OTL Mini Grant Supports Authentic Assessment Project
Dr. Yolanda Anyon and Heather Kennedy were awarded a One New Thing mini grant to support an innovation in the Community and Positive Youth Development (CPYD) course offered by the Graduate School of Social Work. The course provides students an opportunity to learn about evidence-based, strengths focused approaches to working with children and adolescents. Prior to the One New Thing award, the major assignment for the course was for students to create a mock lesson plan for a hypothetical after school program. One challenge with this assignment was that students struggled to integrate anti-oppressive approaches and cultural considerations into their lesson plans. There were also several limitations to this assignment format. First, without an audience for the students’ work, the assignment lacked relevance and real world applicability. Second, the lessons were not connected to each other, so students did not learn how to sequence and scaffold learning opportunities for youth.
To address these challenges, Anyon and Kennedy brainstormed ways the course assignment could be improved, deciding that many of the challenges identified would be addressed if the lesson plans were responsive to a real need by an organization serving diverse youth. We therefore contacted our partners in Denver Public School’s (DPS) Whole Child Supports in the Division of Student Equity and Opportunity to identify a potential venue for our students’ work. They articulated a need for a curricular resource that would provide their youth with an opportunity to explore their identities and build stronger relationships with adults in their school.
In partnership with DPS, Heather revised the course assignment so that the final project for the Winter, 2017 section of the class involved students creating a sequenced curriculum of 10 lesson plans focused on identity development and relationship building. She facilitated a participatory action research process with students to guide them in the development of the ten session curriculum. CPYD students chose the overarching topics of each lesson, decided how they would be sequenced, and designed the activities that constituted each lesson. Students worked in pairs and developed one lesson each.
CPYD students submitted several different versions of their lessons and talked with one another in staff meeting-style discussions to make sure the curriculum flowed and was cohesive. In class, each pair presented part of their lesson and received feedback both on their facilitation style and the content of their assignment. Students were encouraged to consider both universal design principles and anti-oppressive practices within their individual lessons. At the end of the quarter, once the curricula was at a stage of near completion, the CPYD students met with a youth board called the Youth Partnership for Health, to get feedback on their ideas. The students revised their lesson plans based on this feedback before their final submission. Ms. Kennedy and Dr. Anyon then worked with a graphic designer to format the curriculum so that it looked professional, and presented it to DPS.
In the next quarter (Spring 2017), Ms. Kennedy worked with Dr. Kristen Atkinson (instructor) to revise the final assignment for that section of the course so that it would build on the project completed in the winter. Students were tasked with creating 12-20 minute online training modules that would accompany the curriculum and to prepare adult facilitators (e.g. after school program providers) for delivering the lesson plans. To prepare for this assignment, CPYD students first watched and critiqued a variety of online trainings. Then, in pairs, they each chose a topic (brainstormed by students in the winter section) that would be the focus of their module. Each pair researched their respective focus area and drafted an outline of their online training. Then, students each recorded the training using either Zoom or Screencast-o-matic, received feedback from their peers, and integrated these suggestions into final versions of the recorded trainings.
The curriculum and online training modules have been shared with DPS, and also have been provided to other youth serving agencies and youth work practitioners. Both are available on portfolio: https://portfolio.du.edu/yanyon/page/65215
How did it go, and what did you learn?
The students in the Winter 2017 quarter were initially frustrated with aspects of the assignment that were ambiguous because it was new, and overwhelmed by the pressure of creating a cohesive product for an actual client. Over time, however, the students commented how the project was both rewarding, because they were making something that was real, and daunting and tiring, for the same reason. At the end of the quarter, the students were very proud of what they had created. The multiple layers of choice and voice they had in the classroom was different than what they had experienced previously. The students reported that they appreciated the ability to make substantive choices in the design of the curriculum, even if that was also a central challenge they faced in completing the assignment.
The Spring 2017 quarter students also initially felt that their responsibilities of summarizing evidence, making it meaningful for adults, and creating an interactive training on a new software was quite challenging. Given that this was the second time allowing students to make substantive choices and have a very present voice in the classroom decisions, we were able to normalize those sentiments at the outset. After some initial anxiety abated, the students saw the value in what they were making and their work exceeded our expectations.