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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Open Door Policy: College Success Portfolio Defenses

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
An Envision student presenting his final college success portfolio defense.

How do you inspire teachers and school leaders to transform their practice when they have only read about or watched a video about the change they hope to implement?

While some people can be convinced to transform teaching and learning by reading articles and books and even more can be inspired by watching videos -- especially those on Edutopia -- many people still have unanswered questions that prevent them from taking the leap towards a new practice. This group of learners needs to actually see the practice in context. They need to know that this will work for "their kids" (e.g., low income, students of color). They want to talk to the teachers and leaders who have already implemented the change to find out why it is working for them and what they would need to do to get ready to take that step.

Importantly, educators want to make sure that teaching and learning is truly being transformed and not just made to appear that way. How can school leaders facilitate opportunities for this group of learners -- the "Doubting Thomas' of School Change" -- who need to touch the change to know it is real?

Up-Close Observations

At Envision Education, we hold Design Studios. We open up our schools to visiting educators (and our own educators from sister schools) several times a year. We create opportunities for people to "touch" the change they hope to implement. Facilitated by our consulting team, Envision Learning Partners, visitors get a chance to learn about a key aspect of the Envision Model, most often our College Success Portfolio Defense, our unique student assessment model.

Design Studio attendees learn about the change at Envision by doing pre-work (the aforementioned readings and videos), by observing students in action who are either presenting and defending their work or sitting on panels, by interacting with teachers and leaders through observation and conversation, and finally by having a facilitated opportunity to reflect on their experience that day. When we cannot bring people to the school, we bring the kids and/or teachers to the educators -- at conferences, staff development meetings, and even to the superintendent's office.

How can you apply these strategies to your school, district or network in order to inspire school change? Here is a list for you to consider:

  • If you have a teacher, program or school that is implementing the change you hope to see, hold a design studio or workshop in their classroom, wing, or school. There is nothing like seeing transformational practice in action -- especially with your own students
  • Have a student and/or teacher present their work at a staff development day or meeting
  • Host a panel discussion with students and/or teachers at a staff development day or meeting

You can also join an Envision Defense Design Studio both to inspire change and to learn how you might host a similar event at your own school or district. We are hosting a few during the month of May at Envision schools in the SF Bay Area.

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
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