Why (purpose): We believe in the importance of developing personal learning preferences and habits for creating the desire to become lifelong learners.
How (process): We mentor students through every stage of their learning as they reflect and collaborate with peers on who they are as learners, learning itself, and how to find and develop their passions.
What (result): The students create and develop their own learning ePortfolios where they can explore their personal interests and create content that is as unique as they are.
The “Why” statement can be used to speak to the hearts of stakeholders (parents, board members, students, etc.) at Owen J. Roberts School District because it addresses each student’s individuality and pushes them to learn how to learn. At the core of each parent is the concern for their child(ren). Our “Why” statement addresses the importance of developing each child’s personal learning preferences, which is no easy task. In today’s world, students don’t really know why they learn what they learn in school. In fact, many teachers couldn’t explain why they teach it to them either. The learning ePortfolio helps each students to answer those “why” questions: why do we need to know this? Why are we reading Shakespeare? Why can’t I just read the summary of the novel?
In my English classes, I teach the persuasive techniques of ethos, logos, and pathos. In the past, I have taught that logos is the strongest use of rhetoric because people care the most about logic, facts, and statistics. However, approaching change with emotional appeal, or pathos, makes sense as well. Perhaps it’s more of the order in which you use each technique. Start by getting our stakeholders to become emotionally invested in our change, and then once their attention is grabbed, support the emotion with the logic. Pairing the two together is definitely much stronger than using one form of rhetoric alone.
The learning ePortfolio teaches students that their parents are not the only stakeholders here; they are their own stakeholders in their own learning. If they can learn important skills prior to graduation, such as reflection, study skills, notetaking, etc., so that they can hit the ground running in college, the more successful they will be. At the heart of each parent, teacher, and administrator is a desire for their students to be lifelong learners. If we can develop their personal learning preferences and habits, the student is more than likely to become a lifelong learner, and as a lifelong learner they will be intrinsically motivated when it comes to their learning. Lifelong learning means that they not only continue to learn, but that they want to continue to learn and that they know how important it is to do so. This intrinsic motivation will lead to less resistance from students, at home and in the classroom, and it will help them face challenges and difficulties throughout their lives.
Our “why” statement keeps the focus on individual learning instead of grades and test scores. This is important because as the stakes on testing have gone higher and higher in Pennsylvania with the Keystone Exams being a graduation requirement, there has been more pushback from parents, administrators, and school districts to lower the stakes. Many stakeholders believe that overemphasis on testing leads to teaching to the test, which kills learning and any chance for students to develop a love of learning. Therefore, our “Why statement” should create a sense of urgency from stakeholders to move away from a focus on testing and scores to a focus on developing personal learning styles and habits so students become lifelong learners. Also, to avoid pushback or negativity, the ePortfolio asks students to employ the influential question technique. Instead of just telling students, parents, and administrators how wonderful the ePortfolio will be, we will ask them the following urgency-creating questions: Why don’t you already have a job in the career that you love? Why can’t you just Google everything you need to know to succeed in life? How important is it to have interest in what you are learning? This focus on lifelong learning means that students can continue learning in at colleges, universities, technical schools, the military, or directly in the workforce. The emphasis is less on fitting learners into a box and more about making sure that, whatever strengths and interests they have, they know how they learn and have a desire to continue to learn throughout the rest of their lives.
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