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September 30, 2022

Critical Transitions

How do we best support our 9th and 12th graders?
by Susannah Poland

Back in June, the Tang Institute hosted Reimagining Transitions: Reflections on Belonging, Curriculum, and Identity, a conference focused on the unique needs of our 9th and 12th grade students.

As we shared ideas about how to best support this subset of young people, a range of inspiring educators from eight schools led sessions on:

  • moving to a schoolwide Mastery Transcript curriculum
  • supporting trans and non-binary students
  • developing summer programs to help first-generation students
  • designing cross-course learning outcomes
  • reimagining 12th grade with interdisciplinary, place-based learning

Here’s what some of the 20 attendees had to say:

  • “The common theme for me in every presentation was what courageous work in education looks like. Each and every presentation highlighted [the] efforts being made to enhance the well-being of students in a variety of contexts and from a variety of angles. While my thinking is very much in alignment with the topics/programs presented, I am inspired to continue to do this challenging and courageous work, and I now have a new group of educators to reach out to for support and potential collaboration.”
  • “I was convinced that I probably could never get my 9th grade history core group to go without grades, but I am now convinced more than ever that that is the way that we need/have to go.”
  • “I used to think much more inside of a box but now I am thinking more expansively.”
  • “[The presentations] helped to reveal some of my blind spots.”
  • “I am looking forward to using ideas from the conference to be bolder and more creative.”

In addition, 10 conference attendees applied and were selected to participate in a year-long action research program led by Professor Rebecca Stilwell of Teachers College and supported by the Tang Institute. During the 2022-2023 academic year, participants will use collaborative research methods to learn about their home school from a systems perspective and generate changes to improve whole system performance and student outcomes. Selected researchers stayed after the close of the Reimagining Transitions conference for a session with Dr. Stilwell, during which she introduced the cycle of research: systems mapping, problem diagnosis, developing theories of improvement, making changes, and assessing results.

Dr. Stilwell, an organizational psychologist, will conduct three training sessions over the course of the 2022-2023 academic year, and researchers will meet monthly with a program assistant from the Tang Institute. In June 2023, researchers will share their work in an online symposium.

I used to think much more inside of a box, but now I am thinking more expansively.

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