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Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools Through Student-Engaged Assessment Paperback – 18 Feb 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey Bass; Pap/DVD edition (18 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118655443
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118655443
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.9 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Authors

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

Leaders of Their Own Learning

Leaders of Their Own Learning offers a new way of thinking about assessment based on the celebrated work of Expeditionary Learning. Student–Engaged Assessment involves students in understanding and investing in their own growth, changing the primary role of assessment from evaluating and ranking students to motivating them to learn. Student–Engaged Assessment ignites the capacity of students to take responsibility for their own learning, building the independence, critical thinking skills, perseverance, and self–reflective understanding they need to meet the demands of the Common Core, reach higher levels of achievement, and succeed in college, careers, and life.

This book offers teachers and leaders a clear, detailed blueprint for implementing Student–Engaged Assessment, including a wealth of videos that demonstrate core practices in action.

Praise for Leaders of Their Own Learning

"Long before the nation began discussing Common Core standards, Expeditionary Learning was working with thousands of educators to design learning targets that expressed clear, shared understanding for what students should know and be able to do. Let this serve as your guide to Expeditionary Learning, a concept so successful but so simple that you′ll wonder aloud why it isn′t universally available for those kids who would benefit from it most."

From the Foreword by Mike Johnston, Colorado state senator

"Chockfull of examples, tips, and video illustrations, this masterful book achieves the remarkable feat of being both a practical how–to guide for how students, teachers, and school leaders can use student–engaged assessment, and a visionary argument for how we can invert the school reform pyramid and put students in charge of their own learning."

Jal Mehta, associate professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education; author, The Allure of Order

About the Author

Ron Berger, chief academic officer for Expeditionary Learning, taught public school for more than twenty–five years. Leah Rugen has worked as an educator and writer for more than twenty years. Libby Woodfin, a former teacher, is director of publications for Expeditionary Learning.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laura Jackson on 29 Sept. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fantastic, practical guide showing how and WHY EL schools work, and how teaching and learning can and should be transformed. Video clips show practical case studies to demonstrate and back up. A fabulous resource to use continually.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lizzie Field on 4 Dec. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some great ideas backed up by research.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 28 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
showing best teaching practices IN PRACTICE 1 May 2014
By Enjolras - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a teacher, I'd like to think I've never fallen into the "try harder" trap (i.e., just telling students to try harder rather than providing specific assessment). That said, I find grading to be a real challenge. It's difficult to provide student feedback in ways that encourage them to discover the answers on their own.

Enter "Leaders of Their Own Learning." This book makes the case that learning and assessment should be a continuous process, focused on student portfolios and cumulative learning. They explain their methods clearly enough such that even somebody like me who isn't steeped in the education literature can follow along. A problem I have with most of these types of books is that it's easy to talk about teaching in abstract, but often difficult to implement in practice when you're in front of a classroom. So, the authors include a DVD demonstrating their techniques IN PRACTICE. There's no excuse now.

This book obviously focuses on K-12 education. I don't know how useful it will be beyond that. I teach at the college level, which is obviously very different (we don't have nearly as much interaction with students). Also, I wonder how these techniques would apply to overburdened public schools. Still, I think any type of education would benefit from their advice.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Very useful, user-friendly guide to making assessment work 15 May 2014
By Julie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Book is more than just assessment; it's really an intro to a whole system of learning. In other words, an intro to Expeditionary Learning. For its instructional strategies, it draws heavily on same ideas as Teach Like a Champion. The various components and practices are ties to video clips on a DVD, and the book signals when to switch to a video to see it in action. I love that the book does this. It makes the book its own PD course. The book has many useful charts, checklists, and rubrics. I wish these were also included on the DVD to make printing and using them easy. Most are intact on a page though some tables are divided between pages (but not any you would write on--all those are intact to a full page). All could be copied to full size with a little enlargement. The book also gives specific plans for implementing in stages and is organized so you could focus on one practice at a time, such as using learning targets or holding student-led conferences. Is a great resource and would make a fabulous faculty book study.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Renewed Learning 30 Mar. 2014
By Kevin L. Nenstiel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Early in this book, the authors say "Teachers frequently fall into the trap of simply saying, "try harder" without giving students specific targets, feedback, time to revise, and a purpose for doing quality work." I know, back during my teaching days, I often fell into that trap. Since I intend to resume classroom duties someday, I find this book bracing, with its new, startlingly active approach to continuous engaged assessment.

Our authors cut their teeth at Expeditionary Learning, a charter school network stressing cumulative learning, interdisciplinary evaluation, and portfolios. Expeditionary Learning schools have refined their techniques for over twenty years, building modular course approaches designed to put principal learning burdens on students while increasing their ownership of their own learning. One part of this is assessment. Their most important lesson: assessment isn't just for culminations and report cards anymore.

Having decided to make their discoveries available to teachers and administrators outside their network, Expeditionary Learning anchors their first book to their assessment process. And what an exciting topic they make of a frequently dull activity. If your classroom experience was anything like mine, you got assessed at the end of some arbitrary interval (semester, quarter, etc.), and the letter grade felt vague and abstract. Assessment was discouraging, not supportive.

EL assessment involves approaches that, on first blush, appear consonant with existing techniques. The elucidation of clear goals and "learning targets," for instance, superficially resembles common lesson planning. But the authors emphasize these components emerge from different roots, and pursue distinct goals. By emphasizing students rather than classrooms, this approach takes what's traditionally the teacher's sole responsibility, and makes everyone, students included, equally liable for outcomes.

Other components involve students understanding beforehand what teachers expect. Our authors spend an entire chapter on "Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback" (clearly, EL stresses writing as evaluative learning). Looking back, my teachers expected me to produce critical writing, and critique others' papers, as early as seventh grade, but I never saw what critical writing should look like until graduate school. I wish I'd had this approach in my youth.

Beyond classroom organization, our authors describe techniques to engage parent and community engagement. Since many teachers report their number one problem is parental apathy, with students getting reinforcement at home that school doesn't much matter, my many teacher friends will surely appreciate this inclusion. Though parental engagement will require time to overcome encultured apathy, EL's time-tested techniques will provide educators with valuable shortcuts.

Our authors also spend copious time explaining how to reconcile their innovative evaluation techniques with Common Core standards, which often impede individualization. The standards, as written, are frequently opaque, and even trained teachers have difficulty making sense of them. With their specific, plain-English learning targets, EL schools can potentially address multiple Common Core targets simultaneously. This transforms Common Core's top-down hierarchical approach into real, measurable learning outcomes for diverse communities.

Besides simply telling teachers how they ought to assess students, this book includes a DVD of EL techniques in practice. Fairly short videos, cued according to chapters in the book, provide object lessons in how EL approaches work in real classroom environments. Thus the authors don't just lecture at their audience, as my pedagogy teacher did. We get to see how innovative, groundbreaking techniques actually work.

Though our authors aver that their approach applies at any learning level, they clearly focus on the K-12 school environment, particularly its long rolling approach to college and career preparedness. That's not to say that creative, diligent instructors couldn't adapt this approach to post-secondary education, skills training, or remedial and GED schooling. By applying these techniques, ideally school-wide, inventive teachers could construct an educational environment conducive to multiple learning styles.

I confess one trepidation. EL asks teachers to dedicate generous one-on-one time to students, helping them customize learning goals and evaluation. That sounds good in charter schools, which are publicly funded but nominally private. What happens, though, when these techniques hit perennially understaffed, cash-strapped public schools? (Cf. Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities.) Schools will need time to experiment with workarounds for schools that have less money and time to spend.

EL has evolved over two decades of in-the-trenches use, so presumably it'll absorb public school challenges gracefully. Though it would be a mistake to regard this book as finished and done, it offers intriguing, ambitious guidelines for creating school-wide learning cultures where students own their process and teachers serve to guide. In a school environment favoring "reform" over practice, this provides a compelling outline of truly renewed learning.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Informative, Common Sense Principles for Educators & Administrators 20 May 2014
By Mathlete - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ron Berger hit the nail on the head with 'Leaders of Their Own Learning. On the surface, many will feel that it is too idealistic and not practically possible to put into practice many of the concepts he outlines in some of today's varied, underfunded, and understaffed schools. To that, I agree. It may be virtually impossible to make drastic, widespread policy changes in your classroom without support from policy makers, the school board, administrators, and of course parents. But a teacher can take bite-sized chunks of how to motivate and accelerate learning in their students by placing them in charge of their learning agenda. And that learning agenda needs a framework. it may not be a perfect mold of everything Berger mentions in this book. But he presents his theory with really good examples and case studies that if nothing else, offers us a different way to manage our classrooms and student's achievement potential.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, but lacking a bit 11 May 2014
By M. Rodriguez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a High School English teacher, I am always striving to improve the way I educate my students. I try to use many student-led activities, assessments, and assignments to better engage my kids, so I thought this book would help reinforce, or give more advice on how I can really hone in on that type of classroom learning. While it did offer information on the benefits of student-led learning, I felt like it left out some critical pieces when it comes to the challenges of student-led learning. I found myself wishing they had addressed what happens when you have a student who does NOT want to/or is incapable of leading their own learning. It also failed to address interactions with concerned parents, who think the students don't need to do as much as you are encouraging them to take on.

Overall, it offered some great data and studies, but I felt like the picture here was a little bit more from the leadership/administrative perspective, and not as much from the daily grind, classroom teacher point of view. That is not a bad thing, but it's more a teaching/education theory book, than a classroom "how to" book.
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