This past Spring, San Leandro Unified published its Graduate Profile, a document truly developed by the entire community, that outlines the skills and qualities of the ideal graduate of our schools. We can call it the North Star of our educational system. It carries the principles that will guide our work, and is the promise our school district makes to our students and community - it's what we promise to do for you.
So what does the graduate profile mean for Project Based Learning? Well, Project Based Learning aims to develop both academic skills and those less tangible assets we want our students to develop. For example, we want students to think critically, and we also want them to develop the flexibility to collaborate with people who have diverse perspectives.
We left the 2017-2018 school year wondering what the signs are that tell us that students are learning. Other than listening and looking for markers like use of academic terms or demonstration of specific skills, we didn't have the language to name the other competencies we were looking for.
The graduate profile fills this gap. It provides us all with the goals we can work towards and the language we can use to identify it when we see it. It also allows our teachers to more strategically design their teaching and learning experiences to build towards these outcomes. Let's look at an example.
San Leandro High School Physics teacher Nick Sigmon kicked off the 2018-2019 school year with a project focused on concussions. It's a physics project that allows students to learn about force, impact, and motion through the real-world context of football, head injuries, and safety. In this project, students develop and test designs for a football helmet that can reduce the amount of force and motion that impacts a person's head upon contact. The video here shows some of the teaching practices and learning experiences involved in the project. As you watch, see if you can identify some of the traits of our ideal graduate being developed through the project.
Here's what we notice:
Students are collaboratively constructing knowledge in the room with the support of the teacher; students are able to teach each other, and it's all done in a real-world context. Ultimately, the learning the student do transcends the classroom space, and prepares them for life beyond our high school community. SLUSD's Graduate Profile and Project Based learning work hand in hand; it's a tool that allows us to more intelligently design with the end in mind.