This series of blogs will summarize and highlight important portions of our recent white paper, The New York City DOE/CUNY Library Collaborative: Bridging the Gap Between High School and College, which you can view here.
The whitepaper presents the progression and processes of the New York Collaborative Curriculum Revision Project (CCRP), a collaborative of high school teachers, college faculty, and librarians formed to build upon the new Common Core State Standards and better prepare students for post-secondary success. The posts will include sections quoted from the white paper as well as our own editorial.
Part 6: Team Collaboration and an Agenda for Success
Team collaboration is imperative to the success of any venture. The Collaborative believes that their model of collaboration was successful and would work for any other programs hoping to bridge traditional institutional barriers.
In the second iteration of the working sessions, the CCRP teams held five two-hour meetings after the high school day was over. Sessions were held at convenient locations and, importantly, the facilitator circulated an agenda and supplemental materials in advance of each session.
In general, the sequence of discussions was:
1) developing a shared understanding of goals, challenges and teaching strategies;
2) introducing the existing high school curricular unit and reviewing related college-level expectations;
3) identifying opportunities to align the unit with college-level expectations;
4) creating activities to integrate engagement with complex readings; and
5) refining the revised unit and considering implementation.
After the first meeting, the sequence of work was able to develop organically as all members were willing to be flexible in determining how to accomplish the work. Group discussions led the teams to generate a list of experiences that would benefit the students in key areas, and college faculty provided sample texts which helped determine secondary readings that would benefit students.
After conducting several rounds of working sessions, the Collaborative learned there are a few things the sessions needed to accomplish:
- Establish a rapport among the participating educators;
- Encourage participants to empower themselves, rather than focusing on challenges;
- Allow enough time for the participants to think deeply about and accomplish their tasks while taking into account their already busy schedules
As a result of those keys, the Collaborative proposed four, 2-hour sessions, which eventually expanded to five sessions.
The following is a breakdown of the five sessions that can be used as a model agenda for community success:
Session 1 – “Thinking Session” – Share and discuss educational values and goals; articulate realities and challenges that face participants when attempting to meet their goals.
Session 2 – Identify and share best practices in teaching to address challenges to meeting goals established in Session 1; high school teachers present curricular unit; group “parks” their initial reflections/questions about unit on large notepads, for discussion in Session 3.
Session 3 – Review and discuss reflections/questions from Session 2; college faculty present an example assignment (including any readings) for comparison; group considers relationship between the two and articulates initial thoughts about possible ways to bring high school and college assignments into alignment. “Homework” assigned: participants will bring in materials/ideas to next Session that might be used to tweak high school unit.
Session 4 – New materials/activities for and approaches to unit considered; participants collaboratively develop any additional support objects (for example, a graphic organizer) that might be needed; revisions to unit are considered at a granular level.
Session 5 – Critically reflect on suggested revisions, additions to unit, support objects; participants consider the place of the unit within the larger objectives of the class; participants reflect on implications of the group’s work for first year pedagogy/assignment design at the college level.
The Collaborative found this five-session structure was much more effective than the original two-session approach, but participants still felt that there was more work to be done. Future iterations will unfold over multiple semesters, including sessions after the revised curriculum has been implemented.
About the Author
Geoff is a Renaissance man, who can often be found reading about obscure historical topics, working on cars, or debating world affairs. He comes from a family of teachers and has a BA in communications.