Categories
Parent Resources

MEASURING ENGAGEMENT

Acton Academy Mesilla Valley

MEASURING ENGAGEMENT

Laura Sandefer

January 28, 2014

Is engagement a precursor to effort? Should we have metrics for engagement in our Eagles?

Engagement is measured all the time. There are formulas to measure customer interaction with a product, name brand recognition, hits, returns and comments.

As parents, we have a clear sense of when our children are deeply engaged; however, I need and want data to report back from the Studios.

Researching how schools measure engagement has been disquieting. In teacher-directed classrooms, there are metrics for how many times a hand goes up; how many students are taking notes; how many heads are on the desks; homework frequently homework is returned, etc.

The Gallup Student Poll, a free service to public schools nationwide, measures “hope, engagement and well-being in students in grades 5th-12th grades.” The 2013 results of the Gallup Student Poll are as follows:

54% of these students are Hopeful; 55% are Engaged; and 66% are Thriving.

If I got those numbers back on my poll, I would be giving you your money back.

What about Acton Academy students? How can we be sure they are engaged?

I will bank my money (and yours) on one thing that ensures engagement: student ownership of learning.

“The ultimate engagement is to put the learner in charge of learning.” (Ben Johnson, High School principal, consultant and author as quoted in Edutopia on 3/1/12.)

When a person owns his or her own learning, emotions (good and bad) run high; behaviors are changed until results become real and resilience after mistakes and struggles is evident. This is why we parents work to get out of the way and let our children, in their unique ways, experience what it means to truly own the learning.

I will keep working on metrics and report back.

More Posts

Subscribe and follow our adventures!

Categories
Independent Learning

THE FUNNY TWIST OF INDEPENDENT LEARNING

Acton Academy Mesilla Valley

THE FUNNY TWIST OF INDEPENDENT LEARNING

Laura Sandefer

June 10, 2014

My favorite line from The Princess Bride is: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

It is the same with Independent Learning at Acton.

We keep using that word. But what we mean is something much different, ultimately.

During the early years at Acton, all sights are on the blue binder on the shelf: The Independent Learner Binder. Eagles earn the privilege of receiving the binder only after mastering specific learning milestones.

These milestones add up to a foundation of critical skills in learning how to learn, learning to do and learning to be. It is big stuff and it takes years to get that binder in hand.

The Eagles know that the challenges within the blue binder come with one caveat: they must be completed without any help from parents or guides.

Ironically, that is the last time “independence” is the means or the end of a learning badge at Acton.

From then on, it’s all about collaboration, accountability, running partners, feedback loops, leadership practice, guiding others and being supporting by others.

And that’s the funny twist in becoming an Independent Learner. You begin to understand how important others are in your journey.

More Posts

Subscribe and follow our adventures!

Categories
Parent Resources

AN ACTON ACADEMY PARENT’S DILEMMA

Acton Academy Mesilla Valley

AN ACTON ACADEMY PARENT’S DILEMMA

Laura Sandefer

January 23, 2014

You are happy and secure about why you chose Acton Academy but your friends say things that trigger worry and doubt.

  • Aren’t you worried about getting into college?
  • I just don’t think I could do something so alternative. You are brave.
  • Won’t your children miss out on learning time management if they don’t have homework?

“Education” is an every day topic with emotion lurking around every prosy corner. For isn’t everyone an expert about school? And aren’t the words “my child’s school” loaded with one’s own childhood memories, judgments and feelings of worth as a parent?

Maybe each conversation isn’t quite this loaded but there may be moments when a simple question from a neighbor can spark doubts about peer teaching, self-paced learning and the Socratic method.

For these moments, I’d like to share my cheat sheet so you can relax and have fun:

First, a decent cocktail party response is: “I don’t understand everything about the ideal learning method but I do know my child is joyful at school, fully engaged and has growing curiosity. I am learning a lot myself which feels great. The evidence and data are there when I need it but it’s the journey we are enjoying. Cheers!” (Edit to fit your child.)

Second, if you want to dive deeper with those friends who are authentically curious, here are four resources that you can send along to answer questions. Peruse them yourself and you’ll be reminded what curious, brilliant parents you are for choosing this journey for your family.

1) Watch this: Amanda Horvath’s college project – a mini-documentary of Acton Academy told in large part by the students.

https://vimeo.com/83651159

password: disruptive

2) Read this: The most recent article about Acton Academy in Getting Smart (Thank you, Kaylie for giving a great interview for us!)

http://gettingsmart.com/2014/01/teaching-learning-acton-without-teaching/

3) Remember this: Acton Academy focuses on grit and the process of learning rather than a standardized, grade-based curriculum. Here is why we think this is best for our children:

http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit.html

4) And this: We are instilling a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. The setbacks and failures in our daily experience at school are important. This one minute video explains the difference between fixed and growth mindsets.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8JycfeoVzg

I wish you many happy conversations. Who knows? You may just inspire a friend to find his calling.

More Posts

Subscribe and follow our adventures!

Categories
Parent Resources

TOP 5 THINGS FOR A CURIOUS FAMILY TO DO IN THE NEW YEAR

Acton Academy Mesilla Valley

TOP 5 THINGS FOR A CURIOUS FAMILY TO DO IN THE NEW YEAR

Laura Sandefer

January 6, 2014

1)    Give your children more unstructured and unsupervised outdoor playtime with friends of various ages.

“Play is nature’s way of teaching children how to solve their own problems, control their own impulses, modulate their emotions, see from others’ perspectives, negotiate differences, and get along with others as equals. There is no substitute for play as a means of learning these skills.” (Free to Learn by Peter Gray, page 175.)

Peter Gray, an evolutionary biologist, along with other researchers theorize that the increase in depression, violence, suicide and addiction amongst teenagers is a direct result of the decrease in unsupervised, free play time that children in America have experienced since the 1950’s. His book is provocative and probably important to read as a parent (whether you agree fully or not with his portrayal of the church) especially if you have concerns about video games and violence acted out in playtime or in video games. Interesting.

2) Commit to family meetings. Talk about personal and family goals. Write your family plan. Post your family’s rallying cry on bathroom mirrors. If you want guidance on how to get going, email me. I’d love to talk.

3) Get more curious. Nothing is more exciting than being deeply curious with your children. They are curiosity geniuses and to see grown ups being curious makes their eyes open wide with joy and humor. I love reading Tim Ferris’s work (4 Hour Chef, etc.,) because he makes me want to learn – “meta-learning” is his thing. He says to “ABL: Always Be Learning.” I love that. Each and every day, learn something, think new thoughts and ask a new question. Be sure to share your learning with your children. They need to see you not as the “know it all” but as a true student of life. Curiosity is contagious, energizing and totally fun. How freeing not to feel you have to have all the answers. Phew.

4) Practice optimism. It is a skill. I’m not talking about the Pollyanna-annoying-oblivion that makes no sense; but a grounded perspective that seeks a bright side in daily occurrences. This kind of optimism leads one ultimately to see hope even through the darkness and inevitability of tragedy. Some people are predisposed toward optimism but it really is something to learn through simple daily practice. I have a friend who plops down to the floor and does 5 push-ups every time she thinks a negative thought about herself. Her husband found her in the kitchen doing push-ups and she said, “Sorry, I just told myself I’m fat and ugly.” We all must practice thinking optimistically if we mean to be truly healthy people. Like curiosity, it is contagious. You will impact your children’s lives quite powerfully as they, too, will learn to see life as good even in difficulty. This is an act of sowing the seeds of resilience.

5) Be a rocket scientist. Join in the fun of learning about the grand laws of physics including gravity, velocity and acceleration. Look at the stars; get a microscope and watch cells move. Be mystified and awed by this universe – big and small. Be a student of the galaxy and plan a day for you and your family to build a rocket ship or a Rube Goldberg machine; visit a planetarium or lie in your backyard and look at the stars with a star map to guide you. Or, just talk to your Eagles on Fridays about their experiments and ask them to teach you about what they learned. This summer I re-read Richard Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher and I highly recommend it. http://www.amazon.com/Six-Easy-Pieces-Essentials-Explained/dp/0465025277

Onward!

More Posts

Subscribe and follow our adventures!