Choosing from among myriad professional enrichment opportunities can be overwhelming for busy teachers. How is one session different — or better — than another? Organizers of the Project: WRIGHT Symposium, set for November 4 at the Dayton Regional STEM School (DRSS) Training Center, say they offer a teacher-driven seminar to serve a diverse audience of educators and community members. Jenn Reid, who teaches English to 10th- and 12th-graders at DRSS, is overseeing the symposium. We asked her to share details on the event:
Q: What is your role in the Project: WRIGHT Symposium?
A: I am coordinating the symposium for the third year in a row, which means I lead the planning team and make sure the event fulfills its mission — to share best practices among educators and reinvigorate our teaching.
Q: Who is this event targeted toward? What sets it apart from other continuing-education events for administrators, teachers and education students?
A: This event targets teachers, administrators, even educational researchers, community partners and policymakers. Most important, the Project: WRIGHT Symposium is professional development for educators designed by practicing educators, as opposed to a series of guest speakers who don’t face a classroom of students each day.
We also highly value the presence of community partners and our friends in higher education at the symposium. For example, last year, we were grateful to hear presentations from Drs. Nimisha Patel, Suzanne Franco and Christa Preston Agiro from Wright State University’s College of Education and Human Services and from Dr. Lisa Kenyon from WSU’s Department of Biological Sciences.
In another session, partners from Northrup Grumman, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Montgomery County Solid Waste District and UpDayton joined us for a panel discussion about connecting with community organizations to strengthen students’ learning.
Q: How is this year’s symposium different from past ones?
Additionally, we are reaching out to a wider audience of presenters and participants by offering free registration for independent STEM schools and for Wright State students.
Details are available on our website.
Q: What are the themes for this event?
A: We are looking for presentations that address the following topics:
- Project Based Learning: PBL is one of the main teaching methods used at DRSS and is gaining in popularity in the region. PBL involves engaging students in solving or responding to an authentic problem while learning essential course content, resulting in a final product that has a “life” beyond the classroom. At the symposium, we hope to hear about PBL projects happening in local districts, particularly at elementary schools. Additionally, teachers can share specific methods for supporting student collaboration throughout any PBL unit as well as ways of assessing student work or using models of work in the classroom to promote high-quality final products.
- Inquiry-Based Instruction: Encouraging students to find their own ways of investigating and solving problems flips traditional learning on its head. Rather than trying to find one answer to a question and then moving on, inquiry allows students to explore a topic in a way that often leads to more questions than answers. We would love to hear about methods for supporting students’ inquiry in the classroom or specific problems or simulations you have used with students.
- Community Partnerships: We couldn’t do what we do at DRSS without the assistance of local universities and industries that provide lessons and presentations to students, feedback and critique of student work, and that host our students for job shadowing and internships. We invite presentations involving teachers and a partner who investigate best practices for working together; we would love to hear from local partners about what they might offer to students and their teachers.
- Transforming School Culture: When school involves more projects, collaboration and inquiry, teachers, school leaders and parents all need to support students as they grow to be supportive and engaged in new ways. Presentations about school culture might discuss school-wide initiatives for promoting acceptance and tolerance to classroom strategies for helping students manage conflicts.
- What’s Next in STEM? Last year we explored the question “What is STEM,” and this year we would like to hear about new developments in STEM education including integration of technology into instruction and incorporating workforce development into STEM classrooms. We would also love to hear about exciting partnerships between STEM and humanities classrooms or new STEAM courses.
Q: How will the sessions be presented? Who, in general, will be the presenters?
A: Each session will last 50 minutes. Presenters might be a single teacher or a pair of teachers sharing a project or best practices, even leading participants through an activity or strategy they can use in their classrooms.
We also offer Tuning Protocols, a strategy that we use at DRSS to help us fine-tune the projects we are
planning. A Tuning Protocol allows a presenter to share a past or future project using a PowerPoint template and receive feedback from his or her peers in a highly structured session facilitated by a DRSS faculty member.
Our third session type is new — we will display “project glimpse” posters submitted by teachers that offer an overview of a unit of instruction in their classrooms. These posters will be used to inspire participants at a specific PBL brainstorming session to create authentic, meaningful learning experiences for students and will be viewed by all symposium guests during the lunch hour.
Q: What are your goals for this event?
A: We hope that participants will leave feeling energized and appreciated, inspired to try something new in their classrooms or schools, and better connected with a network of educators committed to authentic and meaningful learning experiences for our students.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the symposium?
A: The name of our symposium comes from the Joseph M. Shosh article “Wrighting: Crafting Critical Literacy through Drama” published in the September 2005 issue of English Journal. We were particularly taken by the following words in the article:
“A wright is someone who builds or constructs something. … When students wright knowledge in a classroom, they embark on a journey to search for truth. Their inquiry leads them to try on different masks as they examine characters, actions, and obstacles and, in turn, they learn more about themselves. They wrestle with real problems and find their voices emerge as they develop solutions to those problems. … Through conscious reflection and struggle, they construct new understandings that lead to new rounds of inquiry and new rounds of wrighting.”
Inspired by the quote, we developed the acronym using the term WRIGHT: When Real-World Innovation Guides High-Quality Teaching.
Finally, registration is discounted until October 22, so register early. The day includes a catered lunch, too — we know that teachers like to eat!
Register for the symposium here.