The classic example of such a school is @DebMeier’s Central Park East (CPE), a public school in East Harlem, New York. In The Power of Their Ideas Meier defines the role of the school. “Caring and compassion are not soft, mushy goals. They are part of the hard core of subjects we are responsible for teaching. Informed and skilful care is learned.” Inspired by John Dewey’s Democracy and Education, Meier and her colleagues put together the “CPESS Habits of Mind”, five questions which unified all teaching at the school and developed democratically-minded and inquiring students. What made these “Habits of Mind” and ultimately CPE a success was that they were not just nice words to sell to parents or to advertise the school. They were passionately-lived core beliefs. These questions formed the basis of all planning and teaching and in the higher grades assessments were built around them. They were made visible throughout the school and shared regularly with the wider community.
Similarly, the International Baccalaureate Organisation @iborganization (IBO) has distilled its powerfully simple Mission Statement into a set of 10 student learning outcomes. All IBO graduates should be: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-Minded, Caring, Risk-Takers, Balanced and Reflective. Like Meier, the IBO believes that these are not simply “mushy goals”, rather they are the essential characteristics of 21st century learners. All planning, teaching and learning in IBO-accredited schools are built around these 10. Further, to acquire full IBO accreditation, schools must demonstrate evidence of a commitment to these principles in their planning, teaching and learning, assessment and school management. Like CPE, great IBO schools are not built on nice sentiments that are ultimately for advertising purposes. They are built on a commitment to these core values.
@edmettle is a new programme from serial entrepreneur @mraspinall. Launched in January 2015, @edmettle aims to provide a social network and feedback system for schools where teachers and students can work together to develop “soft skills” such as collaboration, organisation, open-mindedness etc. – skills that are essential to future student employment and citizenship but which are not explicitly taught in traditional classrooms.
What makes @edmettle so exciting is its simplicity. There is no technical assistance needed to set it up and students and their parents receive an invite code from their teacher. It is accessible from any device with an internet connection. And the simple interface is easily navigated allowing for all levels of expertise with #EdTech. The school and individual teacher have full control over what Mindsets or Skills they wish to add or edit. This allows a school to distil from their individual Mission Statement the Mindsets or learning outcomes that they wish their students to develop. So whether it is CPE or an IBO school, @edmettle can be easily adapted to suit their individual needs. When users allow their cursor to hover over a Mindset or Skill, a definition is given allowing whoever is giving feedback to be specific and focused.
Giving feedback to a student is simple. Having set up a class, the teacher can click on a student and choose the “endorse” button. All of the set Mindsets or Skills appear and the teacher has 138 characters per category to write specific feedback. This is where @edmettle can help schools move from being ordinary to being great. By creating an archive of feedback relating to student Mindsets, the school is giving students tangible examples of what it looks like to be “caring” or “open-minded” and so on. Because great schools have copies of their Mindsets visible throughout the school and in every classroom, teachers can easily give feedback that relates specifically to these. A teacher can record where a student has succeeded in demonstrating a caring action and then give suggestions for continued growth in this direction – just as though they were giving academic feedback.