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Transforming Student Task: A Message from Superintendent Dr. Glass

Transforming Student Task: A Message from Superintendent Dr. Glass
Posted on 02/16/2018

Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass“Keep the main thing the main thing – learning.” Those were the words in our vision statement, Jeffco Generations, released last fall. We do this by working to transform the student learning experience – making learning engaging, authentic, and genuine. For most people, this all sounds good, but what does this shift look like and how do we do it?

Recently, I had the chance to talk with about 350 educators from our alternative education campuses. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to see one of these teachers in action, alternative education professionals are veritable edu-ninjas when it comes to changing student experiences. And they have to out of necessity; students who attend alternative education settings are looking for learning experiences that engage them and connect directly to life outside of school.

We talked about the district-wide efforts to transform what we call student task. Task refers to the point in any lesson where the teacher hands things over to the students and asks them to practice something, to solve a problem, or to complete an assignment. This is the moment where the student engages in the learning by doing something themselves.

There are all sorts of tasks educators can assign to students – some quite good, and others not so much. When we talk about the importance of transforming students task, a common stumbling block I often hear from educators is that they “get it” and understand the importance of the shift, but they don’t necessarily know how to do that, or how to even start doing it regularly.

At the meeting with alternative educators, I provided the first five ideas in my presentation, and then we had a brief discussion. The group also came up with some great ideas on changing student task.

  1. Give Students Choices. Choices in how they respond to an assignment, choices in how they demonstrate their learning, and choices in how (and if) they will collaborate with others, for example. By intentionally designing opportunities for students to make choices, we engage them more in learning, teach them to have a voice, and teach them about choices and consequences.
  2. Design for the Chance to Practice Skills. The Generations document outlines a set of well-established skills students need to be successful in this fast-moving global economy. Consider designing student tasks that intentionally require students to do things like adapt to changing conditions, create something, mastering content, or practicing their responsibilities as an engaged citizen.
  3. Connect it to Life (Authentic). Redesign tasks that have direct meaning and connection to life outside of school. Find problems and projects in the community that align with the concepts and content in a subject area or course, and use those as opportunities to bring learning to life.
  4. Solve Problems for Which There is No “Right” Answer. Create tasks that require students to weigh costs and benefits, pros and cons, and to understand that there are multiple perspectives from which we can see problems and potential solutions. In the most interesting problems, there are not necessarily “correct” answers; there are a set of opportunities and choices from which we have to work and design.
  5. Share the Outcomes of the Work. Provide students opportunities to share their work with each other, with other students, with their parents, and with the larger community (or even the world). There is no greater accountability than public critique.

Our alternative education professionals also came up with a great list of ways to transform student task, and all these ideas are great for any classroom. Visit my blog at to see how they added to the list!

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