Monday, May 11, 2015

Big New Idea: Next Generation Instructional Design

Next Generation Instructional Design (abbreviated as NextGen ID or NGID) is an ambitious new education effort underway in Kentucky, and I've spent part of the morning reading up.  Here, I'll offer short basics gleaned from the project webpage, followed by my own italicized notes on why each element seem important.

In daily student experience, NGID learning units will provide new opportunities for "project-based and problem-based learning," designed to develop high levels of knowledge, skill, and understanding and meet Kentucky's academic standards.  
The project/problem part means students themselves will be actively figuring out how to use what they learn, and they'll do the learning in ways that make its usefulness clear from the beginning.  The standards part means it will be the right kind of challenge, equipping them with capacities they can use for further achievement in college, careers, and community participation. Overall, this is a new push toward learning approaches that students often find meaningful, engaging, effective, and (dare I say it?) fun.
In daily teacher experience, these units will provide useful tools and common assignments for helping students learn, designed with built-in ways to check whether the learning is on track.
That's also great.  It's a plan to help educators with the demanding new expectations we've asked them to take on.  "Common assignments" also means they're designed for teachers to be able to collaborate with one another on development, implementation, and examining the resulting work to think about best next steps for students.  And, of course, engaged students are far less likely to cause  behavioral problems, so this sort of approach can also promises help with the whole discipline/classroom management challenge that teachers must address in order to support student learning.
Meanwhile, data on student growth is going to be essential for Kentucky's new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System. The NextGen ID effort will also examine how "student work samples and other artifacts may provide information related to educator effectiveness to complement, supplement or provide alternatives to existing test-based measures of student performance."
 In other words, there's hope that the work students turn in can be used for teacher evaluations.  If this succeeds, it will mean that judgments don't have to rely solely on assessments that measure only a fraction of what we really want students to know and be able to do: it'll be possible to look at fully-applied, hands-on, very-nearly-real-world use of students' knowledge and skills. It's a chance to get most closer to what students have really learned and much closer to what teachers have really achieved.
The work is also new and starting quite small.  Coordinated by the Fund to Transform Education, it involves about 60 Kentucky educators working to think through how the units can be used and what kind of impact they will have, while developing the skills to lead the development of additional units and help colleagues put the units to work across the state.
The good news there is that the plan is to move at the pace that allows deep work and lay good foundations for effective expansion in the years ahead.  The limiting factor is that moving at that pace means this exciting effort launch in all schools right away: it'll take patience and commitment to see how richly we can put it to work statewide.
For added information on NextGen ID, check out the Fund's webpage and press release, and for a livelier idea of the kinds of work these units may involve, check out this recent Kentucky Teacher report on the common assignment work begun in 2013.

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