Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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Exemplary exams

The Learning Commons will be buzzing with productivity this week.

As our 7th – 12th Graders prepare for their semester exams, I am struck by the value of cumulative assessments (which force students to consider connective strands and transcendent themes from several months worth of material) and group study (in which students lean on each other for expertise, motivation, and study strategies).

Our teachers design exams that take advantage of both these dynamics – doing all they can to measure not just regurgitational capacity (the ability to vomit data consumed earlier) but rather critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and (that most valuable of skills these days) the capacity to find meaningful patterns in a flurry of facts.

Among the bloggers I follow is Will Richardson, who spoke at DA in 2011 (click here to see MS Digital Learning Coordinator Karl Schaefer’s thoughts on Will’s presentation).

I like Richardson’s ideas about the difficulty of measuring what really matters about learning. The graph above appeared with a pair of posts on the topic. An excerpt:

We have a case to make, I think, for valuing the immeasurable over that which can be easily measured, and that the powerful role that schools can play now is not delivering that narrow curriculum (which is now in a million places) but in developing the skills and dispositions or the “opportunity to participate in civic and deliberative discussions” which, at the end of the day, is kinda hard to machine score. It’s not an easy case to make in this world of competition and ranking and sorting. But it is where our real value is now.

As online learning options grow ever better and more accessible, DA is striving to do what computers and distance education arrangements alone can’t match: tuning into individual children, drawing out peculiar creativity, connecting learners in real time and space, and building a human (or better yet, humane) community.

Posted by in Middle School, Upper School on Sunday December, 15, 2013


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