Peer Coaching & Redefining Summer School

Peer Coaching & Redefining Summer School

With a holiday interrupting the routine, a teacher always wonders how that first day back will be.  Apparently, according to EA‘s teacher, it was fine!  The students really have settled into a routine- one that is still garnering overall positive feedback.  With Kahn’s visit a week ago Friday, I think the kids felt really validated.  One exclaimed aloud that he couldn’t believe they were here “already” considering their summer school had only been in session five days.

Through our observations, we are gathering all sorts of little nuggets of information.  While standing with the Kahn folks, I overheard one student asking her neighbor for help.  The two chatted a bit, and then the one said, “Wait a second, I should write that down.”  We had heard about the peer coaching that occurred in Los Altos, but I hadn’t seen it in action.  It was powerful to see peers helping one another, in that they were comfortable to ask for help and were empowered enough to teach a concept (and that the little talking there was was on subject).  I’ve always relied on the Learning Pyramid’s notion that you know a concept is fully understood when one can explain it/teach it to another.

Although we just finished Week 2, the teacher is learning right along with the students.  The daily agendas highlight the different methodology for each class.  She teaches a similar lesson to each group, but she worries that the traditional group versus the Kahn group has more time to practice the said skills.  She still is grappling with how to encourage her Kahn students to tackle those harder algebra-based modules.  They quietly work on Kahn for most of the period, but many of them are working on more basic concepts.  However, I had a student recently ask me a question- she was working on multi-digit subtraction and called me over.  She asked if she was suppose to start on the right or on the left of the problem.  Her seemingly simple question underscored her lack of number sense.  So on the one hand I applaud her for focusing on those skills she needs to cement.  Summer school should be for filling such hole, such gaps in knowledge.  Yet how will she pass algebra this summer if that is the class’s goal?  Which makes me think further… Should that be her goal though if we are talking about true individualized learning?

When we met with Kahn, they emphasized that their approach requires a change in mindset.  Teachers have to be willing to flip the classroom.  By focusing on individualized mastery and peer collaboration, they hope to push thinking to the deepest level while priming students for success.  The experience of learning becomes user-driven, and in doing so we are going to have to redefine what “learning algebra” means.  Maybe it’s that kids enter high school and don’t take “algebra”… instead they take four years of “math;” whatever path that may be for them.  Maybe it is not even chunked into such subjects, but rather we will be debating what “schooling” means for those four years.

I definitely am learning as much as the kids this summer!

Written by Darri Stephens

Collaborator at EdSurge
& Envision Academy

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