Becoming masterful at something takes time. Mastery is both an intrinsic journey and a long term journey. It’s a journey of something that you have a passion in . . . something that you really care about. When I think about the state of education, when do we ask our learners, “What do you really care about?” How many of us actually listen and try to connect their voice and what you do in the classroom? That is a hard skill to do. It’s one of willingness, capacity, and feasibility.
Know Your Students
As an STEAM Educator, I’m fascinated on the things that our student care about the most. When I hit it that spot, the students will run with it, sometime without me in there journey. It like they are on autopilot . . . they know what they want to do and how to do it. Educator ask me, “So how do you deal with, 36 students and 36 different interest?” What I say is know the students well, talk with them as a group or individually during your class. That relationship building is key to show that you do care about them and what they have to say. And as you are listening, make sure to keep an mental note and eventually write out things that students are eager to learn about or are interested in. Those are your entry point.
Co-Develop the Learning Experience
How do you personalize 30-36 difference journey’s in your class? Here is the thing . . . you don’t have to. That would drive anybody nuts!!! Our goal is to make sure our students are leading that journey and we make recommendations of next steps if needed. There are structures out there such as developing SMART goals where you can help facilitate students thinking about the goal of their project and the steps they need to take to get there. We want to emphasize the process of developing a goal and the roadmap to get to their goal(s). Have the student write those down and place it in a folder with their name on it so that you can refer back from time to time. If their action steps don’t coincide with their goal or if their goals are too lofty, then your role as coach is to make sure that their goal is feasible and actionable.
Practice Makes Permanent
Whether it be making, drawing, or performing, you will need to give your students time to practice because eventually the will need to showcase it to an audience. Time to practice may vary between students. Though time in a school year is a limited resource, ask your student how much time they will need to practice. This all comes back to their action steps and having the student set those deadline. Keep in mind the type of practice that they are undergoing because the practice must be intentional, meaningful, and connected with their long term goal that they set in the place in the initial stages. If you see that there is a disconnect between their practice and goals, they will not progress and at that point you will need to intervene and make sure you refocus them back on creating and executing action step that will connect with their goal. Over time, you will see them get into a rhythm and state of flow. At this point, they are totally immerse into their project.
You will have to tell your learners that they will never be done with their project. Their project will always be a work in progress. It will continue improving as long as they get feedback from others. Feedback is key for one’s growth. It give students other perspectives to look at and it allows the student to look for patterns that need to be changed. In our STEAM Class, when students give feedback, it is important for the feedback to be kind and constructive. I tell students to give 3 pieces of warm feedback and 2 pieces of cool feedback. There are other feedback structures out their such as pluses/delta, blooms/glooms, and rose/thorns. Last of all, give the author of the project time to look at the feedback figure out what pieces of feedback do they want to use to improve their work.
At the end of the journey, students will need to demonstrate what they have been practicing on. This step is important because without the day of demonstration, there is a lack of urgency to get to this final step. Prior to this day, invite the community, another class, parents, etc. It put a little bit of pressure on the students to make sure what they have been practicing is of high quality work. That sense of urgency will push them to be there best. When I held showcases for our STEAM Class, the format had a museum gallery feel so that the audience has an opportunity to wonder and browse. This give the presenters a safety net knowing that they are not the only one’s demonstrating.
By the time they demonstrated, there is a shift from what the student started with to what the students now know. It is important for student to reflect and debrief on the process at the end so they are aware of their own growth and their own journey.