72: Writing to Learn (2 of 2)




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4 Writing to Learn (WTL) Strategies (for more WTL’s go here or here or here)


  1. Nonstop write:
    • students write nonstop in response to a prompt for set time (3-5 min)
    • write in sentences and paragraphs
    • focus on quantity, not on perfect grammar
    • uses:  varied, include by not limited to:
      • reflection
      • introduce material
      • recall material just covered or uncovered
      • build up student perseverance
      • practice for essay writing on timed tests
      • watch how thinking evolves over a project
    • Play by play:
      • start with shorter period of time and build to gradually build up student stamina
      • explain purpose of writing activity and how writing will be used
      • explain norms – silence write for entire period of set time
      • to alleviate writers block – give students 1-2 min to brainstorm what to write with a partner
      • quick class brainstorm on class visuals
      • reasons students may shut down before time expires:
        • putting thoughts to paper is a skill that needs to be practiced
        • continuous sentence and paragraph writing takes effort
        • requires students to expand on details until exhausted
      • work the room and encourage students to continue writing who stop early – ask for more examples and details
      • leverage the work:
        • use as conversation starters:
          • read aloud in pairs and discuss and report out findings
          • share in groups of 3-4 and identify common threads and report out findings
        • guided rereading – reread piece and look for:
          • sentences that get to heart of your message
          • examples that illustrate message
          • off topic and vague sentences
          • 3 favorite words
        • self evaluate writing style
          • rank how quickly one gets off topic
          • rank how well you keep writing for set time
          • number of words in entry
          • what do you need to do differently to meet later expectations (ex: min 150 word count)
  2. Reflective Write:
    • writing piece meant to get students to reflect on learning
    • uses:
      • pause and note what was learned and how learning occurred
      • situate learning in larger context
      • diagnostic tool – are students on track? what’s hard? how deep is their thinking?
      • process readings
      • gather thoughts for upcoming task
    • play by play:
      • model what reflective writing could look like, include:
        • reflections on mistakes and confusion
        • reflections on learning processes
      • read and analyze features of sample reflections from previous years
      • practice reflective writing on a simple common process
      • work the room
        • encourage individual students who struggle
        • if most struggle, stop work time and model again
      • leverage the writing:
        • follow up with one-on-one conferences on student thinking and struggles
        • use as conversation starters in reflective conversations
  3. KWL:
    • brainstorming used to drive instruction:
      • K – what do I know
      • W – what do I want to know
      • L – what have I learned
    • used throughout the project (note – another form of this is a Knows, Need-to-Knows and Next Steps chart)
    • uses:
      • expose and build on prior knowledge
      • expose need-to-knows and want-to-knows
      • expose misconceptions
      • review what has been learned
      • engage students in co-planning upcoming learning activities
    • play by play
      • prior to teaching a topic have students individually brainstorm everything they know about the topic
      • gather student ideas on flip chart in the K column – record all ideas, even misconceptions
      • can put question marks next to statements that contradict each other
      • students brainstorm list of questions about the topic in groups of 3-4
      • remind students they can ask questions that go with disputed ideas (ones with ?)
      • gather student ideas on flip chart in the W column
      • encourage students to nod heads if they have the same question being put on the flip chart
      • later in the project, have students brainstorm more questions – gather these in the W column
      • later in the project, have students brainstorm list of what they have learned – gather these in the L column
      • tips:
        • if students hesitate on the want to learn lists – ask them to predict what they are about the learn
        • do not use on topics that students have no prior knowledge of
        • prior to gathering whole class lists, ask students to share what they wrote in groups of 3-4 and come up with list of 5 common items and report these to the whole group share
        • could ask students to brainstorm next steps to learn what’s in the W column
  4. Teacher student correspondence:
    • teachers and students passing notes / letter over extended period of time
    • uses:
      • model writing
      • individualized texts
      • get to know students
      • gather feedback to target instruction
      • improve morale
      • deeper learning
      • build relationships with students
      • hear from students who don’t talk much
      • cues for guiding individualized instruction
      • cluster student needs for responsive teaching
      • self-assessments
      • classroom management
    • play by play
      • get students set time (~ 15 min ) to respond to prompts such as
        • how is the course going?
        • how can I help you be more successful?
        • anything you want to tell me about your life out of school?
        • what kind of things do you do outside of school?
        • what makes the course challenging?
        • what connections do you see between the course and your life?
      • alert students that you will alert the guidance counselor if they reveal things that need guidance counselor follow-up
      • write a short note back in response to each student’s writing
      • tips
        • do with one period a week to avoid getting overwhelmed
        • if individual letters take too much time – read all letters and write one long letter in response to all of them to the whole class, try to work all students input and questions into the letter



Teachers can use a variety of Write-to-Learns (WTLs) to get students to actively process information in a variety of ways.  Teachers can use the non-stop writes to see how student thinking is evolving and to help students gather thoughts that can impact products.  Teachers can adapt the KWL steps above to facilitate more detailed and helpful Know, Need-to-Know, Next Steps discussions.  Teaches can use teacher student correspondence to model writing, convey caring, and build up moral and relationships.

Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards and generate learning targets
  • Analyze behavior norms and student behavior and generate character learning targets
  • Use knowledge of content and students to Identify which WTL’s can be used to process information in ways that highlight useful connections
  • Develop prompts and tools related to selected WTL’s that target academic and character learning targets
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement WTL’s.  See ideas above and also  herehere  and here.
  • Facilitate follow-up discussions and activities that make use of the WTL’s.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Have students reflect on WTL’s and try to identify which strategies are the most helpful.  Use their suggestions to build WTL routines that match their preferences.
  • For individual WTL’s – give students choice among several strategies that match their preferred modes of communication.



64: Coach like a ROCKSTAR


“Coach Like a ROCKSTAR” Region 13 Instructional Coaching Network.  Austin.  8 Feb. 2016.  Workshop.




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Types of Factors that impact motivation:

  • Work context factors – class size, etc.  – usually can’t change these
  • Work content factors – autonomy, responsibility, etc – these can be changed – focus on these for greater impact

Anti-Motivation Factors:

  • Exhaustion
  • Depersonalization
  • Low personal accomplishments


  • Dynamic
  • Needs to be sustained

ROCKSTAR Strategies for Promoting Motivation:

  • Radiate positivity
    • Took a Positivity Ratio test
    • Greater than or equal to 3:1 positive to negative emotion ratio is optimal for health and well being
  • Open to learning
    • We are all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets
    • Be aware of fixed and growth mindset triggers
    • Model openness to learning
  • Create collaboration
    • Role play dysfunctional and productive conversations and extract strategies and caveats from these
    • Teach students how to have hard conversations (see here and here for ideas)
  • Key in on strengths and successes
  • Show empathy
    • Perspective taking, not judging
    • Recognizing common emotions and values
    • A vulnerable choice
    • Ignore the cheap silver lining comfort – Do NOT say – Well at least …
    • Listen, don’t immediately try to make things better
    • Reassure
  • Take in the moment
  • Ask questions
  • Remember to show gratitude

Related Tools:


High motivation learners are more likely to be successful than unmotivated learners.  Motivation is not a given; it must be sustained.  Knowing many strategies for keeping teachers and students motivated can help make learning more fun and successful.



Preparation Steps

  • Reflect on what you already do to motivate yourself and your students.  Use ROCKSTAR criteria to identify what things you do often and do hardly at all.
  • Take the Positivity Ratio test and reflect on your results.
  • Research and develop strategies that harness your strengths.  See Agency articles for ideas.
  • Research and develop strategies that overcome your gaps. See Agency articles for ideas.

Early Implementation Steps

  • Implement lessons that promote student motivation.  See Agency articles for ideas.
  • Have students take the Positivity Ratio test in your classroom and answer reflection questions that explain what factors could be responsible for their scores.  Use a think pair share discussion to extract strategies that keep teachers and students motivated.

Advanced Implementation Steps

  • Let students use the ROCKSTAR criteria to evaluate themselves, their peers, yourself, and the classroom environment.  Have them use that reflection to brainstorm strategies that can improve how well students, teachers, and classroom factors support high motivation.



59: Scaffolding Agency

Yay! Non-New Tech educators should be able to access this online video.  The presenter, Megan Pacheco, can be reached at @mpacheco11.




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Why teach agency?
  • Lack of awareness of the skills that are applied to succeed can make learners vulnerable to feeling like failures (incurable) when they do not succeed
  • Knowing that success it a product of effort, not traits, is important for all learners, not just learners who struggle
Dilemma #1: How can we convince struggling students that they CAN succeed?
  • Teach students to be aware of the effect that practice has on outcomes
  • Practice using effort & risk taking and reflecting on the outcomes of these
  • Provide high quality formative feedback from multiple sources (teachers, self, peers, community members) and teach students how to use that feedback to improve
  • Give specific feedback that clearly describes areas of strength and areas of growth
  • Don’t grade for content on newly learned skills
  • Unpack models to teach qualities and strategies related to high quality work
  • Use variety of assessment types so that more students get opportunities to use their preferred learning mode to demonstrate mastery
Dilemma #2: How to promote growth mindset (not fixed mindset)?
  • Explicitly emphasize how mastery takes time and sustained effort
  • Normalize mistakes
  • Ask students to work through problems before asking for help
  • Explicitly teach students how to learn from mistakes
  • Give agency grade on 3 revisions and content grade on 3rd revision
Dilemma #3: How to develop students’ sense of responsibility and ownership?
  • Allow students to test solutions in low stakes, safe environments
  • Promote norms that treat mistakes and risks as valued practices
  • Celebrate best mistake of the lesson or the week
  • Emphasize process over product
  • Encourage students to pursue their own learning using variety of resources
  • Provide high quality formative feedback from multiple sources (teachers, self, peers, community members) and teach students how to use that feedback to improve
  • Teach students how to set, track, and achieve individual and team goals
  • Allow students to make and document choices about their use of time
Recommended Reads:
Agency is a critical skill that students need to be successful lifelong learners.  Breaking up agency into skills and developing scaffolds for these can help ALL students to develop the attitudes and skills they need to be successful advocates of their own learning.  Knowing how agency skills relate to good instructional & learning strategies can help teachers and students be more deliberate in their practice of strategies that promote successful learning.


Preparation Steps
Early Implementation Steps
  • Regularly teach lessons that build up skills related to agency and that promote a positive learning culture.
  • Use formative feedback to fine-tune activities, routines, and policies that promote agency.
  • Have students regularly reflect on how their learning experiences are impacting their attitudes and skills.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Have students research and develop strategies that promote agency.  Build up a reliable database of articles and books to support this research.
  • Trial student researched strategies in the classroom.  Use teacher observations and student feedback to refine these.

58: Factors that Improve Intrinsic Motivation





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Extrinsic Motivation
  • Good for short term algorithmic tasks; bad for creative tasks
  • Can diminish intrinsic motivation
  • May be helpful when situation is stressful & requires immediate attention
  • Need for baseline extrinsic motivation.  Examples: clean classroom, engaging lessons, caring teacher
Factors That Promote Intrinsic Motivation:
  • Autonomy
    • Give students voice & choice.  Types of choice:
      • procedural – choice of task
      • organizational – choice of logistics (e.g. seating, agendas)
      • cognitive – choice of learning
        • Students create own solutions to relevant problems
        • Students publicly share problem solving approaches
        • Use thinking routines to scaffold & express thinking
  • Competence
    • Praise process, not just product.
    • Plussing protocol: I like … and … and .. what if you tried ….
    • Use responsive teaching strategies.  See Differentiation articles for ideas.
    • Anticipate misconceptions and subtle concepts/skills and proactively prepare extra scaffolds for these.
    • Use formative assessments to adjust instruction.
    • Use variety of formative assessments.
    • Use multiple grouping styles.
    • Use scaffolds to guide conversations & thinking.  See Literacy articles for ideas.
    • Pre-teach up to 6 vocabulary words with visual support
    • Use message abundancy (amplification) i.e. use several strategies to scaffold same content
  • Relationships
    • Take genuine interest in students
    • Be courteous and friendly
    • Be flexible – It’s more important to DO RIGHT, than to BE RIGHT.  Reminder the end goal is learning.
    • Don’t give up on students.
    • Have authoritative, not authoritarian classroom management style.  Being authoritarian is like a dictator approach to classroom management.  Being authoritative means demonstrating control relationally, through listening and explaining.
    • Develop empathy and attunement for students.  Empathy is understanding students’ feelings; attunement is understanding students’ thoughts.
    • Teach students how to collaborate well.  See Classroom Management articles for more ideas.
  • Relevance
    • Have students write and talk about how current learning experiences relate to their own lives.
    • Use student interests to design scaffolds and projects.
    • Teach students how to set, track and achieve goals
    • Use strategies that frame content in authentic contexts such as problem-based learning and project-based learning


Lack of intrinsic motivation can lead students to withhold effort and withhold their presences (absenteeism) in the classroom.  Learning how to create the conditions that promote intrinsic motivation can help students to be more engaged in their own learning.  Treating related attitudes as skills, rather than as traits, can help teachers develop scaffolds that build students’ intrinsic motivation.


Preparation Steps
  • Reflect on current classroom management & instructional practices using the 4 factors above.  Which factors are strongly present in the classroom?  Which are less present in the classroom?
  • Brainstorm and research how to enhance intrinsic motivation factors that are already strengths in one’s repertoire.  Larry Ferlazzo’s blog has many resources.
  • Brainstorm and research strategies that relate to gaps in one’s repertoire.  Larry Ferlazzo’s blog has many resources.
  • Research and design lessons that build up students’ skills and attitudes that relate to intrinsic motivation.  See Agency articles  and Larry Ferlazzo’s blog  for ideas.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Regularly implement lessons that build positive learning culture and build up students skills that relate to intrinsic motivation and learning goals.
  • Develop and implement systems that relate to responsive teaching.  See Differentiation articles for ideas.
  • Ask students for feedback on scaffolds, routines, and practices and use this feedback to fine-tune them.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Ask students to brainstorm practices & routines that can enhance 4 factors related on intrinsic motivation.
  • Teach students about intrinsic motivation and about strategies to enhance it.  See Agency articles and Larry Ferlazzo’s blog for ideas.



50: Building Data Summaries





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Tips for Data Summaries & Data Discussions:
  1. Decide on educational questions
  2. Simpler is better (data summary)
  3. Start conversation with an interesting comparison
  4. Facilitate constructive conversation
Tips on Creating Data Displays
  1. Decide on questions that guide graph designs – identify independent and dependent variables in the questions
  2. Choose graph type that best displays the relationship between the independent and dependent variables
    • bar charts – independent variable is a category
    • scatter plots – when independent and dependent variables are both quantitative
    • pie charts – when dependent variable measures percentage or fraction of a whole
  3. Select graph type that address the question clearly and effectively
  4. Reorganize graphs or tables to draw attention to critical comparisons
    • despite measurement error, group comparison can still be useful to highlight interesting features in overall performance
  5. Label graphs to make independent and dependent variables clear
  6. Where possible – use district software to create appropriate data displays
Components of Good Displays
  • explicit informative title that points toward critical element in the chart
  • clear axis labels
  • information pertinent to key questions are the most prominent features in the graphs
  • keep graphs free of extraneous detail
  • communicate what groups are being compared in graphs and data sources in graphs
Leading effective data discussions: important to give time for stakeholders to process and make own sense of data and ask own questions
  1. Give time for stakeholders to puzzle over the data
  2. Pair share what they noticed from studying the data
  3. Encourage stake holders to value questions over conclusions.  Brainstorm provocative questions that go with the data.
  4. Identify most important questions
  5. Brainstorm data needed to answer the key questions


Knowing how to make clear and clean data displays is a necessary preparation step to having good data conversations that are based on actual data trends and comparisons.   Letting data stimulate the development of important questions is a hopeful, learning exercise that invites stakeholders to approach data as learners rather than as evaluators.


Preparation Steps
  • Decide on important educational questions
  • Identify key independent and dependent variables in the questions
  • Create data displays that effectively display relationships between independent and dependent variables
  • Make sure graphs have titles and axis labels that clearly indicate the data sources and data variables in the graph
  • Reorganize data to make interesting comparisons between different student populations
Early Implementation Steps
  • Facilitate data discusion
    • give stakeholders individual time to investigate and brainstorm questions from the data
    • give stakeholders time to share questions with a partner and prioritize questions
    • prioritize questions as a large group
    • brainstorm ways to address key questions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use this process to develop and track student whole group goals that can be measured by data
  • Survey students to check that this process is helping them to feel like more empowered stakeholders in their own educations
  • Encourage students to gather more data (qualitative and quantitative) that addresses key questions



47: Confrontation Model





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Confrontation model:
  1. Name the issue.
  2. Specify examples of behaviors you want to change.
  3. Describe your emotions.
  4. Clarify stakes.
  5. Identify your contribution to the problem.
  6. Explain why you wish to resolve the issue.
  7. Invite response.
  8. Inquire into partner’s views.  Paraphrase them.
  9. Review what’s learned? where are we now?  what’s left unsaid?
  10. Make new agreement
For more difficult discussion tips, go to this article.


Confrontations between teachers and students and between students and other students are inevitable parts of facilitating projects (and inevitable parts of traditional units as well).  Knowing how to handle these confrontations skillfully can help community members move past problems that people are often too scared to comfront.  This model can be taught and practiced by teachers and students to move past problems that are creating roadblocks in communication and collaboration.


Preparation Steps
  • Use this model to script out a conversation related to a critical indiscussable
  • Ask for feedback on your script from a neutral partner
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use script to have difficult conversation
  • If it goes well, follow up on next steps in new agreements in conversation
  • If it doesn’t go well, reflect on what went poorly and how other strategies could have mitigated those factors
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Teach the confrontation model to students.  Let students practice the model by role playing fake (but commonly arising) issues. Common issues include: team member is too bossy, team member is not contributing enough, team member is behind because she is often late or absent, etc.



34: Classroom Management That Supports Responsive Teaching





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Classroom Management Strategies that Support Responsive Teaching
Managing Time:
  • Use homework, personal agendas, etc to balance need for whole class and self-paced instruction
  • Provide anchor activities (PBL project work) for students who finish early
  • Move slowly with differentiation – tackle one remediation and one topic at a time
Controlling Noise:
  • Provide and use signals for noise reduction
  • Teach students to monitor noise levels as needed
  • Use headsets or earplugs for students who need less distractions
Classroom Movement:
  • Use task and room charts to help students locate where they should be for what they are doing
  • Designate one student per team to gather materials
  • Make seating area that faces away from active parts of classroom for students who need freedom from distractions
Flexible Use of Classroom Space:
  • Experiment with ways to move furniture to create learning spaces
  • Use center-in-a-box – partitions on the floor that serve as designated work areas
  • Designate an independent working area for students who need extra practice or need to move ahead
Organizing & Distributing Resources:
  • Design a table or area for storing and distributing key materials
  • Use in-class folder filing system with student names, class periods, and team numbers
Monitoring Student Work:
  • Use checklists of criteria to record competencies and trouble areas
  • Record observations on sticky notes and store in a notebook that has at least 1 page dedicated per student.  Review notes at least once per month
  • Have students turn in work to designated physical and online locations
Make Time for Small Group Instruction:
  • Let students know when you are off limits and why
  • Establish experts who will answer questions while you are teaching small groups
  • Use materials already available to you for small group activities
  • Grade less daily work
  • Go slowly but deliberately to differentiate
  • Use guided practice, anchor tasks, personal agendas, centers, learning contracts, and other strategies and routines to help students work independently



Responsive teaching needs to be supported by classroom management routines that are both orderly and flexible.  Research has shown that teachers who maintain orderly classroom environments are more likely to teach for meaning and understanding.  PBL work can be complex and chaotic.  Framing PBL work in terms of orderly routines and strategies can build student confidence.

Preparation Steps
  • Investigate available classroom space.  Brainstorm different furniture configurations that will create different learning spaces.  Trial these spaces with students.
  • Create diagrams that represent positively-tested furniture configurations
  • Train students to move furniture between different configurations and the purpose of these configurations
  • Set aside storage areas and turn-in areas (online, physical) for students to turn in work
  • Survey students to see which noise reduction signals work best
  • Create checklists that describe skills and common errors related to key concepts
  • Pre-assess and assess students to determine who can serve as experts on select topics
  • Gather resources for small group instructions
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement small group instruction that uses data to determine appropriate goals for specific learning groups
  • Implement system (includes experts and resources) that allow students to work independently while teacher is focused on small group instruction
  • Use formative and pre-assessments to let students know when they need to attend workshops and when they are workshop-exempt and can skip to project work
  • Make connections between workshops and good project work explicit so students understand the relevance of workshop
  • Grade less daily work – see Grading Smarter, Not Harder for ideas
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use tools such as Aurasma to add another virtual learning layer on top of areas of the room
  • Teach students how to use assessment data to set and track goals and plan related next steps – See Checks for understanding and Engaging students with data articles
  • Use tools such as Nearpod to let students know during workshops if they are understanding content as it is being presented

32: Flexible Classroom Elements for Effective Responsive Teaching





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How to Change Several Classroom Elements as Part of Good Responsive Teaching
  • Negotiate extra time on tasks for students who work diligently, yet slowly
  • Compact or exempt advanced students on work related to topics they’ve already demonstrated mastery
  • Use stations, homework contracts, and learning centers to help students work on deficits on precursor skills
  • Create a quiet zone in room where noise and visual stimuli are minimal
  • Post and use several seating arrangement charts so that students can rearrange room quickly
  • Collect textbooks at different lexile levels
  • Bookmark websites at different lexile levels and languages
  • Use audio and video clips to teach
Student Grouping
  • Use prearranged groups and established work areas so students know where to sit during group work time
  • Plan to use multiple group styles: homogenous, heterogenous, interest, and learning profile groups
Teaching Strategies
  • Teach with both part-to-whole and whole-to-part emphasis
  • Intersperse lecture with small group discussions.  See Writing breaks and Classroom Conversations articles.
  • Make connections between key ideas/skills and students’ cultures and interests.
Learning Strategies
  • Provide practical, analytical, and creative options for student work.  See differentiated curriculum charts article.
  • Provide tiered assignments and assessments
  • Encourage students to work alone or with a peer
  • Use expert (jigsaw) groups to teach key ideas
Teaching Partnerships
  • Have students perform all classroom functions that are not imperative for a teacher to perform
  • Survey parents for insights into students’ interests, learning preferences and needs
  • Work with other teachers, especially those who are good with Differentiated Instruction


While “varying” instruction for responsive teaching, it’s good to know or be reminded of how many elements can be readily changed to meet students’ needs.  Also it’s important to know and experiment with how changing classroom logistics (use of space and time) can impact student learning.


Preparation Steps
  • Recruit thought partners
  • Gather websites and textbooks at varied lexile levels and formats for upcoming projects
  • Decide what seating configurations work for different workshop types and activity types
  • Experiment early in the year with seating configurations before creating diagrams
  • Train students to switch classroom seating between seating configuration types
  • Label group work areas and other key work spaces
  • Set up and communicate a flexible due date policy
  • Pre-assess students to see who qualifies for compacting and exemptions
  • Set up student groups – heterogeneous for product groups and homogeneous for learning groups
  • Design menu of learning activities that will serve students in different learning groups
  • Develop good questioning sequences for facilitating workshops and for reflection prompts
  • Elect and train classroom officers who lead students in key classroom functions
  • Survey parents to learn about student interests, learning needs, and challenges
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use student team roles to make sure team members in heterogenous groups all have meaningful group tasks
  • Lead small group workshops to align to specific learning groups needs
  • Observe students to determine who qualifies for compacting, exemptions, and delayed dead lines
  • Use interest groups and learning groups to deliver workshops that match students’ needs & wants
  • Use stamping method (or similar tracking system) to give lots of formative feedback and to track that students are moving towards mastery in key topics
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Consult students on strategies that can be implemented in the future to improve bridge between content and student needs and interests
  • Teach students how to effectively track their progress and select good next steps to meet academic and project goals