fors” when it came to student-centered learning. In Meriden, we define those pieces as:
Through support from the Nellie Mae Foundation, and lots of listening and visioning sessions with educators across the district, our student-centered learning coaches worked with a consultant to develop a list of student-centered learning “look fors.” The "look fors" provide tangible examples of what student-centered learning looks like in a classroom context.
We did an audit of the ways we were already collecting feedback from parents, students, and staff before we got started, and identified the gaps in our understanding of the student, parent, and staff experience. In building the new tool, we were very thoughtful in creating the questions and committed to ensuring that this would be a lasting process.
Thinking about what to do with the data is as important as the kind of data you are collecting. We made sure the format and tool we used was easily accessible to students, staff, and parents. Administrators and teachers have access to the results so that data can be used to make decisions.
Once we’d implemented student-centered learning, we wanted to encourage community involvement with our schools. In addition to instructional learning walks for teachers and administrators, we host walks for community members and parents to learn about what is happening in our schools today. Many of them have never experienced a student-centered learning environment. During the debrief at the conclusion of the walks, there are always several comments by participants on how the role of the teacher has changed. Parents often are surprised and excited by what they’ve seen, because it looks so different from what they experienced as students.
This work is never done. We have developed the infrastructure through the MPS Climate Suite and dedicated professional learning time to constantly improve. Through regular data collection, feedback, and data team protocols, Meriden is constantly reviewing and refining district innovations. Improvement and reflection is now built into our district DNA. There is no going back.