One of the things we struggle with every year is the artificiality of accountability in a school setting. In MAX, we work very hard to replicate and imitate the dynamics of a professional work environment. We break students into production teams, we design communication systems and production assignments that are similar to those students will encounter in university and the working world. And every year, students return from college, employment, and internship settings and tell us that the work we had them do was valuable preparation. But we struggle with the artificiality of it. Somehow, we suspect, we would have an even greater impact on our students if their work was held to a more authentic and real-world form of assessment.
Our observations were made very clear this year when we had the opportunity to meet with Alan November, an Education and Technology consultant and Harvard lecturer who was brought to the district as a speaker this year. Mr. November gave a motivating speech at our district’s opening event, and was then brought to the school for a roundtable discussion with interested teachers and administrators. Of course, we were excited to have the opportunity to speak directly with him, ask questions, and gain insight.
And so, we asked: How can we make work more meaningful for our students?
Time and time again, November implied that in a sense, we can’t make it more meaningful. What we can do, and what we now realize we must do, is change the locus of their work. We need to create experiences for our students so that the accountability we have asked them to feel towards us as their teachers is shifted to real clients and audiences for whom they create work. As much as possible, students need to see us as collaborators who can help them learn the skills and knowledge they need in order to do great work for their clients and reach audiences.
So, as the 2016-17 school year takes off, we have begun to re-envision how we will create accountability for our students. We are committed to shifting their work out of the school and toward the community.