By Dennis Littky with Samantha Grabelle
by Eliot Levine, Tom Peters (Afterword by Dennis Littky & Elliot Washor)
by Elliot Washor & Charles Mojkowski
Advisor Guide 101
PDF Format, 444 pages
An introduction to the structures, processes, and goals of a Big Picture Learning school. This guide is designed for 9th grade and/or new advisors.
Using Big Picture Learning’s ten distinguishers as a basis for organization, the Advisor Guide 101 is a comprehensive introduction and handbook that helps prepare new advisors for their role within their Big Picture school community. The main purpose of this guide is to give advisors an essential background in the Big Picture design and provide creative ideas at their fingertips to help ease the transition into their new position. It is chock full of learning tools, explanatory language, activity suggestions, forms to assist in student and advisor organization, as well as educational theory and pedagogical know-how.
Advisor Guide 201
PDF Format, 255 pages
To be used in tandem with Advisor Guide 101, this volume contains additional curricular resources as well as guiding information about the culminating event of a Big Picture student’s tenth grade year: the Gateway exhibition.
Advisor Guide 201 uses Big Picture’s ten distinguishers as a basis for organization, and builds upon the knowledge gained as a first year advisor. It focuses on the ways in which a student can change and grow as a learner from ninth to tenth grade, and provides learning tools, pedagogy, and activities to help support that process of maturation. The main focus of this guide is Gateway – the process of acceptance into eleventh grade that each tenth grader undergoes.
A process that aids growth as well as a way to evaluate it, each tenth grader is aware of their personalized requirements for Gateway early in the year and is asked to demonstrate the completion of these requirements by their Gateway exhibition at the end of the school year. This guide helps elucidate the ways an advisor works with a student to create, attain, and achieve success in the Gateway process.
Learning Through Interest Coordinator Guide
PDF Format, 202 pages
This guide presents Big Picture’s rationale for the necessity of real world learning, lays the foundation of the Learning through Interest element within its educational design, and guides the user through the interest exploration and internship processes.
The concept of Real World Learning necessitates a deep understanding of the student and intentionality in planning and reflection. People master skills and learn knowledge when they either have a clear need for it or when they have an innate curiosity about it and/or interest in it. Real World Learning can take many forms, but the cornerstone of the Real World Learning pedagogy at Big Picture schools is the Learning through Interest internship program. The Big Picture’s LTI program has im¬portant differences from traditional intern¬ship programs which are designed to train students for specific jobs or move students forward on specific career paths; instead, the LTI is designed to provide the student with an opportunity to learn across all of the Learning Goals while working closely with an adult with similar interests. The LTI Program philosophy is soundly based in research which demonstrates that we learn best when we are motivated to learn; and we are motivated to learn when what we are learning about is real, and we are passionate about its pursuit. Thus, the LTI search and placement is a very personal process during which the Learning Plan team helps the student look deeply within herself to find out what objects, ideas, or questions are of interest to her. This interest is then given primary importance in guiding the internship process.
Big Picture Learning uses the LTI as a real world opportunity for students to learn from the interplay of hand/body and mind, and to learn from the interaction between the individual and the world around her, to learn from the messiness of real world planning, critical thinking and problem solving.
PDF Format, 48 pages
Designed for mentors entering into the mentor/mentee relationship in a Big Picture school. What are the philosophies surrounding our internship program? What is a mentor’s role imagined to be? How is a mentor asked to be involved in a student’s learning?
At Big Picture Schools we believe that education is everyone’s business. Learning opportunities are everywhere, not just inside classrooms. Research tells us that we learn best when we’re personally motivated; and when we have a passion for what we are doing, knowledge unfolds and evolves naturally. A mentor gives each student the opportunity to learn from an adult with a similar interest, and the focus on real work in a professional setting gives the student’s learning context and depth. Through genuine relationships, mentors teach a work ethic and model what it means to be an adult member of our community.
This guide will help elucidate the processes and responsibilities associated with being a mentor within a Big Picture Learning school, as well as help provide a foundation for understanding why we believe the real world is the best place for authentic learning to take place.
Big Picture Learning Cycle Reference Guide
PDF Format, 144 pages
Designed for students (but extremely useful for anyone new to Big Picture’s design), this guide identifies and clearly explains six major elements of Big Picture learning and how they intersect.
The Big Picture Learning Cycle can be broken down into the following six stages after starting with your interests and passions as a foundation for learning:
1. Make it work for you: the learning plan
2. Pursue your passions: internship placement
3. Make it real: Learning through Internship
4. Organize and do it
5. Exhibit it
6. Reflect and assess it
This guide breaks each element down into easy-to-understand parts. It provides specific student examples to lend a basis of understanding to each piece of the learning cycle as well as uses inquiry as a tool to challenge the learner to expand his/her understanding of the process. Although the learning cycle is fluid and dynamic, this guide is essential in understanding the interplay of its parts.
Big Picture Learning Advisor Guide 101
PDF Format, 85 pages
This advisor guide is based on the work and practice of Big Picture Learning network of schools since their beginning in 1996. It is an introduction to the structures, processes and goals of a Big Picture Learning School, and is designed for new advisors. As always, Big Picture materials are always evolving and incorporating the best work of our schools. We’ve included resources here from the many schools across our network, and you can find even more materials in the other advisor guides, which go deeper with each specific topic: Learning Plans, Projects, Assessment, K-8 Work, Quantitative Reasoning and Real World Learning. We encourage you to share your resources, and look for resources on the Knowledge Exchange, Big Picture’s online materials archive. Here, you can search for and download lessons, activities, organizational materials, samples of student work, and all-around best practices—and you can share your own with the network!
Big Picture Learning Assessment Guide
PDF Format, 117 pages
Learning at a Big Picture Learning School is a process that is substantiated with quality products. There are high expectations for each student at a Big Picture Learning School. The criteria of assessment are individualized to the student and the real world standards of a project (as gauged by experts in the community). The learning plan determines the individual standards to which the student is held accountable. This is informed by knowledge of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, the specific goal(s) attempted, and expert opinions from the learning team (mentor, advisor, student and parent/guardian) about the what quality work means for that student in that project. Students engaged in this process at Big Picture Learning Schools are not assessed only by tests. They are evaluated by a process defined during the Learning Plan Meeting, against standards that are individualized, clear, and rigorous. The assessments at a Big Picture Learning School include public exhibitions (one per marking period) that track growth, progress, and quality work in the learning plan and academic depth in the learning goals; weekly check-in meetings with advisors; weekly journals,; yearly presentation portfolios; and transcripts. Gateways for students’ progress are between 5th/6th & 7th, between 8th & 9th grade, between 10th and 11th grade and at graduation.
Big Picture Learning Family and Community Engagement Guide
PDF Format, 33 pages
Think of your Big Picture Learning school as the hub on a wheel. Your hub connects the separate spokes of students, families, mentors, businesses, organizations and individuals in the community. Through careful outreach and clear communication, you can make strong connections that will serve your students and the community well, and your wheel will roll forward smoothly! In this guide, we will examine proven strategies for developing solid relationships with all stakeholders. We’ve divided this guide into resources and materials for families, and those for community. You’ll see, however, that there is definitely overlap between the two. Our schools make a practice of inviting the voices of their community, and providing opportunities for involvement—to students, families, mentors, community leaders, businesses, educational institutions, and organizations.
Big Picture Learning K-8 Advisor Guide
PDF Format, 80 pages
We’ve developed a K-8 guide to address some of the scaffolding and modifications which may be necessary when working with our youngest students toward student-directed project work. The Big Picture Learning design, however, is flexible enough to use at every grade level. The BPL distinguishers are intentionally planned to be adapted for every grade level, to insure that each student has a personalized learning experience that is tied to his/her own interests, passions and growth areas. Much of the material in the other advisor guides is applicable to advisors teaching in the K-8 environment. You may just need to adapt some of the lessons for the developmental age group that you are working with. There are some significant ways that K-8 students differ from secondary students, and these differences need to be taken into account when designing Big Picture Learning schools that serve these students. Younger students need additional support in designing their own learning – advisors must more intentionally plan day-to-day activities and exposing students to new topics, ideas and content, while also building up student ability and autonomy with regards to project work. You can consider the breakdown of work in the following graphic. Students use Learning Plans to dictate their work, and their work is a combination of independent and directed experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Big Picture Learning Post Secondary Planning Guide
PDF Format, 92 pages
Big Picture Learning schools show deep faith in all students’ abilities to make good decisions in assembling their post-high school plans. We also believe that college should be an opportunity that is available to all students if they so choose to attend. Big Picture Schools expose students to the variety of professional, academic, and social paths available to be pursued after high school; and plan students’ academic course in order to maximize students’ post-high school opportunities. Big Picture Learning believes that all students should be afforded the opportunity to attend an institution of higher education if they so choose. By developing challenging individual learning plans, organizing student visits to colleges, educating families about the college application and financial aid processes, and building relationships with local colleges, Big Picture schools are cultivating our students’ readiness for the challenges of post-high school study. All Big Picture school students are required to take college entrance exams and apply to at least one college or post-secondary school program. No matter what their chosen course, Big Picture Schools require all students to develop post-high school plans that contribute to the future success of the student – be it through college, a professional internship, travel, trade school, the military, or the workforce.
Big Picture Learning Professional Development Tools & Resources Guide
PDF Format, 152 pages
How can staff development best be organized? It’s a question of what is most important, and how it can best be accomplished. It is also important to look at building the leadership capacities of your staff. Remember that development is about growth, advancement and moving forward. Staff development includes the work that we do to build together and to grow individually. Good professional development is challenging and energizing. When you leave a worthwhile professional development event, you feel full of both ideas and energy. This guide will provide both philosophy and examples for powerful professional development. We’ll talk generally about your approach to professional development, and we’ll get specific about practices around particular content and aspects of your program. We will examine what sets Big Picture schools apart, in terms of structure and approach to professional development and we will provide concrete examples of what this work can look like. We’ve collected approaches from across the network around what works in our schools in order to motivate, to plan, to analyze and to reflect. We have approached topics in terms of priorities, and also chronologically. We begin with what makes good leaders, move on to what makes good staff, and always maintain focus on our students, as we determine what good professional development can be. Our hope is that this guide will provide you with both inspiration and tools for your work.
Big Picture Learning Projects Guide
PDF Format, 180 pages
Project work is a basic building block of the Learning Plan. Projects are framed by a proposal and timeline and have specific goals or outcomes associated with them. Good projects contain the five A’s: authenticity, adult relationships, active learning, academic rigor (deep use of the Learning Goals), and assessment. Students should document the process of their project as well as any products they create. This documentation is saved in the student’s portfolio. There are two major categories of projects: LTI projects and independent projects. The LTI project is a main focus of work and learning at a Big Picture school. It is a project that directly benefits the LTI site. Independent projects have many elements in common with LTI projects, but do not involve an LTI site or LTI mentor. This type of project is appropriate for a student who would like to explore an additional interest outside of his or her LTI, or a student who does not yet have an LTI placement. All projects should contain a real-world product, an investigation of deeper questions and a reflection on the process. We’ll go more in-depth with other various types of projects in the sections to follow.
Big Picture Learning Quantitative Reasoning Guide
PDF Format, 120 pages
In Big Picture Learning Schools, we want our students to understand how to problem solve utilizing a variety of skills and knowledge. We want students to know how to reason, problem-solve and be cooperative members of the community. This belief is why we have structured our learning around five broad learning goals. Traditionally, Quantitative Reasoning and Empirical Reasoning have been an area of difficulty for some advisors. Which is where this resource guide comes in. The QR and ER learning goals are designed to help students think quantitatively and empirically, not as a math and science replacement. There are math and science facts, and then there is quantitative and empirical thinking. We want students to develop both, with an emphasis on the thinking skills, since that is what will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Big Picture Learning Real World Learning Guide
PDF Format, 152 pages
Students learn and work best when they are passionate and interested in what they are doing. Having students explore their interests is an important step in helping them figure out who they are and what kinds of work and learning will motivate them. Interest exploration isn’t just for students who haven’t identified their interests. It is an ongoing and lifelong process. Over the course of four years, students will develop many new interests and ideas based on the experiences, explorations and opportunities they’ve had. Through the process of Real World Learning, students explore new things and identify their interests. Students also expand their interests and challenge themselves in new ways. By taking advantage of as many opportunities as they can, they will develop work that they are truly passionate about. Advisors help enrich a student’s experiences, work to find outside resources, connect students with projects and programs, and help students find work they are passionate about. Advisors need to know their students’ interests and help them develop new ones through exposure to new ideas, fields and experiences.
Big Picture Learning Recruiting and Supporting Advisors and Staff Guide
PDF Format, 158 pages
What could be more important than staff support? Debbie Meier, the well-known educator who founded Central Park East Secondary School, once said, “Show me a school where the teachers are learning, and I’ll show you a school where the students are learning.” It’s the principal’s responsibility to make sure the staff is learning and thriving, that they are receiving the coaching, guidance and resources they need to help kids. This guide provides some suggestions for staff recruitment, and staff supervision and evaluation. Professional Development is covered in a separate Principal Guide. Approach your staff with the Big Picture School idea: “One at a time.” Especially as your school is beginning, it is important to build a dynamic, diverse, and committed team. The recruitment and application process should be organized to get to know the prospective advisors well, and for those people to get to know you and your school well. Avoid the trap of hiring people that you do not really know. Make sure the candidates understand what Big Picture Learning Schools stand for, and what their responsibilities will be. Relationships are at the heart of Big Picture Learning Schools-- relationships that create a powerful environment for learning. You need a staff that is able to develop these relationships and translate them into learning for students. The following are designed to help with staff recruitment and selection.
Big Picture Learning School Structures, Systems & Culture Guide
PDF Format, 106 pages
Whether you are starting a school from scratch, transitioning an existing school into the Big Picture Learning Design, or seeking to improve upon your existing Big Picture school, there are many things you must think about. Big Picture Learning schools are designed to be small, in part so that the principal will get to know each student in the school well. Knowing the students, staff and community well is the principal’s foundational work. This is a departure from the traditional role of principal as manager. In Big Picture Learning schools, we ask principals to be advocates for all students, and to support staff in order to serve students. You will also be asked to continue to align aspects of your school with district, state and federal requirements, and sometimes it can be challenging to serve both students and the bureaucracy. We ask that you make all decisions for your school in the best interest of students, and that students are the lens at all times for how you view the work. This guide will provide ideas and structures aligned with the Big Picture Learning Distinguishers and will provide guidance as you begin to design and implement your own Big Picture Learning school.
The Role of Noncognitive Skills for Student Success
PDF Format, 120 pages
As educators deeply invested in the effectiveness of public education, we often find ourselves measured against outcomes determined by political, media, and social influences. Public policy, large businesses, federal and state mandates, and district and school leaders influence what “students need to know” and how to measure these outcomes. A stream of buzzwords surrounds this discourse: 21st Century Skills, academic mindsets, critical thinking skills, Common Core Standards, noncognitive variables, social-emotional intelligence, STEM, STEAM, character development. Each of these terms carries political and social implications, different understandings of the purpose of public education, and an array of implications for what we do in the classroom and how the public holds teachers, schools, and districts accountable to student outcomes. We have seen too many reform efforts focus more on the alignment and accountability components of student outcomes and less on the ways in which we make these outcomes relevant to our students and educators. Further, many reform initiatives fail to make research-based connections between the outcomes they propose and how students perform after high school.
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