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November 29, 2015
by: Ted Hamm

Presentations of Learning: Thoughts as a Parent and Advisor

Dear Families,

The end of a trimester always provides me a time to reflect on our Presentations of Learning. I share a unique position with only a few other staff members of being a developer, implementer, and participant in our Presentations of Learning. This perspective makes this time of year especially important to me as a parent and educational leader

We started down the path of Presentations of Learning as a way to deepen the dialogue between student, parents and teacher/advisor around learning. In essence, we saw this as our standards based report card in the form of an oral presentation and dialogue. In many respects we mean to address the issues we see in the standard Parent-Teacher Conference structure, a structure that embodies the students as passive vessel in the learning process. Our goal is to engage our learners in their own learning by putting them at the center of the dialogue about their learning. We do this by challenging them to develop evidence of their learning and then interpret what that evidence means. We ask them to pull evidence of their Habits of Learning/Professionalism and Habits of Mind too. The very nature of the Presentation of Learning (PoL) asks them to demonstrate such habits as communication, work, and reasoning/interpreting.

As an advisor during our first year at IDEAS, I was able to witness this first hand as my advisees prepped, practiced and presented their PoLs. The PoL is an opportunity for growth through reflection on learning, which we have strived for from the beginning. The freshman I had as advisees the first year of IDEAS are now seniors. I still speak with them on occasion about their goals and their learning. It is clear to me that these young people are self aware beyond where I see most young people. They are able to identify their obstacles and present multiple solutions. I often talk about how the Habits of Professionalism are the habits we need to foster in young people for them to be successful in college and other post high school avenues. Through the PoLs, I hear students applying these skills in a mature, self aware manner. It is immensely gratifying.

I also experience PoLs as a parent. The experience of a PoL as a parent is not unlike that of an advisor; on Monday I will participate in my daughter's 10th PoL. The PoL discussion typically starts around the dinner table about one week prior to the actual PoL, reaching a climax of dread the night before. You see, my daughter is the shy one in the family. We spent PoLs 4-6 in deafening silence and tears as she struggled to explain and demonstrate what she learned. It was heart breaking, but this provided an opportunity for growth in a safe environment. . Whether I am an advisor or a parent, I strive to be a champion for the presenter and wish nothing more than for them to succeed; the wish is only augmented for my own child. What the PoL has done for my daughter goes well beyond her as a learner. Despite the impending dread this evening (her PoL is tomorrow), she now speaks in her PoLs with confidence. She is able to explain what she is learning both in and out of the PoL with depth and self awareness. This is invaluable to me.

These two experiences speak to the longitudinal effect of PoLs. The composite picture of a student’s PoLs is one that paints a picture of growth in learning, habits and a general self awareness of learning. I see it in my daughter in her ability to simply understand and communicate the depth of her learning. I see it with my now senior advisees as they move on the college with the ability to understand themselves as learners, diagnose their strengths and weaknesses and develop solutions. This is the value of putting our learners at the center of the dialogue around their learning. This is what we set out to accomplish when we started down this road.

Kind Regards,

Ted

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