This blog post was written and submitted by Learning that Transfers extended team member Kathy Beamer

I once heard Usha James from The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2) speak about the “powerful practice” of genuinely bringing in student voice and experiences into the classroom. One way to do this, she shared, is to invite students to critique curriculum, through the course outlines and assessment plans. Right beside my notes about this, I wrote, “LTT connection – tell the story of your course!” 

I regularly find myself these days making connections to the ideas within Learning That Transfers (LTT). I appreciate the structure of so many of the strategies in LTT – especially how they usually seem to have that “extra” piece. The part that is one step beyond what I have done in the past or would have thought to do. 

When I ask myself, “How do I invite students to review the curriculum?” – I appreciate the valuable insights of LTT. The additional, actionable strategy for incorporating student voice into the curriculum is to share with students the story of your course.

As many teachers and students (in the northern hemisphere) are beginning a new school year, communicating the big picture of the learning journey through a story or narrative has multiple benefits. Stories resonate emotionally, are easy to comprehend and remember, and are also engaging (Willingham, 2009). LTT provides different structures for potential ways of crafting the story and visual ways of communicating it with students and other stakeholders. See the free resources provided for a sample of the many resources in Chapter 5 of Learning That Transfers

Whether telling the story chronologically, in a thesis/antithesis/synthesis format, or as a hero’s journey narrative, it will be important to attend to students’ responses. As teachers share the story of the planned learning journey, they can be watching and listening to see if the story is clear, connects, and resonates with students. 

Clarity: Does the story seem clear to students? Where do they seem confused? What questions did they ask? 

Connection: What connections did students make to the story? Do they see themselves in the story? Did they share any new contexts that could be used to support the exploration of concepts? 

Resonance: What seemed to resonate with students? Which contexts do they seem excited to explore? Where should we spend more time and focus? What didn’t resonate with students? How can these parts be adjusted? 

Reflecting on how students respond the story of the course, teachers can then think about how to adjust the big picture plan to strengthen the narrative and incorporate students’ voices.

Stern et al. (2021) state, “although there are plenty of tools out there to support teachers in unit planning, we’ve found fewer resources for the big picture planning that we’re talking about in this chapter” (p. 147). I would add, there are even fewer resources out there that support teachers in sharing the big picture planning with their students. Learning That Transfers provides tools for that additional step of sharing the story of your course – a great way to think about starting a new school year! 

References

Stern, J., Ferraro, K., Duncan, K., & Aleo, T. (2021). Learning that transfers: Designing curriculum for a changing world. Corwin. 

Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why don’t students like school? A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. Jossey-Bass. 

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