• Moving Away From the Middle Ground

    Posted by Guest Blogger

    Jul. 25th, 2014

    Vera Triplett

    Photo: Vera Triplett

    Editor’s Note: Vera Triplett is the founder of Noble Minds Institute for Whole Child Learning, and a member of the 2014 Summer Launch cohort at 4.0 Schools. She has served in numerous leadership roles throughout the New Orleans education landscape, most recently as the Deputy Superintendent for Achievement for the Recovery School District. Dr. Triplett has also taught at the secondary and collegiate levels, while developing over a decade of clinical experience working with children through schools and various youth services organizations. She is a New Orleans native, and tweets at @VeraTriplettPhD.

    In over 20 years as an educator, counselor and parent, I have spent a lot of time observing teacher/student interactions and classroom practices. It has been abundantly clear to me for many years that the bulk of traditional instruction and instructional strategies are most effective with students who fall in the middle of the learning continuum. These groups of Kids aren’t considered “low performing” but they are also not knocking it out of the park, so to speak, as self-directed intrinsically, motivated students.

    I suspect that there are a whole host of reasons why traditional instructional strategies prove most effective with average students. The scholarly articles that argue a plethora of well researched hypothesis number in the thousands. However, there are two reasons in particular that I have observed first hand that the Noble Minds instructional delivery model has the potential to address. First, many times teachers are so focused on the deficits of low performing students that they neglect to recognize where strengths and areas of talent can be exploited to extend learning and be generalized to other subjects. For example, the student who doesn’t do well in math but excels in music class is often labeled as only being concerned about his elective classes and as a result the opportunity to use the connection between music notes and number work is missed.

    In the case of high achieving students, they end up losing ground because there is so much emphasis on “Achievement Gap” closing that students who are naturally inclined to learning and doing “better than average” are left alone and aren’t provided the opportunity to extend their learning either. As a result what we see most often are students being moved from the middle to a rung higher but the lowest performing kids aren’t moving at all and the highest performing kids are being stunted.

    Enter Noble Minds — a school with a personalized learning lab approach that addresses the needs of learners at every level. We don’t do this by thinking outside of the box, we do it by removing the box altogether and focusing on teaching students how to think vs what to think. The learning lab is held up by four pillars:

    Whole Child Learning: We are concerned about both academic learning and personal development. Confident, secure, emotionally healthy children are able to take risks when they learn because they look at failure as a tool for learning.

    Learning by Doing, Everyday: Hands on learning making use of mediums that help students express what they’ve learned using how they learn best.

    Tight Feedback Loop: Students do not need to wait days and weeks to find out whether or not they are mastering an objective. Frequent checks for understanding let the teacher and the student know if the delivery style is working or if a pivot needs to happen.

    No back door: Suspension and expulsions are not an option. Instead, Noble Minds will initiate a restorative justice approach to discipline that holds students accountable while keeping them in the building so that there is not a break in their learning.

    Noble Minds Institute for Whole Child learning truly believes that the personalized learning lab approach is an effective approach to meeting all students where they are and increasing their proficiency.