Mastery of Knowledge and Skills: Claim 3

  • Claim 3 - DDES Students demonstrate critical and analytical thinking through reflection, goal setting, and presentations of learning

    • 01/23/2017 DENVER, CO - Visit to the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School on Monday, January 23, 2017. Kindergarten classroom of Crissy Doty, first grade classroom of Lizzie Bromley-Vogel and Katie Kurpanek also first grade. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)

    Within our definition of “Mastery of Knowledge and Skills” we include components of deeper learning.  It is not enough that students can demonstrate achievement on assessments if they don’t also demonstrate ownership of their learning through critical and analytical thinking.  Within daily lessons, students demonstrate their understanding of the learning target by articulating their understanding of it, setting relevant goals, and reflecting on their progress toward mastery.  When a student knows where they’re heading as a learner, they move forward purposefully toward their goals.  Twice per year, DDES students present highlights of their progress through student-led conferences.  Within this structure, we ask them to verbally communicate what they’ve learned and how they’ve progressed.  They use a portfolio of thoughtfully curated work products and written reflections to synthesize who they currently are as learners.  Finally, students regularly celebrate their learning through formal presentations to authentic audiences.  

    Learning Targets

    The goal of a lesson is never a mystery to kids at DDES.  Teachers visually post, unpack, and reference learning targets to create clarity about what students will know and be able to do by the end of the lesson.  Additionally, students use the learning targets to reflect and set goals for improvement to demonstrate ownership of their learning.  

    To start a lesson, teachers and students work together to unpack the target.  They zoom in on tricky and important words and discuss what the learner will need to do to meet the target.  Students may have an opportunity to reflect on where they think they stand on the target before the lesson begins.  Multiple times throughout the lesson, they will check in on the target again to determine how they are progressing and what their next steps are.  Finally, students will demonstrate how they’ve met the target through a product or assessment.  

    Students not only develop ownership of their own process as learners, they also demonstrate metacognition about what they do and don’t understand, and what they should do next.  We know this is a skill that will serve them well beyond their time at DDES.  


    Student-Led Conferences and Portfolios

    Twice per year at DDES, students demonstrate their deep learning by reflecting on their progress during conferences with their parents.  These conferences are led entirely by the students and require significant analytical thinking and preparation.  Throughout the year, students curate a portfolio of work that represents how they’ve grown as a learner.  They regularly analyze their work samples and write reflections and how the products connect to their progress.  Prior to each conference, they practice verbal presentation and synthesis skills so they are ready to lead their parents through a meaningful conversation about their learning.   


    Sample 3rd Grade Student-Led Conference

    Third Grade Student Portfolio

    Kindergarten Portfolio

    Celebrations of Learning

    Once students have completed high quality final products, they share and celebrate their learning by presenting to authentic audiences.  During these presentations, students formally articulate what they’ve learned.  They demonstrate critical thinking by effectively addressing questions from their audience and sharing the most salient information and components of the learning process.  

    Our evidence includes several different presentations of learning in which students presented to a public audience.  Audience members were always given the opportunity to ask students questions about what they learned and why it was important.  Second graders shared the impact of transportation over the course of Denver’s historical development with travellers at Union Station.    Kindergarteners shared their opinions about why we should all save the bees to pedestrians on the 16th Street Mall, and hosted an author’s reading at The Tattered Cover, a local bookstore.  Fourth graders set up an installation at the Alliance Center, a sustainability work hub, to share the impact climate change has had on the Island of Kiribati.  They also hosted a museum exhibition at History Colorado to share Colorado’s “Unsung Heroes.”  DDES students have raised the bar on what it means to share and celebrate learning in elementary school.