green seedlings grow in an aluminum foil tray in front of a female high school student
September 30, 2022

Critical Transitions

How do we best support our 9th and 12th graders?
by Susannah Poland

Back in June, the Tang Institute hosted Reimagining Transitions: Reflections on Belonging, Curriculum, and Identity, a conference focused on the unique needs of our 9th and 12th grade students.

As we shared ideas about how to best support this subset of young people, a range of inspiring educators from eight schools led sessions on:

  • moving to a schoolwide Mastery Transcript curriculum
  • supporting trans and non-binary students
  • developing summer programs to help first-generation students
  • designing cross-course learning outcomes
  • reimagining 12th grade with interdisciplinary, place-based learning

Here’s what some of the 20 attendees had to say:

  • “The common theme for me in every presentation was what courageous work in education looks like. Each and every presentation highlighted [the] efforts being made to enhance the well-being of students in a variety of contexts and from a variety of angles. While my thinking is very much in alignment with the topics/programs presented, I am inspired to continue to do this challenging and courageous work, and I now have a new group of educators to reach out to for support and potential collaboration.”
  • “I was convinced that I probably could never get my 9th grade history core group to go without grades, but I am now convinced more than ever that that is the way that we need/have to go.”
  • “I used to think much more inside of a box but now I am thinking more expansively.”
  • “[The presentations] helped to reveal some of my blind spots.”
  • “I am looking forward to using ideas from the conference to be bolder and more creative.”

In addition, 10 conference attendees applied and were selected to participate in a year-long action research program led by Professor Rebecca Stilwell of Teachers College and supported by the Tang Institute. During the 2022-2023 academic year, participants will use collaborative research methods to learn about their home school from a systems perspective and generate changes to improve whole system performance and student outcomes. Selected researchers stayed after the close of the Reimagining Transitions conference for a session with Dr. Stilwell, during which she introduced the cycle of research: systems mapping, problem diagnosis, developing theories of improvement, making changes, and assessing results.

Dr. Stilwell, an organizational psychologist, will conduct three training sessions over the course of the 2022-2023 academic year, and researchers will meet monthly with a program assistant from the Tang Institute. In June 2023, researchers will share their work in an online symposium.

I used to think much more inside of a box, but now I am thinking more expansively.

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