On Thursday, November 22nd, YATST teams from Lamoille Union High School, Williamstown High School, and Thetford Academy came together to share their work and plan the next steps in their action research projects.
As with all UP for Learning’s school-based programs, our team members thrive on the exchange with peers who are doing similar work. The opportunity to see the work in a different context, view another school’s culture first hand, and hear from their peers about their past experience, their future aspirations, along with the challenges and successes they have navigated has always been a source of inspiration.
The day began with an ice breaker that gave participants the opportunity – and challenge – to find a partner and tell their life story in one minute. Then, find a new partner and tell their life story in 30 seconds and finally, find a third partner and tell their life story in 15 seconds. The exchange opened the floor to conversation about what we focus on and why – and how much we focus on the past and not the future. It’s an opening that leads into the work of action research – which was the focus of the day, and the core work of Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST).
Action research provides a framework for looking forward through a structure that engages all voices in identifying what is important and how to move forward together. It begins with inquiry – asking questions, provides a structure for collecting data from multiple perspectives, analyzing the data as a team first and then as a community to build shared understanding and ownership of the actions to make change, and finally reflecting on those actions to identify trends over time, assess impact, and make refinements in order to continually improve.
Following the opening, the Lamoille YATST team led an interactive presentation summarizing their past efforts to guide an action research process, which resulted in a change to the school’s daily schedule to build in time for personalization every day. They call it flex time, and it allows time for individual student work supported by teachers and staff.
The three teams then took up a discussion of the “4Rs” (Rigor, Relevance, Relationships, and Shared Responsibility) – the research-based framework for meaningful learning. The activity was led by the youth facilitators using the School Reform Initiative Protocol Wagon Wheel. This protocol gives all participants time to explore the research and tell their own story connected to each of the “4Rs.”
From there, teams focused on their next steps.
- Lamoille started the preliminary analysis of new survey data.
- Thetford, a new team, observed Lamoille’s work, asked questions, reflected on their observations, and applied those takeaways to draft their work plan.
- Williamstown reviewed the priorities and plans from last year’s team and refined their work plan for the coming year.
This engaging and productive work session also served as an important team-building experience, giving all team members an opportunity to express their own point of view and listen to the views of their peers and adult partners.
As with so many of these multi-team work sessions, I was struck by everyone’s attention to the big issues, including making sure everyone had a voice in decision-making, breaking down barriers so everyone can join in, and the importance of sustaining the work. In addition, there existed an awareness of how central relationships are – sharing the experience – as a source for addressing those issues and building confidence, as well as accelerating learning.
I left the work session inspired by the insight and conviction I witnessed on each team.
Contact: Harry Frank