How Non-Cognitive Variables Fit Into Today’s Schools

By Michael Soguero and Sarah Bertucci

Michael-SogueroOne of the advantages of working at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center is our good fortune to interact with so many different educational organizations. As a result, we sometimes see patterns or themes emerge among these disparate organizations that they can’t observe as single entities.

One of these themes we see emerging is the use of non-cognitive variables in such places as Albuquerque, Vermont or — on a national level — with the Big Picture Learning organization.

Sarah-Bertucci-eagle-rock2Before we get far into this, it’s important to note that terminology can be confusing. Whether in regional areas of work, specific organization decisions, or in the research literature, the term non-cognitive variable is sometimes known as meta-cognitive variables, interpersonal skills — and persistence and grit.

The norm for education has always been cognitive in nature, involving conscious mental activities such as memorization, rote learning and recitation. But to us, it seems intuitive that success in life — and what we hope for our students — is not just academic content knowledge.

There’s something more to the question, “What exactly is the purpose of school?” Take emotional intelligence, social skills and street smarts, for example. These are all elusive qualities that are challenging to name and measure, but most important in getting along in life.

Among our inspirations is Grant Wiggins’ March 2011 article A Diploma Worth Having, published in the ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) publication Educational Leadership. He wrote: Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Assists A Pair of Big Picture Learning Students

Our Professional Development Center, which is known for its unique ability to facilitate school reform initiatives, recently collaborated with Big Picture Learning in South Burlington, Vermont, on a one-of-kind event on service- and project-based learning.

In particular, our focus was on helping two students — South Burlington High School seniors Olivia Decell and Ella Downey — facilitate the Service Thesis Project Conference, which was held in the spring at Burlington College in Vermont. The event was designed to help high school students create relevant and exciting Service Thesis Projects and help educators implement service/project-based learning into their classrooms.

Service Thesis Project Conference

Service Thesis Project Conf. attendees.

At the May 2014 conference, participants shared ideas and had the opportunity to observe some very good examples of successful thesis projects. That’s one of the things we do best; Eagle Rock has been working with Big Picture Learning in a variety of capacities since 2006, so we’ve quickly acquired and honed our knack for such conferences and get-togethers.

In fact, over the past few years, we have helped several schools develop conferences that have become an engine of self-renewal for students and staff.

In this latest endeavor, our Professional Development team facilitated the Continue reading…

News From The Eagle Rock Professional Development Center

PDC_Update_Sep:OctWe’re fresh into a new school year here at Eagle Rock and our Professional Development Center (PDC) has so many projects, plans and proposals in the works that we found it necessary to create a new position of PDC associate.

This new hiring signals our intent to increase the center’s national outreach and impact, contributing to — and accelerating — school improvement through strength-based approaches that support the organizations with which we partner and assist.

In fact, even as we write this, we’re interviewing candidates for the PDC position with hopes of having that new assistant ready to jump into a pile of projects right out the gate.

Below is a listing of our Professional Development Center’s activities scheduled from now through the Thanksgiving holidays. To inquire about working with the PDC, call Dan Condon at (970) 586-0600.

Sept. 24

  • Launching our Student-centered Coaching Initiative with Eagle Rock School, which is part of our annual professional development focus on student learning.
  • Hosting monthly directors phone call for the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) centers nationally who are planning for the CES Fall Forum. At that conference, which runs Nov 8 and 9, we are presenting with other centers on implementing the Common Core, while staying true to the 10 common principles of CES. Eagle Rock is also responsible for convening CES center directors for their biannual meeting.

Sept. 24 – 25

Sept 26

  • Today, we’ll be facilitating further curriculum development and charter school application work with Noble Impact, an Arkansas-based organization that engages with scholars to pursue public service as entrepreneurs.

Oct. 4 5

  • We will be hosting and working with Colorado teachers who utilize the Facing History organization’s resources in their schools. If you’re unfamiliar with this Brookline, Mass.-based organization, it promotes the belief that education is the key to combating bigotry and nurturing democracy. Through a rigorous investigation of the events that led to the Holocaust – as well as other recent examples of genocide and mass violence – students in a Facing History class learn to combat prejudice with compassion, indifference with participation, and myth and misinformation with knowledge.

Oct. 8 – 10 

  • We will host and work with representatives from the Rochester (N.Y.) Teachers Association, with a focus on the ways that serious outdoor and wilderness activity, experiential learning and voluntary commitment to behavioral values might transfer to an urban setting where large numbers of students are disengaged in their own education.

Oct. 14 – 16

  • We’ll be working with three Big Picture Learning Schools in Detroit: Blanche Kelso Bruce Academies, East and West Campus, and Catherine Ferguson. These schools have adopted the Big Picture Learning model but have only a year under their belt with this approach. We are being engaged to coach staff on how to make sense of and work effectively within this model.

Oct. 15

  • We will be working with Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque to facilitate the development of their professional development systems. Specifically, we will introduce them to the use of protocols as a way to foster continuous improvement with their project-based learning approach.

Oct. 17–18

  • Here, we’ll be working with South Burlington High School in South Burlington, Vt., to facilitate integration of the Common Core State Standards in the school’s Math and English departments. We’re looking forward to seeing Jason Cushner, a former math instructional specialist here at Eagle Rock, who is now a Rowland Fellow charged with leading systemic change in schools. Jason is working on getting schools to adopt innovative professional learning systems across the state of Vermont.

Oct. 25

  • We will be working with The Kingsbury Center in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to learn how to better practice differentiation in the classroom to apply to Eagle Rock School.

Oct. 29

  • Monthly CES (Coalition of Essential Schools) Directors call.

Oct. 30 (and Dec. 3)

  • Facilitating the launch of Puget Sound Consortium Critical Friends Group. This is a multi-year project to establish a network of secondary schools as a regional learning lab to improve long-term educational outcomes for Puget Sound, Wash., highest-need families. The focus is on student engagement as the strongest lever for increasing long-term success indicators such as college persistence, access to and preparedness for careers of choice, and non-cognitive attributes related to wellness and self and social efficacy.

Nov. 6

  • Eagle Rock is co-hosting the Rowland Conference and, following the keynote address we will be taking half of the attendees and running a workshop called “Managing the Rapids.” In the afternoon, we will take on the other half of the conference’s attendees so that by the end of the day we will have worked with an estimated 600 people. Our approach in these workshops is to employ the mindset and tools of “less is more.” Attendees will experience a set of processes that will help them get a handle on the various initiatives launched in their school setting and help get them under control within a clear framework. They will learn to move from confusion to disciplined focus and greater confidence, leaving the experience with a clear structure, aligned initiatives and focused strategy.

Nov. 8 – 10

  • Our entire PDC team, as well as some of our School’s staff, will be attending and working at the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) Fall Forum. Two workshops are scheduled, including one in which our own Holly Takashima and Karen Ikegami discuss how notebooks can be used to evaluate growth and mastery in different disciplines. The second workshop features Ike Leslie presenting, “Queer!” “Privilege!” “Power!” – Strategies for Facilitating Real Conversations in School.” This workshop answers the question of how to create a safe space for students and staff to discuss how power and privilege affect their personal and learning experiences.

Nov 18-21

  • Big Picture Learning coaches will be at Eagle Rock and we will be facilitating their adoption of new strategies to add to their coaching toolkit. They are working on integrating material from their newly published book Leaving to Learn and deepening their use of design thinking processes in their work.

Nov. 20 – 22

  • We’ll be returning to Detroit for a second visit to work with Big Picture Schools.