By Rory Gesch, Superintendent of Schools
Navasota ISD has used the motto Learning... Leading... Succeeding for a few years now, and we have seen a steady and consistent rise in student achievement with this focus during that time. Although in this modern society everything seems aimed at quick fix solutions, there is an understanding that for something to endure, there must be planning, forethought, and time to build. It is in that vein that, as we embark upon this year, two core beliefs arising from the words of our motto have emerged as the core of our District. A foundational belief that we now operate from is “Engagement is the key to learning. Leading is taking responsibility.”
In an effort to gain more student engagement in the learning process, NISD is working with a concept of “project based learning.” The idea is known by other names as well, but the focus will be on the product that results from the student’s work. This approach to instruction will ask teachers to design work for their students that is relevant and challenging to the students. The work must be based on and aligned to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and the designated state standards for career and college readiness.
The teachers involved in this process are using steps to create lessons that meet the need for students to learn the state standard curriculum (TEKS) in a manner that promotes their interest. One of the goals is to develop lessons that are challenging and relevant to the student. The process will also give the students opportunities to use technology and promote development of the students’ use of critical factors that are shown to have impact on the lifelong success of our students, such as the skill of working collaboratively with others.
Shannon Buerk of Engage2Learn, who is partnering with NISD, shared her thoughts with me on the process. “We are excited to be working with Navasota ISD. The leadership and the teachers in Navasota have a vision and desire to do what is best for students and understand that means engaging them in relevant learning experiences that prepare them to thrive in the current context of technology and innovation locally and globally. We are thrilled to partner with them in this endeavor and have high expectations for this district becoming one of the lighthouse districts in the state as a result.”
Students who are receiving project based instruction will be expected to experience fewer instances of being talked at by the teacher and more sharing with the teacher of the work they are doing that is associated with the concept they are mastering. It is through this process that students move beyond the knowledge of the teacher in the classroom and learn to access multiple resources to shape their learning.
Currently, its use will primarily appear at our secondary campuses with plans for expansion to the elementary campuses during the 2014-2015 school year. The District welcomes your questions and input about the emergence of this process and its possibilities for enhancing the lives and futures of our students.