Valley Insight for July 2019
Understanding Learning- TVSC Challenging the Status Quo
Right now, Tippecanoe Valley families are enjoying the heart of summer, which happens to be my personal favorite season. Like many of you, I enjoy the: warm weather, bonfires, crops growing rapidly, sunsets, and most importantly for the purpose of this insight article, the pastime of riding bikes. Seeing young kids out riding their bikes through the parks and neighborhoods during the summertime always strikes joy for me. Oddly enough though, I often too think about the learning that at one point came from riding a bike.
According to research, an average American child learns to ride a bike somewhere between the ages of 3 and 8, with the average age being about 5 years old. Admittedly, I learned to ride my first bike at age 8. I guess you could say I was what society wrongfully labels a reluctant, slow, or struggling learner. Perhaps what triggered the eventual learning was the fact that my daredevil younger brother, at the age of 5, was learning to ride at a much faster pace with less mistakes. In reflection of this learning experience, I cannot help but think about the complexity of learning- how failure leads to learning, whether learning should really have deadlines, how people often learn very differently, and finally how sometimes society or traditional education tends to define what learning looks.
Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation is constantly on a mission to not only improve student learning, but also to challenge the status quo of traditional education. For example, both Akron and Mentone Elementary Schools have implemented standards-based report cards. Tippecanoe Valley Middle School has many programs including Catch-Up Café that offers students additional learning opportunities. All schools in the corporation have comprehensive Response to Intervention programs that address the question, “What do we do when students don’t learn?” In the spring, Tippecanoe Valley High School was recognized nationally for their efforts in challenging educational norms associated with learning in an article titled, “How One High School in Indiana Uses SEL to Unlock Academic Growth”. This article can be read at https://www.panoramaed.com/blog/sel-academic-growth-tippecanoe.
So, let’s go back to the analogy of my experience learning to ride a bike and see what we can take away about learning. At TVHS, we frequently discuss the saying, “It is not when students learn, it is if they learn, and all kids can learn.” Certainly, we all know from learning to ride a bike that failure often leads to learning. Traditional education, as many of adults have experienced, requires content to be taught for a specific amount of time, a quiz or test given to assess learning, and then often the teacher would move on in order to cover the next topic. In this type of learning, we are not in tune to the fact that students learn at different paces and for many, failure is the avenue to true learning. Many students are left behind in this type of curriculum.
Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation teachers are committed to offering a variety of learning experiences for students and to tailoring the learning experience to meet the needs of all students individually. One way this has been done at Tippecanoe Valley High School specifically has been through opportunities for students to retake assessments. In fact, the conversation between student and teacher has shifted when mistakes are made on an assessment. Students are encouraged not to ask their teacher, “How do I get my grade up on this test, or is there any extra credit?” Instead students are asking teachers, “I have not been able to prove I have learned this yet, can I have another opportunity to show you I know this?” This type of thinking and conversation is what many refer to in education as a growth mindset. Just as we made mistakes and fell off our bikes a few times when learning to ride but kept going, students should be encouraged to make mistakes throughout the learning process in school.
Again, going back to the bike riding analogy, boy I am so very glad that riding a bike is not a part of a school’s curriculum. If it were, could you imagine having to assign a grade to learning to ride a bike? I probably would have received an F or a zero. At best, I would have probably earned just partial credit since I didn’t do it on time without many mistakes. Another way that Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation educators are challenging themselves to think about learning is by working to have grading practices that encourage growth mindset and do not discourage learning. Simply put, educators are thinking about the ways to assign traditional assignments, projects, and quizzes but grade them in ways that reflect student learning and do not destroy a student’s self-efficacy. The goal at TVHS is to make sure that any grade put in the gradebook is an accurate reflection of the learning the student was able to show on a particular concept. In summary, the process of grading practices at TVHS and TVSC is being challenged and it is important to be aware of this in viewing students’ grades.
The vision of TVSC is that Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation does whatever it takes to equip all students to be outstanding today, tomorrow, and beyond. One of the ways we are equipping students to succeed in all facets of life is by providing a learning experience that is unique to each student. Tippecanoe Valley is continuing to create equitable learning environments for students where, “All means ALL.” The beauty in the learning that came from the moment each of us took our first few pedals on a bike is that it all happened in a different way, at different times, and with different variables. Yet, we all did it! It is my sincere hope that all Tippecanoe Valley families enjoy the remaining weeks of summer. We will see you soon enough for another great year at Valley. Kids, get out there and ride!