Five Tenets to Shape Education Policy

When thinking about education policy around assessments, Bold Moves for Schools proposes 5 tenets to transform accountability, leadership and performance in schools.

  1. Authentic Student Work -- Authentic student product or performance should be the goal
  2. Realistic Audience Feedback -- Feedback connected to the purpose of the product or performance can be gathered from an audience outside of the classroom
  3. Long-Term Projects -- Long term projects where deeper learner can occur should be favored over short-term memorization of processes and ideas
  4. Collaborative Assessment Design -- Teachers and students can work collaboratively to identify indicators of innovation for assessment purposes
  5. Self-Navigating Learners -- Students as self-navigating professional learners can monitor, reflect upon and feel connected to their personal learning path and progress
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What's Wrong With Standardized Testing Anyway?

In a previous blog post we stated, "Standardized testing has its place in education, however, it is insufficient and has the potential for far-reaching unintended consequences." Here we'll discuss 4 detrimental outcomes of standardized testing.


Misuse of Data – Standardized tests used to rank learners, faculty and schools assess a few limited proficiencies but falls short of measuring what we value as learning – that which is educationally significant. This singular method does not factor in varying student conditions and environmental factors that impact scoring. In addition, grading practices are inconsistent state to state and scorers are often encouraged to favor quantity over quality reviews.

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Contemporary Assessments for Innovative Schools

Educators and policymakers have a unique relationship – they share responsibility for shaping learning systems and preparing students for an interconnected and ever-changing world. We often think of teachers and administrators on one side and legislators on the other in a virtual tug-of-war, each side firmly planted in ideologies that inform programs and regulations. On the contrary, diversity of thought exists among teachers, administrators, superintendents, unions, governors, legislators, taxpayers, parents and students. And in fact, we’re all in this together.


Accountability and assessment methods emerge as the single most contentious policy topic. While policymakers have the extraordinary task of making decisions that impact all aspects of education, faculty struggle with administering programs that are meaningful, effective and result in satisfactory test results.

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How the Design of Learning Goals Can Launch a Student Quest

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

Learning-goal maps are a way to organize a learning experience that focuses on the demonstration of learning first, then aligns other elements of the experience accordingly. It also creates an opportunity to co-create with students using a student version of learning goal maps.

This month, we’d like to share a recent upgraded experience we wrote with a media arts teacher using new arts standards in New York State and show you the associated student version as a model for upgrading your own and your students’ learning experiences... [click below to keep reading]

Affinity Spaces for Educators: Shift and Deepen Collective Knowledge

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

When we write and share ideas with the world, we hope it will inspire conversations and new questions about how our work will impact professional practices. This is especially true for blog posts, where we can push the envelope a little further and be provocateurs who launch discourse. With social media, sometimes that discourse becomes more limited, as many readers align themselves with folks who agree with their own thinking. That’s not really discourse, though; it doesn’t push thinking or change anyone’s opinion or create actions toward better ways of doing things. Which brings us to the focus of this month’s blog post on affinity spaces...

The Power of Driving Questions

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

In our current contemporary educational landscape, it has become more important than ever to invite student voice into our curriculum and instructional decisions. Their voices invite opportunities for personalization, authenticity, buy-in, motivation, and increased performance.

In this blog post, we are continuing to discuss last month’s theme of the first Learning Tenet from The Quest for Learning: 'The learner engages with relevant, worthy inquiries and experiences that are interesting or emotionally gripping'...

Engaging Inquiry: Bring Students to the Table with Different Types of Questions

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

In a previous blog post on why games work, we shared our three learner-engagement tenets from our book, The Quest for Learning. In this blog post, we’d like to revisit Learning Tenet One: 'The learner engages with relevant, worthy inquiries and experiences that are interesting or emotionally gripping.' The teacher might think a topic worthy, but without conversation or negotiation with students, the topic may not be as worthy as the teacher thought...

Modernize Your Instructional Practice in 11 Ways

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

In our new book, The Quest for Learning we ask teachers to consider how they might make their instructional practices more contemporary. We’ve talked to literally hundreds of teachers as we explore some of the facets of “right now” interests and skills, and we’d like to share some of what we’ve discovered. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of questions, just a few that were generated from our work with teachers over the last few years and have influenced what we wrote in the new book...

Quest for Learning - Maximizing Student Engagement with Marie Alcock

This is a two-day Institute; attendance with a team is highly encouraged!

Sponsored by OCM BOCES School Library


It’s crucial for 21st century teachers and students to determine together what a student will learn and at what pace. This workshop will help you dive deep into questing, a customizable pedagogy tailored to a student’s interests, needs, and abilities. Learn how to use questing to engross students in emotionally gripping learning experiences, engage them with actionable goals, and promote collaboration in online and physical spaces.


All participants will receive: The Quest for Learning: How to Maximize Student Engagement


When: Monday, July 30th, 8:30am to Tuesday, July 31st, 4pm
Where: OCM BOCES Main Campus, 110 Elwood Davis Rd. Liverpool, NY 13088

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Natural Learning Experienes

Contributed by: Craig Gastauer

This post was originally shared on Just Start for Kids & Schools and the author has given his permission to post it here.

Natural learning experiences are generated by observation and questioning.  As individuals share their different perspectives, each of us begin to make meaning of these experiences and deepen our understanding of the world.

Hiking on the cliffs above the the Pacific Ocean with my nine year old son creates for us a safe space to explore the world.  Questions abound as we come across animals, plants, rock strata, and even the wonderful variety of people we encounter. 

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Teaching is Changing

Contributed by Marie Alcock, PhD.

The truth is that teaching is changing in America.  As a profession we have been in a state of flux for more than 20 years.  In the big picture that is not much time and we can all agree that one day we will look back and note this period and the changes that resulted from it.  Here are our top ten things about teaching that have changed.

We made this movie as a way to note the key characteristics of this change. Teaching is Changing.

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Video Games for Social Change

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, PhD

When is a video game useful?  When is it a tool for education?  Or even a tool for social change?

I enjoyed a TED talk featuring Jane McGonigal and her ideas about using video games as training grounds for saving the world.  Check it out here.

Jane raised some good points about the addictive rush from being on the “verge of an epic win” and the motivation from “epic quest” that is trusted to us as players.  What would we need to upgrade about our curriculums to get this kind of “epic quest” feel for the learner?  How do we make each skill progression for reading or writing feel like the addictive leveling of the “imminent win”?

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