Final Projects

Current Approaches to Teaching, Learning, and School Improvement

Spring, 2000

Seminar participants will complete a major project in which they describe and analyze an approach to teaching and learning. These projects are intended to enable to participants to apply many of the ideas they are developing throughout the course as well as to pursue some of the key issues in greater depth. Ideally, the projects will also offer participants an opportunity to carry out work that builds on and addresses their own concerns and interests. To ensure that projects meet both goals, participants will be asked to submit a brief description of their project plans by May 2nd.

These projects may focus on an existing classroom or school curriculum (e.g. Ohlone Elementary School), an existing curricular approach (e.g. Expeditionary Learning/Outward Bound), or a classroom or school approach developed by the Seminar participant. The project should include:

  • A description of the approach
  • An analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach
  • An examination of how the approach fits in with the theories of action of the community, district, and state in which it is situated
  • Recommendations about how to facilitate the further development or implementation of the approach, given the context in which it is situated.

This information should be designed for presentation to a particular audience (e.g. a report for a district, school community or parents' group, a briefing for state department officials, a web-site for a reform network or organization). Participants may also choose to supplement these final products with a report to the instructor that contains any additional information or analyses particularly relevant for the ideas or issues raised in the course (but which might not be of interest for the chosen audience). Participants should also prepare a cover memo for the final product that reflects on the quality of the product and ideas for improving the product and analysis in the future.

Criteria for assessing the final products will be discussed in class midway through the quarter.

For this primary assignment, students selected a variety of different approaches including Edison Schools, Connected Mathematics, Beacon Schools, Different Ways of Knowing, and the Coalition of Essential Schools. Several students wished to address more than one approach, focus more upon the approach of a particular school with which they were familiar, or upon developing an approach of their own.

Overall, the reports showed an attention to the issues raised in the course and an ability to get beyond the rhetoric of the approaches and identify critical concerns. The report on Connected Mathematics was particularly strong because the analysis contributed to new insights about the program both for the author and for me that raised fundamental questions about what kinds of connections motivate the program.

At the same time, not all the reports went as deeply into the theories and rationales behind the approaches as they might have. An opportunity to get feedback on an earlier draft and the development of more explicit criteria to assess the reports earlier in the quarter would have been helpful.

While I originally intended to include all students projects in the web-site, the students pointed out that making their analyses public could be problematic for three key reasons: First, several drew information from people or sites which they promised would be shared solely with their instructor and their classmates; Second, if they were made publice the critiques could conceivably be viewed by members of the programs they reviewed, and the reports were not produced with that possibility in mind; and Third, at least one reported on an original approach which the student hoped to develop further and which the student did not want to make public at this time.

Overview of a Course on Current Approaches to Teaching, Learning, and School Improvement. c. 2000, Thomas Hatch, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  All the material contained on this site has been produced by Thomas Hatch or other authors as noted. These materials can be downloaded, printed, and used with proper acknowledgement, including the name and affiliation of the author and the web-site address.