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How to use this tool

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Organization of the tool

This Student-Centered Schools Educator’s Tool is designed to be used by a school community or a team of educators to support inquiry and self-reflection on student-centered practices. The tool includes nine key features of student-centered practice: personalization, curriculum, pedagogy, assessments, instructional supports, connection to college and career, teacher collaboration and professional development, and shared and distributed leadership. These features are derived from the Student-Centered Schools Study: Closing the Opportunity Gap.

For each student-centered feature, users will find the following:

  • A definition of the feature,
  • A link to a video that further demonstrates or illustrates key elements of the feature, and/or
  • A series of questions that pushes educators to evaluate and reflect on the extent to which their individual and school practices are accomplishing this particular feature of student-centered learning.

Examples of specific practices for each feature that are used by the schools in this study can be found in the individual case studies.

Strategies for Using the Student-Centered Educator’s Tool

Ideally, the educator’s tool will be used by a small group of educators in a collaborative setting, where they can discuss and build upon the ideas. Student-centered practice thrives in a setting where teachers view each other as resources and are willing to reflect honestly on their practice in order to create rich learning environments for students.

The following activities could be used as standalone activities or as a sequence of activities to support your self-reflection, collaboration, and growth. All the activities are designed to engage teachers and administrators in a collaborative process rather than as top-down directives.

  1. Look for evidence:
    1. Use this tool to create a walk-through observation guide that identifies evidence of student-centered practices.
    2. Conduct non-evaluative peer-to-peer observations of practice.
    3. Create a process to engage in systematic assessment of the observations of student-centered practice and to celebrate successes and supports to address gaps.
  2. Expand your base—include students in the ongoing pursuit of student-centered learning
    1. Use the questions with a representative student advisory panel.
    2. Adapt the questions to conduct student, parent, and community surveys to actively question assumptions of connection.
    3. Share the results with staff to form ongoing refinements to meet the needs of all students and stakeholders.
  3. Narrow the focus:
    1. Use this tool to conduct a needs assessment of your own school’s student-centered practices.
    2. Identify a focus student-centered practice as an area for growth.
    3. Develop a professional development plan to address that focus area.
  4. Identify best practice
    1. Identify a student-centered feature for study and school growth.
    2. Conduct a walk-through of classrooms to identify teachers who are strong in that practice.
    3. Videotape teachers or have them share their strong practice with staff.
    4. Create a forum to discuss the best practices and offer staff support in their implementation.
  5. Rethink teacher evaluation:
    1. Use this tool to revise your school’s teacher evaluation process.
    2. Solicit teacher and student input in this process.
  6. Dig deep:
    1. Select one question from this tool that resonates with your school, staff, or you personally.
    2. Identify the multiple assumptions and questions embedded within it to think deeply about the ideas and tensions inherent in that particular student-centered practice.
  7. Engage in action research, inquiry, or professional learning community discussions:
    1. Use the questions in this tool as a starting point to develop inquiry questions for investigation.
    2. Develop a process through action research, professional learning communities, or other processes to interrogate your inquiry question and share the findings.