Workshop #4: Iteration and Packaging

PUBLISHED: July 4, 2016 - 5:20 a.m. EST

THE BIG IDEA: This is the penultimate Workshop of the first Sci-Ed learning cycle. Fellows are working towards a final Window into the Classroom (WIC) product to share with a public audience at the Sci-Ed Showcase. As such, the bulk of this Workshop supports Fellows’ revision of their in-process work. This support includes collaborative feedback, group discussion of reactions to the public presentation, and mini-workshops focusing on presentation technology, narrative structure, and public speaking. By the end of this session Fellows will have worked through multiple iterations of their WIC in preparation for the Showcase.

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There are always loose ends at the end of this workshop. Fellows continue to lean on one another and their Master Fellow coaches for support as they refine their WICs in the time between this workshop and the Showcase. Given the time constraint of the presentation, some Fellows struggle with the idea that the story they tell only offers a partial view into their classroom. These Fellows want to share their entire professional output and pack the WIC with unnecessary details and irrelevant tangents. Challenging this impulse is a key task of Master Fellow coaches in preparation for the Sci-Ed Showcase.

Here are the key learning activities and work processes of Workshop #4:

1. Icebreaker and Opening Circle. Because public presentations naturally provoke anxiety, the icebreaker is a modified Hopes and Fear protocol, aimed at inviting all members of the group to talk at the start of the Workshop. At this point in the program, natural subgroups have formed. Fellows who teach the same subject or work at the same school have bonded in feeling and outlook and often sit together. The icebreaker works to unite the whole group and supports talking among all members. In the circle, each Fellow shares a hope or fear related to the upcoming Showcase. This activity leads naturally to an open-ended discussion in the circle. Fellows name emotions that are surfacing and discover that they are not alone. The facilitator asks the group questions such as: What is it like to hear peoples’ hopes and fears? Does anyone share the same feeling? A different feeling? It is not necessary to fully explore everything that comes up; the closing circle often touches upon themes that surface in the opening circle. The purpose of the opening circle is to validate feelings, help Fellows get connected to one another, and to better understand who may need additional support throughout the day.   

Finally, the group revisits its agreements. Which agreements are working so far? Which agreements need tweaking? How come? Even if Fellows do not want to modify group agreements, they may want to talk about them as another way to surface emotions about how the group is working together to meets its goals.

2. WIC Vetting. Fellows get help tuning their WIC presentations in their small coaching groups. Each Fellow presents for 30 minutes. First, the presenter showcases the in-process WIC and provides a focus question for the group such as, How can I strengthen my ‘Tips’? Fellows synthesize their reactions using the WIC vetting tool to organize feedback. Fellows then ask clarifying questions of the presenter in order to obtain information that would help them understand the context of the WIC. Clarifying questions are “fact” questions, such as How many students are in your class?. Next, Fellows provide the presenter with warm and cool feedback in rounds (one comment per fellow per round until all feedback is given). Warm feedback consists of comments about how the WIC meets the goals of Showcase. Cool feedback consists of comments about possible disconnects, gaps, or problems with the WIC. Once all Fellows have delivered feedback, the whole group engages in open dialogue. The overall goal of this process is for each Fellow to understand how to tell a clearer, more concise story.

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Fellows use the remainder of the morning to review feedback, identify actions to take to make changes to their WICs, and collaborate with other Fellows or Master Fellows Coaches. Fellows also complete WIC information forms for the Showcase Program and AM Workshop Feedback. Fellows are in different stages of the WIC creation process throughout the morning and Master Fellow coaches provide support to Fellows with this knowledge in mind.

3. Afternoon Work Session. The afternoon is a loosely structured space for Fellows to modify their WICs. Because each WIC requires both a live presentation at the Sci-Ed Showcase and a digital screencast to be uploaded to the Sci-Ed WIC library, Fellows’ needs vary greatly. Fellows uncomfortable with technology require personal assistance with presentation and screencasting software. Fellows with limited experience in public presentation need help with narrative flow, timing, language, and message clarity. Fellows are self-directed in their iteration process. Targeted support is offered, but ultimately each Fellow decides how to organize this time. The group may choose to self-organize by need, but Fellows are not pressured to join a group.

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4. Logistics and Closing Circle. To close the day, Fellows walk through the Sci-Ed Showcase and revisit themes from the opening circle. Fellows are reminded that the Showcase consists of four parts: a setup and opening circle for Fellows, a presentation and frame for a public audience, WIC presentations, and a closing circle. Fellows ask questions about the actual WIC presentation structure and are reminded that the audience is invited to move around to multiple presentation rooms. Fellows are reminded to upload screencasted versions of the WICs, scripts, and slideshows to be used during live presentations to individual Sci-Ed portfolios so that Master Fellow coaches have an opportunity to review work and provide feedback.

The closing circle runs for 30 minutes and considers the social-emotional dynamics surrounding presentations. This conversation started during the previous Workshop, continued during the opening circle, and has been revisited throughout the day among Fellows and Master Fellow coaches. Experiences at the Workshop will have quelled some fears and raised others. Conversely, many Fellows have discovered new hopes during their working process and have gotten in touch with the excitement of presenting their work. In addition to to validating these feelings and making a space to talk about what has come up, Fellows are invited to imagine the parallels between this learning space and their classrooms.   

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Fellows’ anxieties mirror a larger organizational anxiety caused by the Sci-Ed Showcase. Is this an event to present perfect, polished products of truly innovative democratic STEM pedagogy? Or is this an event that provides a safe space for educators to enter into conversations about the incredible growth they are experiencing, even if this growth is not immediately apparent to a public audience? As with the emotions expressed during the opening and closing circles, classifying WIC presentations as “good” or “bad” at the Showcase misses the larger purpose.

WICs are in-process solutions. They are expressions of the developing professional capital of talented STEM teachers in NYC. It is true that they offer inspirational ideas for effective democratic teaching practices. But at core, they are messages to the larger STEM education community about the importance of systematic thinking about improvement and constant collaborative dialogue among classroom teachers.

Teachers so often feel alone, and this is a tragedy. WICs are levers that foster community by telling stories that normalize the reality of teaching historically marginalized youth in urban environments. Sci-Ed Fellows, then, are lever builders. Educators working this capacity are in a position to build effective networked improvement communities and understand how to scale innovative solutions to problems of practice in historically underserved schools. As Fellows continue to work on the WICs that they will present at the Sci-Ed Showcase, they are working to fulfill this larger social justice mission.

Keywords: Networked Communities, Iteration, Tuning, Norming, Vetting, Computer Science

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