At Partnerships for Authentic Learning and Leadership, we believe that for teachers and students to embrace and fully implement authentic instructional strategies, leaders must support a system in the development of and devotion to a shared vision for learning and the student experience. These leaders are reflective and courageous enough to evaluate the systems, practices and policies that either support or detract from the full implementation of authentic instructional strategies.
Leaders recognize that traditional school systems are created with significant barriers to implementation and recognize that it is the role of leadership to remove the barriers. The Buckeye Valley School District Leadership Team (which includes teachers as instructional leaders) noted that their biggest takeaways from the Summer Institute were:
“The time spent with our team is more valuable than anything else. We are closer as a group because we understand the people we are working with.”
“Going as a team has helped us create a common language, gave us shared experiences to build off of and a little surprise and delight sure doesn’t hurt.”
Using this common language and shared vision has allowed Buckeye Valley leadership to make intentional decisions to remove barriers to authentic learning.
The curriculum, instruction and assessment team, led by Brian Orrenmaa, identified the following big buckets as areas that must be aligned with authentic learning strategies.
Curriculum adoptions must take authentic learning into account and enhance the strategy not detract from it.
Course alignment, vertically and horizontally, can and should be adopted to support authentic learning (subject integration and real-world problem-solving).
Shared leadership is a must - empower teacher voice in decision making.
Align financial decisions with the vision.
Set clear expectations regarding what authentic learning looks like and how it will be observed during instructional rounds while providing coaching support and building in more collaboration time for teachers.
Connect authentic learning to statewide initiatives such as workforce development through career shadowing, mentorships, real-world problem-solving, service-learning, and pre-apprenticeships.
Superintendent Paul Craft sums it up best by stating:
"The Summer Institute helped our instructional and administrative leadership teams in the development of a shared vision and voice based on a common understanding of the power of maximizing authentic learning opportunities for our students."