It seems counter-intuitive to begin designing projects that are student-focused, engaging to students, meet students where they are and push them just far enough into that ZPD, personalized to individual students…projects designed for students, to begin designing these projects with a focus on the teacher. There are mounds of research that support this, however, including the oft-cited research on student learning presented by John Hattie. Look at the top, most essential elements for impactful student learning:
- Teacher Estimates of Achievement (Do we, teachers, believe in our students?)
- Collective Teacher Efficacy (Do we, teachers, believe in each other?)
- Self-Reported Grades (Do we, teachers, believe students can and should assess their own learning? Do we provide those opportunities?)
- Piagetian Programs (Do we, teachers, understand our students’ development and meet them where they are?)
As we continue down the list, it becomes increasingly clear – the teacher’s actions greatly impact student learning.
The 2nd step in my project design process is to revisit my own role. Now what is it I do again?
It sounds ridiculous, but yes, 10 years into teaching, I still have to pause when I’m thinking of designing a project and remind myself what exactly it is that I’m supposed to be doing. Wait, am a wellness coach? Career counselor? Curriculum designer? Performer? Edible landscaper? Ecologist? Artist? A data-entry bot? Top-secret half-Mexican equity-agent? Personal trainer/nutrition advisor/guardian from drugs-and-alcohol?
I may dabble in all of those things as a teacher, but when I clean it all up and focus in on my job, my role is to build respectful relationships, design curriculum that engages and challenges while making lots of room for fun, and monitor student progress so we’re doing all of this with intention.