This was one of my goals this year. I wanted to run a Presentation of Learning (POL), High Tech High style. Post experience, it’s got to be one of the most valuable things I’ve done in years.
The day started off pretty rough – students pulling out, panel members not showing up etc. Then, our first speaker gets up. She’s shaking. The moment she starts speaking, all of my expectations go out the window. This is not an academic speech. She tells us about how she was a year ago, about how her personal confidence has grown as a result of this class and lists the factors that have built her as a person. She breaks down crying, and it’s not long before the class follows. She was amazing.
She set the trend for the day. Students who had pulled out or never volunteered were suddenly asking to do impromptu speeches. Whilst most of our speakers discussed their academic growth, four others delved into the more personal throughout the day and had the audience in tears. The kids took over the Q+A section, praising the speakers and asking questions throughout. The atmosphere shifted into this beautiful space, we had bonded from the shared experience. It was amazing.
Whilst I don’t believe every POL would be like this, how could it? I do feel that when you give students time and a platform, when you say we want to hear about YOU, you never know where the experience will go. And that in itself is powerful.
The set up
From what I can gather High Tech High shuts down for a day and devotes their time to their POL’s. Parents come in and students are allocated a session for their presentation. I wanted to replicate this as best I could, and my amazingly supportive head teacher backed the attempt.
I selected a class that had had the most project exposure over my 15 weeks at the school and offered it as an optional task. This was the hitch. This year group had completed all of their assessments for the year, and given this was a personal experiment I was essentially asking them to do a speech, that no one else had to do, for what? Fun? I introduced the purpose of the POL:
- Experience in metacognition
- All about you: take time to consider yourself as a learner, what works for you and what doesn’t.
- A safe place to practice speaking skills, take risks with the worlds most supportive audience.
As an incentive, we made up Golden Tickets that would grant participants entry into the class of their choice in 2018. This proved a massive draw card. I also catered the day to make it feel a little exclusive.
Criteria for Success
I’d given them a run down on my overall purpose and vision, but what they wanted was a clear checklist – what do we actually need to do? We negotiated a checklist that all speakers would have to cover. It came down to four things:
We had a panel to mark the girls and add an air of formality to the occasion. I contacted the University of Wollongong and they sent out an invite to their pre service teachers.
One of the pieces of evidence a lot of the girls referred to was their goal setting. I hadn’t realised how powerful this experience was for them. We’d had several growth coaching sessions over the term, and as part of this they’d made little goal sheets as a visual reminder. On them, they wrote questions they wanted people to ask them to remind them of their goals.
I can’t describe how powerful this event was. My only regret was that we did it at the end of the year, something to work on for 2018…
Presentations of Learning: Student voices