By Bill Madigan, AVID Staff Developer
“This has been one of the best and most useful professional developments I have attended in my 17 years of teaching. Not only were the activities great, but the structures implementing them were very illuminating.”– Andrew Elliott McBurney, participating teacher
A team of eight experienced AVID staff developers under the leadership of AVID Project Manager Kathy Arno came to expand and sharpen the tools of AVID on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas this past summer. In four collaborative teams of two, these trainers openly collaborated and planned across the disciplines throughout the year before the four-day College Readiness Institute. The team was inspired by an article which doubted the true efficacy of classroom lectures and another article which aimed at opening access to Advanced Placement courses. The team spent nearly a year creating and organizing high engagement strategies that mirror AVID and brain research together. Their intention was to model high engagement and practice active student involvement with rigorous curriculum that was aligned from the AP level to 6th grade.
Kathy Arno challenged the team to create this synthesis of rigor and high engagement so that many more students could access and remain engaged in challenging classes. Kathy shared, “We are here to give teachers the how of teaching more than the what.” Inspired by that direction, the team came up with the theme “Above and Beyond,” with the aim to truly transform how Honors, Pre-AP, and Advanced Placement classes are taught so that greater numbers of traditionally underserved students could gain access and then build the necessary academic skills to succeed in classes with greater rigor.
Rob Compton, one of the English trainers, said, “The power of the College Readiness Institute was that it blended philosophical discussion, brain-based research, and hands-on exploration of best strategies to empower educators to help their students reach greatest potential. The common denominator that bound each strand together was the content-specific application and an emphasis on high expectations for students, critical thinking, and affective approaches to student motivation.”
Some of the approaches that all the discipline teams shared were the expected “big rocks” of AVID: Cornell Way, Socratic Seminar, tutorial process, and Costa’s Levels of Thinking. In addition, the teams used less traditional involvement tools, such as Total Physical Response (TPR), where students are asked to interpret complex ideas through mime, dance, or gesture. Also known as “Text-Representation,” the use of visuals and graphic organizers added opportunities for creativity and critical inquiry around key content concepts. In Gary Kroesch and Kurt Dearie’s social science strand, participants presented a live performance of the key elements of Cornell Way through gestures and speaking. Karen Molloy and Julie Garrison in science had participants physically collide with each other as molecules.
Taking place on the magical campus of Rice, which just celebrated its centennial, added to the teams’ high expectations. Rice University collaborates with AVID Center in the college readiness initiative by developing some of the trainings and providing logistical support. The initiative provides training and workshops for educators and students in a consortium of 13 school districts in the Houston area. The College Readiness Institute is an important component of the initiative, targeting both content and pedagogical instruction for the teachers who help make students “college ready.”
The full team of experienced staff developers included: Stephanie Chippeaux and Frank Gidwani for math; Rob Compton and I for English; Gary Kroesch and Kurt Dearie for social science; and Karen Molloy and Julie Garrison for science. Everyone has shared their excitement about round two next summer aiming “Above and Beyond”!
Bill Madigan has been an educator for 25 years. He has taught emotionally disturbed and at-risk students, as well as Advanced Placement® learners. He has also been an AVID coordinator and elective teacher for 18 years. Bill has also been a Staff Developer both privately and with AVID for 18 years, teaching brain based learning, as well as English Language Learner best practices.