Building a Culture of Dignity

All human conflict emerges from violations of dignity or perceived violations of dignity.

Donna Hicks
From Paul Bloomberg’s work at AISJ September 2019

We had the great fortune at AISJ of working with Paul Bloomberg from the Core Collaborative this past week. He began his work with us by focusing on building a culture of dignity. We spent the first hours of Monday thinking about times when we were segregated, excluded, included, and integrated into our larger communities and reflected on what that felt like. As teachers we have a responsibility to consider the environment of our schools and work to create cultures of inclusion that respect the dignity of our members.

from includED and The Core Collaborative

For students, this means that we respect where they are on their learning journey. It means that we acknowledge where they are and support the development of their agency by co-creating success criteria with them. We help them to uncover the landscape of learning by bringing them into the process of articulating what is expected of them.

With deep understanding of success criteria from models, non-examples, and clear feedback, students can begin to self-assess where they are and set goals for their next steps. As they can begin to do this for themselves, they can support their peers in this same work. This is the root of personalized learning – a respect for the student, clear criteria, and explicit practice of quality feedback and goal setting.

In smaller groups, Paul helped us to understand how this connects to learning dispositions and how we can support transfer skills. He talked about skill, will, and thrill. Learning is the skill of what we are doing (schools do this really well). Will is the dispositional learning and thrill is the student voice and choice.  When these three things are present, then skills are developed that will transfer.

From Paul Bloomberg’s work at AISJ September 2019

As coaches, we had training in facilitating protocols to lead the work of impact teams. An impact team is a group of professionals working to support the learning of students and the success of their work is measured by the impact they have on the outcomes of kids. We spent many of the sessions focusing on an analysis of student work to guide instruction. What was different about this protocol is that it focused first on the evidence of proficiency and on identifying what that looks like and the next steps for those that are already there. Then there were further ideas for those that are not there yet. It is an effective process for response to intervention work that individualizes learning goals for kids. It naturally leads to differentiation and personalization. It also sets in the protocol what work will be considered next and a check in date is set. He recommends at least 4 rounds of facilitated reflection and analysis and then teams will be expert in doing this by themselves. When this level of work analysis becomes embedded in the practice of teams it will necessarily increase the impact that teams have on the learning of their students because the work of the students is on the table and in the center of all planning conversations.

From Paul Bloomberg’s work at AISJ September 2019

A big take away for me was the importance of co-construction of success criteria with students and the necessity of modelling good feedback and giving feedback on feedback. The co-construction of success criteria with students enables them to develop an understanding of what quality work looks like to a deep level. Fish bowls, video, and practicing giving feedback on the same work sample are all ways that teachers could give kids enough practice and guidance that they will be able to reflect and feedback well. Once they know what quality work looks like, they need to be able to critique their own work (and others) so they can identify where they are in their learning and set goals for their next steps. When students can do these things well, they can take control of their own learning. This is the definition of student agency. This is what it means to have cultures of dignity that respect the personal learning journey of our students.

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