Make student work public, increase student motivation, and engage your community
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I'm an Exhibitionist...of Student Learning!
What is the impact on students on making their work public?
Three educators and a student describe launching student exhibition, student-led conferences, and presentations of learning.
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Michelle Clark: Hi. My name is Michelle Clark. Mari Jones and I co-direct the Share Your Learning campaign, a national movement that aims to empower five million students to publicly present their learning to an audience beyond the classroom by the year 2020. When students publicly present their learning with an authentic audience, we provide them with an opportunity to share their story, reflect on their growth, and engage in real dialogue with others.
In this brief podcast, you will hear from a principal, two teachers, and one student. Stephanie Brown, principal of Montgomery Steam Magnet, will describe how she launched exhibitions at her school. Francisco Sadisa, a teacher at Taft Middle School, will illustrate his journey with student-led conferences. Teacher Kira Motzuo and her student, Pamela Arseniega, share their experience with presentations of learning.
We hope you're inspired by these stories from the field and encouraged to implement public presentations of learning at your school. Enjoy!
Stephanie Brown: Hi, my name is Stephanie Brown. I'm the principal at Montgomery Steam Magnet in San Diego, California. I want to talk to you about my experience with exhibitionist student learning. I'm a fellow with the school cohort, and we learned about a hack mindset. What that means is that you have a bias towards action. You fail forward and learn, and you start small.
One of the ways that I wanted to hack into the culture of my school was to make the work of our students more visible, so I knew I wanted to see about this idea of exhibiting student learning. The first thing I did is talked to one of my teachers, an engineering teacher, and I asked if he'd be willing to host an evening event with me where he made the learning of his students public.
We worked together to design an evening event. It wasn't well-attended, and the projects that the students displayed were kind of scrappy. Most of the students displayed on tri-folds. What was great is that I really learned how to fail forward in this moment. One of the things that I noticed when I really leaned into looking at student work is I started to see the quality of the student work and the content of the student work with a different lens.
I remember walking up to a group of students that were standing next to their presentation panel. They shared with me these beautiful renderings that they had done as a result of their architecture unit. I stood there in amazement just thinking to myself, "Why is it that I don't know about what kids are learning in engineering?" I can walk into the classroom at any time, but there's really something about presenting the work publicly that makes you look at it in a different light.
I listened to the students reflect and stand proudly next to the work. I thought to myself, "This is something really special that we need to make go scale." At my next staff meeting, I put together a vision board of what my aspiration was for shifting the culture of our school. I shared with them my own personal reflections of what I noticed when I did a small exhibition with Mr. Prato, the engineering teacher. Then I gave them a push and an invitation to make the next project that they did with their interdisciplinary team public.
We actually decided as a school that we were going to reinvent what the experience was for Back to School Night. We changed the name of Back to School Night, and we called it an Exhibition of Student Learning. We basically focused on curating the space and making the presentations that evening more student-centered. Each team had total autonomy on how they wanted to present their student learning.
The seventh grade team decided they were going to do a farmer's market theme. They took over the cafeteria and designed that. The eighth grade team wanted to use the library space and the makerspace. Then the sixth grade team actually took the hallway that all of their classes connect to and totally curated that space. It was really neat to see the teachers take this idea on when they were presented a vision for what this might look like. At the end, what I saw was the impact on students when making their work public.
Students were delivering higher-quality work because they knew that someone was going to be looking at it. They also showed much more interest and a sense of pride because there was an audience beyond the teacher. I saw teachers get really excited and passionate about the projects they were doing for children because they got to think beyond the scope of what they do individually as teachers and work together as teams to design something really meaningful for the kids.
Lastly, I thought that it really helped instill a lot of school pride because on the evening when I hosted families and set them on their way to look at the exhibitions, I talked to them about how important it was for them to see what's going on in the school. Doing it in this fashion helped show the community the changes that we're making at Montgomery Steam Magnet.
Frank Sadisa: I'm Frank Sadisa. I'm a seventh grade and eighth grade English and ELD teacher at Taft Middle School in San Diego. We had the idea of doing student-led conferences. When the idea came about in our ILT and we wanted to present it to our staff, we had a teacher show a mock conference with a student. She acted as the student, shared some work and shared some reflection.
It went over pretty well, and it seemed to really sell the idea and the concept to our whole staff. It was January at that time, and we ended up having to have this all put together and set for Spring open house. We were able to pull it off. The best part about it was sitting in a classroom. It could've been any classroom that evening, and watching families come in, oftentimes, families that we had never even been in contact with or met with personally, a lot of times because of language, cultural work.
We had people come in and sit down and have their students suddenly take charge and put on this demonstration of who they were as learners. You saw kids all of a sudden become almost like different little people. It was one thing to see them do it with their peers in practice or with us in the classroom, but to see it in real life with their parents and their families was very, very moving. To hear them speak about where they had come in terms of being learners was, again, really powerful and really moving.
Kira Motzuo:Hello. My name is Kira Motzuo, and I'm the 11th grade/12th grade English teacher at Kearny School of Engineering, Innovation, and Design. We're here to talk about the different types of presentations of learning, which for us is the most exciting and rewarding part of the Link Learning process for the students, parents, teachers, community members, and industry members.
When students have to do presentations of learning to their actual community in a real-world setting, there are higher stakes involved. Students give presentations that are a lot more professional. They are a lot more mature, and they're also using all of the academic language that they've learned in their English classes and the terms used in actual industry fields. They use that language to be able to present new, innovative ideas that a lot of people are very surprised with.
The day of or the night of the gala event, students are stationed along the classroom walls with their presentation on a computer. They have a stand with their 2D poster on it, and they also have a 3D model to present and show their clients. The key to having a successful formal presentation is to invite the actual parents, staff, community, and industry partners to the event to listen to the students. Not only are they listening but they're also interviewing the students, asking them questions, assessing their learning. They're also provided a rubric, which will be the students' grade for their presentations as well.
We invite at least 75 people to attend our event, and it makes it a fun, a little stressful event for the students. But we see that they do rise to the occasion because it's such a real-world experience for them. They'll have to give presentations like this, and they feel a lot more comfortable with it after high school.
Pamela Arseniag: Hello. My name's Pamela Arseniaga. I'm really thankful for being able to attend Kearny School of Engineering, Innovation, and Design. I've been able to grow tremendously since my freshman year to my senior year with the semester projects and presentations we're able to give each year. After giving the presentation, it felt really rewarding for me being able to push myself because I used to be a really shy person.
Last semester for instance, we gave a presentation about an innovation incubator, being able to renovate the old downtown library that's not really being used, and that's not serving the community, into a place where thinkers, entrepreneurs, designers are able to come and create inventions that will help stimulate the growth and economy here in San Diego.
The presentation was really important because we had to pass along our ideas. It wasn't really for us, but it was really for us to get our ideas for the community passed down. I remember I had to give a presentation to my peers first. That was really where our improvement came because of critiques and the little things that they noticed when we presented really helped us develop for the second phase of our presentation. The second phase was to our parents, teachers, community members, and industry professionals.
Then afterwards, the final stage was presenting to the city council. It was there that we noticed that our hard work, our sketches, our ideas on these autocad computer software, was really able to transform the community.
Join the movement that transforms the way students see themselves. Sign up to have students publicly present their learning to an audience beyond the classroom!
Create an Exhibition and celebrate student work by making it visible.
Design Student-Led Conferences that flip traditional parent-teacher conferences by putting students in charge.
Have students present their learning to peers and adults.
Transform Back to School Night by putting students at the center.