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Parent Speak: Demystifying S.T.A.T.

You may have heard of S.T.A.T., or Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow – the multi-year transformation of BCPS into a complete 21st century technology learning environment to prepare globally-competitive graduates.

At first read, this may sound like another language. After all, many of us went to school in the 20th century and it’s hard to imagine a different type of classroom. To put it more simply, we are asking teachers to make their classrooms more learner-centered, provide opportunities for students to develop 21st century skills, and leverage technology to ensure every student can be successful in their pursuits after they leave BCPS.

The Learner-Centered Classroom

We are asking teachers to make their classrooms more learner-centered. But what exactly does that mean? Let's start by breaking it down into three parts: the teacher, the space, and the student.

The Teacher

In a learner-centered classroom, you are more likely to see a teacher working with a small group of students or an individual rather than providing instruction for the whole class. Teachers collect data through activities, assignments, and by listening to students speak about what they know. Collectively, these are called formative assessments and provide teachers with the information they need to guide students in their next steps for learning. This may be different for each student based on their needs. For example, a student who demonstrates content well may need to be challenged to dive deeper or push their critical thinking skills further. Other students may need some additional instruction presented in a different format that helps them to grasp the concept. Student learning styles and their personal interests are also considered in this process. What does this mean for students? It means that instead of the whole class moving on at the same pace on the same topic, each student receives what they need when they need it. They aren't spending time sitting through re-teaching on topics they already understand - and they aren't forced to move on to the next concept before they're ready.

The Space

You might remember your classrooms to have desks in rows that faced the teacher or maybe grouped in clusters around the room. These arrangements may work for certain purposes, but they don't always support a learner-centered classroom. A flexible learning space allows for students to have choice in their work environment based on their preferences. It also supports a structure where students are not all doing the same task at the same time. A small group table allows a teacher to meet with groups of students and provide instruction targeted to their needs. Comfortable spaces at the edges of a room may give students a quiet space to work independently. Grouped desks and tables support collaboration and student discussion when appropriate. Tables high enough for a student to stand help students focus when they prefer not to sit. Materials are easy for students to access for their work without asking the teacher. When empowered to do so, students develop an understanding of their own needs and choose their space to work accordingly.

The Student

We want students to become active participants in the learning process. This means that the student has the opportunity to reflect on their understanding of concepts and make learning choices. The teacher provides guidance for the student, but the student also knows how to use the feedback received to move forward. The student also has choices in the path they take based on personal interests and learning preferences. In a learner-centered classroom, students are given opportunities to determine what they learn, how they learn, and how they demonstrate what they've learned. For example, a student may have options as to which story they'd like to read, if they'd like to read it from the paper book or digitally, and which tool they might use to share their analysis of the main idea. These choices motivate students in the learning process and remove barriers that may have prevented them from learning.

Leveraging Technology

So you may be asking yourself, "Why do we need devices?" To make a learner-centered classroom a reality, technology is vital. Creating opportunities for a blended learning environment, digital content and tools are partnered meaningfully in the classroom with face-to-face discussion, collaboration, paper and pencil activities, and hands-on learning experiences. With devices, teachers have an extensive amount of digital resources at their fingertips that can address student learning preferences and personal interests. Digitally collecting student work allows teachers to provide feedback more quickly so that students can reflect and move forward. In some cases, the digital tool might even provide instantaneous feedback. When students have access to their own device, they have digital content and tools that empower them in the learning process. A student can choose from several digital resources to build their understanding of a topic. Digital resources help make content accessible for all students. While reading a passage, a student can have a word pronounced or look up a definition as they read. They can quickly do research to dive deeper into a topic, viewing a video from a same day news report or accessing archives of old manuscripts. Students can use tools to represent their learning through writing, images, videos, and audio recordings in a creative way that builds their skills in communication, collaboration, and in using technologies. Devices allow for learning to be authentic, connected to real-world problems, and not limited by the location in which they live or go to school.

Terms to Know

There are a lot new words being used to describe education today, and many of them have several different definitions making it all the more confusing. To clear things up a little, we've defined some of these terms below as they are used in BCPS:

Blended Learning

The instruction is a combination, or blend, of digital and non-digital resources and activities. The technology is used only when it is appropriate and enhances the learning. Throughout a blended learning lesson, students may view multimedia content, read from print books, have a collaborative discussion with their peers face to face, meet with their teacher in a small group, and post a digitally created project to demonstrate their learning.

More About Blended learning

Customized Learning

The teacher plans instruction for each student based on data and observations they make daily in the classroom as well as what they know about student interests and preferences. Each students' path may look different, with a combination of whole group, small group (with the teacher), collaborative group (with peers), and individual learning experiences supported with digital resources. This is sometimes referred to as individualized learning.

More About Customized learning

Personalized Learning

The student has the opportunity to make choices in how they learn, what they learn, and how they demonstrate what they've learned. Students can help shape their own learning path based on their personal interests and preferences.

More About Personalized Learning

Want to learn more about the research behind S.T.A.T.? Visit the Annotated Bibliography page to see specific studies and publications that inform the work of S.T.A.T.

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Verletta White
Interim Superintendent

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