sidebar: Giving the Kids the Keys: An Advisory Plan that Involves Students in Setting Standards
Giving the Kids the Keys: An Advisory Plan that Involves Students in Setting Standard
by Bill Johnson, National Re:Learning Faculty
Just as a learner's permit allows students to develop the skills of driving under the tutelage of a responsible adult, this advisory curriculum gives them a framework in which they take gradual responsibility for their own success a system of performance tasks, initially in a coached and guided environment, but finally on their own. Students can be handed the keys to their own future, encouraged to investigate and reflect on what their schooling is about and prove themselves in the "road test" of a graduation exhibition. It is an "inside out" strategy for change, in which students and teachers collaborate to systematically investigate topics that question the nature of schooling??its patterns, its connections, its disciplines.
Since the advisory program is not in the purview of any one department or discipline, it is the ideal setting for such inquiry and reflection. It can draw methods, styles, and activities from all the disciplines, putting knowledge from content area courses to use. The advisory becomes a place where students analyze, evaluate, and synthesize their discipline-based course work, looking for connections between courses and content areas, seeing how the knowledge applies or transfers to other ("real-world") situations, and so on. At the same time, they develop awareness of the school's exit outcomes and the requirements of the graduation exhibition. In the advisory students weekly practice demonstrating the concepts identified in the exit outcomes through inquiry, activity, and assessments.
The framework has four components:
The framework divides into four five-topic sequences, each of which can be the advisory curriculum during one school year. Each topic extends over four to eight meetings encompassing a minimum of 200 minutes; depending on the advisory group schedule, the sequence can be completed over a semester or a full year.
In the ninth-grade sequence, students explore systems, patterns, and connections in an academic context and begin to investigate what the school's stated exit outcomes (such as "complex thinker" and "effective communicator") might look like. In the tenth-grade sequence, they continue investigating outcomes (such as "involved citizen," "self-directed achiever," and "collaborative contributor"), and they take a first look at the purposes of the graduation exhibition for which they will prepare during the years ahead. The eleventh-grade sequence examines the curriculum itself and begins to devise performance standards in each area. (An example follows.) The twelfth-grade sequence focuses on the graduation exhibition, generating performance standards in research and writing, preparing and presenting a proposal, creating a visual and oral component, working with a mentor, and using a peer critique team. The final semester of senior year is devoted to carrying out the graduation exhibition in a timely manner so that it meets the standards agreed upon. A sample unit in the eleventh-grade sequence:
The Purpose and Nature of the Disciplines: Language Arts, Social Studies, and Foreign Languages
For a complete description of this advisory curriculum contact Bil Johnson, Education Dept., Box 1938, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912 (tel.: 401-863-3116 401-863-3116 ).