21st Century Learning

Provocative Practice™ assists schools and districts in creating culturally and linguistically responsive learning spaces and environments in classrooms, schools, and the community where every student is considered high status and that positively develop and affirm each student’s cultural/linguistic identity and self-esteem, self-motivation and learner autonomy, and social skills and competency. In these spaces, we intentionally plan and structure instruction and interactions to develop a sense of community, self-determination, trust, and democracy.

We work with the schools’ and districts’ educators, support staff, and families to establish strong relationships with students by being personable, caring, trustworthy, and having an interest and understanding of the lives of their students; to show respect for students’ experiences, languages, and cultures by honoring their voice and creating environments where student voice permeates the classroom instruction, and decisions for instruction are based on student needs; to communicate responsibility by creating safe learning environments, modeling high expectations for learning, connecting instruction with students’ learning needs and making a link with students’ prior knowledge, providing multiple ways in which students can learn and demonstrate knowledge, and clearly articulating the curriculum’s “usefulness” for today and the future; to use students’ lives outside the classroom as a means of engaging them more deeply in learning that has strong relevance for them; and to find ways to help students see future possibilities for people who look and sound like them, who come from similar backgrounds and experiences.

Within these learning spaces and environments, Provocative Practice focuses schools and districts on developing a set of 21st century learning skills, capacities, and dispositions:

1.   Academic Preparation

      21st century academic preparation differs from the traditional academics. Instead, it focuses on a full curriculum that includes all the different disciplines, including the arts. Students need opportunities to show what they’ve learned through advanced-level applications of their knowledge. And very importantly, they need to learn HOW to learn because the truth is most of the actual content they get in school will be obsolete by the time they finish college.

2.   College and Career Readiness

      Being college and career ready means that students have real choices and options – to go to university or not, to pursue this career or that, not because of their zip code or the color of their skin but because we prepared them for that. And whether they enter the university or the workforce when they graduate, they will have the cognitive and metacognitive tools to think critically and creatively and to keep on learning throughout their lives.

3.   Mastery of Advanced Literacies and 3M Skills (Multimedia, Multilingual, and Multicultural)

      In today’s world, being bilingually proficient at near native-speaker like levels is the barest minimum. Other countries are routinely preparing their young people as high level multilinguals --- all of whom can speak English at professional and technical levels – and when the whole world knows English, knowing ONLY English is no longer a competitive advantage. Our students will be required to interact positively with people from all cultures and walks of life. They’ll need to be multiculturally competent. And they’ll need to be able to learn, create, and use multiple media, technologies, and literacies at high levels of competency.

4.   Innovation, Creativity, and Solution Seeking Competencies

      Our students’ success will depend in significant part on having the discipline, skill, and daring to be innovators and creators, to seek and find solutions to problems that haven’t even been invented yet. The arts provide the space to acquire these skills, capacities, and dispositions in a coherent, comprehensive, and disciplined way that is difficult to imagine other disciplines being able to do. Integrating rigorous arts instruction with other disciplines is vital: we know, for example, that innovation has always happened at the intersection of disciplines.

5.   Social, Civic, and Environmental Responsibility

      Students also need to be prepared to apply their classroom learning to real world social, civic, and environmental issues which are extremely complex and challenging. They will be the ones making the decisions that determine our quality of life, and in a global world, decisions made in one part of the world will have impact across the world.

6.   Technological Fluency

      Technological fluency is often what comes to mind when we talk about 21st century preparedness. But this area isn’t just about using tools --- it’s about a new way of conceptualizing communication, interaction, integration, and intelligence.

7.   Strength of Body, Mind, and Character

      Living in a global village requires that every member develop the strength of body, mind, and character to contribute in positive ways to a healthy community. And we know from a body of emerging research the impact of healthy bodies on powerful minds.

Empowering Pedagogy

Provocative Practice™ focuses schools and districts on seven essential pedagogical practices that support high intellectual performance. These pedagogical practices become core practices that are expected be in evidence in every classroom:

1.    Identify and build on student strengths.

       Identifying and building on student strengths means acknowledging that students don’t come to us as blank slates or as an accumulation of deficiencies. They know things, they’ve had experiences, they have cultures and languages --- all of these are powerful assets that we should build on. We need to acknowledge these assets and show students that we believe in them and in their intellectual and academic capacity.

2.    Establish powerful relationships that nurture success.

       Establishing powerful relationships that nurture success requires that teachers know their students and their communities and that students see them as their advocates and supporters. Students will look for teacher behaviors that they see as evidence that the teacher respects them. We know that relationships are everything. And we know that many students will refuse to learn from teachers who they don’t believe care about them or have their best interests at heart.

3.    Elicit high intellectual performance.

       Teachers can elicit high intellectual behavior by making sure the curriculum is well-articulated, relevant, and rich. They intentionally invite students into cognitively complex work and inquiries in ways that allow students’ curiosities to be engaged and for students to experience a series of connected successes. They take advantage of what we know about how the brain works best to structure brain-compatible experiences for their students. Most importantly, they carefully plan activities that prime or prepare students for cognitively demanding work, they use processes that allow students to engage in meaningful ways with the content, and they organize activities designed to help student retain what they learn.

4.    Engage students actively in the learning.

       We can engage students actively in the learning process by focusing their attention on challenging thinking and requiring that students use oral and written language to communicate and concretize their thinking. We can connect the learning to students’ real lives and engage them in creating authentic products that add value to the students, their families, their schools, and their communities.

5.    Create environments of enrichment not remediation.

       The research is clear on the power of creating environments of enrichment rather than remediation, which teachers can do by treating students as gifted and organizing learning experiences that allow them to behave and produce as gifted students.

6.    Situate learning in the lives of students.

       Critical to high intellectual performance is situating learning in the lives of students by using culturally and linguistically responsive strategies that validate students as knowers and that use students lives, experiences, and current knowledge as the starting point for learning. When teachers do this, they communicate to students that their experiences count, that who they are counts.

7.    Address the prerequisites for learning.

Finally, we need to address the prerequisites for learning by making sure that students have what they need to be successful learners and students. This includes the resources we provide to students, as well as explicitly teaching to bridge gaps in students’ academic preparation. It means working with families in ways that expand their capacity to contribute to their children’s school success.

Challenging & Relevant Curriculum

Provocative Practice™ works with schools and districts to engage every group of students in well-articulated and age-appropriate curriculum that purposefully builds a full range of language, literacy, and communication skills, including minimally, bilingualism, biliteracy, and multiculturalism.  This curriculum is cognitively complex, coherent, relevant, and challenging, and by design, develops technological fluency and the critical/creative capacities in every student.

The highest performing school systems in the world prepare their students to apply rigorous academic content knowledge to real life situations. The end goal is to foster each student’s ability to crate innovative solutions to complex problems and to bring higher levels of economic prosperity and social cohesion. As a result, these students are better able to lead more productive and prosperous adult lives. Provocative Practice professionals work with schools and districts to ensure every student has access to these same opportunities.

In 2010, California adopted the Common Core Standards (CCS) in English language arts and mathematics, which provide an opportunity for the state, and schools/districts, to align curriculum across pre-kindergarten through grade 12 to ensure that students are prepared to compete in a global economy. These standards are different from our current standards in that they are internationally benchmarked, fewer, clearer, and higher, and intended as preparation for 21st century success. In our increasingly complex society, students need to use knowledge in flexible ways, develop complex reasoning, problem solving, and creative solution seeking skills, and collaborate and communicate in multiple forms and languages.

Implementing CCS will require schools/districts to do things substantially differently from preschool through high school. The new standards require a more integrated approach to delivering content instruction. The CCS in English language arts are written to include the development of critical reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in history, science, mathematics, and the arts, as well as in English class. The standards in mathematics are written to include the use of mathematical skills and concepts in fields like science, technology, and engineering. These standards emphasize the ways in which students should use literacy and numeracy skills across the curriculum and in life, engaging in real life applications, analyzing issues, using knowledge to solve complex problems, and creating and innovating to find solutions to problems we have yet to conceptualize.

As schools/districts move forward to implement these standards, Provocative Practice™ assists them in examining how our standards and curriculum frameworks in other subject areas can be made compatible with the Common Core, and how our assessments can ensure attention to critical thinking, creating, and performance skills that will enable our students to be college and career-ready when they graduate from our high schools.

Valid & Comprehensive Assessment & Accountability

Provocative Practice™ helps schools and districts build and implement valid and comprehensive assessment and accountability systems designed to promote reflective practice and data-informed planning in order to improve academic, linguistic, and sociocultural outcomes for each specific group of students.

By 2014-2015, schools/districts will need to participate in a new assessment system to evaluate college and career-readiness in light of the Common Core Standards. California is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), one of two multi-state initiatives organized to develop new assessments of English language arts and mathematics. With its computer-adapted testing capacity and provision of formative and interim assessment supports, as well as performance-based assessments that evaluate writing, research, and problem solving, the new assessment system will provide a platform for much more diagnostic support for learning and teaching. Provocative Practice™ can assist schools and districts in integrating local assessments designed to improve teaching and learning with those designed to support school and district leadership and accountability.

Existing technology now provides a way for everyone in a district and community to access a common version of the truth. Long-gone are the clunky spreadsheets and simple, static graphs; data visualization has evolved into a dynamic discipline that is opening up new doors for the exploration and analysis of complex data sets for school districts and communities. Using dashboard technology, Provocative Practice is creating a data dashboard template for peer-to-peer comparisons between schools and a deep analysis of each school’s data by sub-group, group, and across time. In brief, this data dashboard allows schools and districts to control for different demographic variables between schools and use a common metric to assess schools along two continua: one of absolute performance (test scores +), and one of added value. A statistical analysis constructs meaningful peer-benchmarks by adjusting for demographic differences across schools to guide educators in investigating effective practices implemented at sites achieving success.

Collection of information is required for every industry. For example, the number of patients seeing a doctor each day or how quickly a waste management company’s employees are picking up refuse are measures that can be tracked to determine how a business is running. Without this intelligence, it is impossible to know what is working, where weaknesses exist and what processes may need to change to ensure the health of the organization.

However, collecting the data is only half the job. If the information is siloed, it cannot be easily viewed or acted upon. If the material is trapped in static computer applications, like spreadsheets, it may only be made available to a limited number of employees. Many companies have found the key to easing this pain is dashboard technology. Designed to provide the visual intelligence needed to analyze, track and drill down through complex data sets, companies can leverage information assets through personalized, real-time business intelligence dashboards. (Germain, 2009)

By defining key performance indicators, Provocative Practice works with schools and districts to illustrate progress toward goals and objectives on the dashboard, a visual display of the most important information needed to assess progress and objectives. With the anxiety resulting from the current economic uncertainty looming over the heads of many organizations, it is critical that we have the capability to identify how our performance data can be leveraged. Deep understanding of how we are doing today will help us make better decisions for tomorrow.

A major benefit of using dashboards is the visibility they provide into the peaks and valleys of a district or school’s performance. Real-time information is available automatically from an online dashboard. Instead of taking the time to analyze and comprehend a screen of spreadsheets with rows of data, staff and the public can accurately gauge performance with a quick glance. Dashboards indicate the pulse of a school or district, allowing users to graphically see patterns as they unfold, letting staff adjust activities and budgets accordingly.

I-4 Technology (Technology That Supports Interaction, Intelligence, Integration, & Imagination)

Technology has the power to teach, to motivate, to captivate, and to transform an ordinary classroom into a training ground for the next generation of artists, entrepreneurs, business and government leaders.  (C3 Task Force Report on Technology in K-12 Classrooms)

Technology can make schools better when it promotes more integration, interaction, intelligence, and imagination.  Schools have a window of opportunity to expand and radically transform the educational possibilities available to all their students by harnessing the power of technology to integrate learning across time, space, and content, to provide opportunities to interact within global communities and across languages, cultures, and interests, to promote deeper learning through critical inquiry, and to unleash the power of imagination for innovation and engagement.  Provocative Practice™ works with schools, districts, and communities to establish technology systems and processes as the driving force behind an integrated, cross-disciplinary learning environment that emulates the real world.  At Provocative Practice™, technology derives its impact and momentum, not from technology itself, but from a vision of how education can enact, in microcosm, a radical restructuring of power relations both in domestic and global arenas. Curriculum and instruction efforts that seriously aim to educate all children support universal access while shaping a new transformative pedagogy for intercultural learning that is responsive to the economic, scientific, environmental, and cultural realities of today's world.

With the support of Provocative Practice’s multilayered strategies for technology access and integration, schools, districts, and communities can take a leadership in developing and supporting innovative technology-related collaborative endeavors with a focus on diversity, equity, and access, for the integration of technological systems and processes in the classroom will have a profound effect on schools. The very relationship between students and teachers will be challenged because the technologies enable learners to gain control of their own learning. This leads implicitly to the practical need for fundamental restructuring of schools where technology can act as a catalyst for the collaborative critical inquiry that is essential in preparing students to participate actively in a democratic society. Provocative Practice’s professionals work closely with boards, superintendents and district leadership teams to ensure that all schools have access to this sort of technology and to the knowledge and instructional strategies required to use it fruitfully. 

At Provocative Practice™, we assist leaders in considering the instructional implications of technological trends and translating these analyses into services and products for educators, students, and community. We can provide vehicles for schools to create and articulate the vision, expertise, drive, and patience necessary to embrace technology. Further, the use of live data sources will totally replace the study of static information in innovative schools. Our leadership role with district and school administrators and teacher leaders involves establishing long-term professional networks so that schools can share new knowledge, resources, and support mechanisms as they help teachers move from less successful pedagogies and practices to more successful ones.

A central guiding tenet undergirds our work in technology: To help educators, parents, and students themselves use technological advances to create learning environments in and out of classrooms that equip students with the intellectual and cultural resources crucial for success in the multicultural national and global societies they will help form. While technology by itself won't lead to innovation and restructuring in schools, it can contribute significantly to school restructuring if educators and parents have access to technology-related professional development that immerses them in meaningful educationally relevant projects and enables them to connect their technology experience to constructive student work. Specifically, our services guide educators and parents in developing a clear philosophy regarding how new technology is to be used and how the culture of the school could change as a result. We ensure that the people responsible for professional development, whatever the subject matter or grade level focus, are skilled in classroom implementation that integrates technology and provides opportunities for teacher/parent collaboration to create specific classroom models of constructive technology use.

Provocative Practice™ regards technological systems and processes as an essential element in an educational approach that focuses on gathering information and on learning how to transform it into new knowledge, on the changing role of teacher as facilitator, on the involvement of children in experiential learning, and on the expanded world of lifelong learning.