How will you invest in your learning this year?

This year, we’re exploring different ways of bringing deeper learning into action in our classrooms. This is the first of four thematic kits you’ll receive this fall – containing books, provocations and more – to help you experiment with methods for deeper teaching.

In August and September, we invite you to explore your relationship with your teaching practice, with your academic discipline, and with your young people using the provocations in this kit. You can engage with these experiments independently or in collaboration with your department teams. In the spirit of directing your own learning, you will choose how to use these materials in service of your own goals.

This month’s kit comes in three parts:

A shared collection of department-specific materials that are meant to affirm and inspire your relationship with the subject you teach. Each of these offers a unique way of exploring what it means to practice your subject in action, not just study it.

A card deck of three experiments related to this month’s theme. You’ll add to this collection of experiments in each of the subsequent kits.

A copy of “In Search of Deeper Learning,” which is the foundation of our inquiry into how to engage young people in learning experiences that stick.

Preparing for December 8:

On December 8, the whole faculty will reconvene for a showcase called “Show Your Work” where you will share which experiments you’ve tried in your classroom, and how they went. Consider saving examples of the work below in anticipation of the showcase.

Experiment: Prepare a teaching statement that describes your beliefs about teaching and learning, and the ways that you activate those beliefs in your classroom. Learn more about the purpose and composition of a teaching statement here.

“If at all possible, your statement should enable the reader to imagine you in the classroom, teaching. You want to include sufficient information for picturing not only you in the process of teaching, but also your class in the process of learning.” – Helen G. Grundman, Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement

A Teaching Statement can address any of the following:

  • Your conception of how learning occurs
  • A description of how your teaching facilitates student learning
  • A reflection of why you teach the way you do
  • The goals you have for yourself and for your students
  • How your teaching enacts your beliefs and goals
  • What, for you, constitutes evidence of student learning
  • The ways in which you create an inclusive learning environment
  • Your interests in new techniques, activities, and types of learning

Find examples here and here.

Now what?

  • Share your teaching statements as a department team. Discuss your common and divergent beliefs, and how you might support each other in bringing your beliefs to life in your classroom
  • Share it with your students and their families: Invite them into conversation about your goals for your own teaching practice.
  • Post it up! Put it in your classroom, or on a bulletin board, or share with interdisciplinary colleagues.
  • Experiment with different formats: Could you take excerpts and print them larger? Illustrate them?

Experiment: With your department team, create a set of profiles of professionals who work in your discipline. Use these profiles to spark new relationships with your field.

Who to profile: Find folks working outside of classrooms, doing the kind of work that you might expect someone who has a degree – or deep expertise – in your discipline might do.

  • Reach out to people in your own network: From college or grad school, former colleagues, friends of friends
  • Consider people affiliated with organizations in your community: Architects, business owners, civic leaders, journalists, plumbers, arborists, sailors, coaches, cartoonists, and more.
  • Look for “extreme” examples of folks who are doing this work in exceptional ways: MacArthur Fellows, Olympic athletes who have written about their journeys, famous artists, celebrity chefs.

What to ask: If you’re able to interview folks directly, consider asking some of these questions. If you’re not, consider searching for this information independently:

  • What is the nature of your day-to-day work? (This is meant to help us understand what the “whole game” looks like in their field.)
  • In what ways is your work is unique to the discipline you practice? Consider habits of mind, technical knowledge, and skills.
  • What “seminal learning experiences” prepared you for the field or ignited your interest?
  • How do you currently learn or advance your practice in your field?

Now what?

  • Share your profiles with your department team. Discuss: What does this make you think about the relationship between your classroom and “the field”? What would it look like to bring those two spaces closer together?
  • Consider the work that folks describe doing in the field. What would it look like to do that work in your classrooms?
  • How might the folks you profiled engage with you and your young people? And how might you engage with them this year?
  • How might you share these profiles with your students? Would it be helpful to invite them to prepare profiles of their own?

Experiment: Invite students to prepare a learning history that describes their relationship with your discipline, their hopes for their work with you, and their aspirations.

“What was the best moment you ever had in the classroom?”

“During my time in high school I had it really good moments, but my best moments that I’ve experienced are in a particular class during my senior year, in Sacramento, Calif. So I was basically a new student in these kind of classes and also I’m English learner. I remember my first presentation in this class. I didn’t want to do it, but finally I did it and that one was my best moment. When I went to present I felt afraid, and then when I presented I felt so good for the effort I applied on. Now I feel so much better than my first day of presentations because I now know that I can do whatever I want to do.”

– Leslie Servin (source)

A Learning History can address any of the following:

  • What comes to mind when you think back over the best, or worst, moments in the [science / English / Spanish / etc] classes you have taken in school?
  • What lessons, activities or assignments were especially memorable? Why?
  • Have you had any experiences outside of school where you have engaged with this subject in real life? (For example – joining a sports team, speaking Spanish with a neighbor, using math in an unexpected way)
  • Based on your experience, what advice would you give your teacher in this subject?
  • What are your hopes for this class?
  • What do you want your teacher to understand about how you learn best, especially related to this subject?

(Adapted from

Find examples here (a teacher’s version) and here. Additional prompts, here.

Now what?

  • Consider preparing your own learning statement and sharing it with your students
  • Respond to their learning statements through individual feedback, class conversation and/or by sharing out loud how the learning statements will inform the design of your class this year. (This is important so that students know they are heard, and that their personal experiences and preferences matter.)
  • Invite students to offer feedback on various aspects of your course that are flexible: For example, can students make meaningful choices about types of assessment, grading approaches, curriculum, or classroom norms?
  • Revisit the learning statements periodically to check in with how your course is responding to their past experiences