By guest author Brooke Toczylowski, Lead Coordinator and Coach for the Agency by Design Oakland Fellows
Now that the school year has begun, and our research into documentation and assessment practices is off and running, we’re excited to welcome the 2016-2017 Agency by Design Oakland Fellowship cohort, a group of 28 educators from around the San Francisco Bay Area. This group will grow into a professional learning community together, engaging in ongoing inquiry around the project’s current research questions. In turn, we hope to learn from these educators, as well as their students and contexts, to inform how pedagogical ideas work in practice.
When designing a research project, it’s not just nice to have multiple voices in the room—it’s essential to learn from various perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. Who we are impacts what we will create. The AbD Oakland Fellowship cohort is a diverse group of educators serving a variety of student populations, and from the beginning we’ve focused in on what this means for our work. To begin, we’ve taken a values-based approach to this research journey to best outline our own individual perspectives and values as they relate to documentation and assessment.
By partnering with these educators, 93% of whom work in or with California public schools, we hope to shift mainstream ideas about what maker-centered learning looks like, who it’s for, and how to document and assess it. The maker movement has seen a large number of makerspaces in independent and charter schools, which is why it’s noteworthy that 72% of the fellows work in or with district-run public schools. Furthermore, 68% of the fellows work in district-run schools in the Oakland Unified School District.
The cohort represents 19 different schools and organizations mostly based in the East Bay, including Project H, ACOE’s Integrated Learning, and the Oakland Public Library. Only 3 of the 28 educators work in informal learning environments; most work in formal classroom settings.
Our cohort of fellows is predominately based in Oakland, a city of more than 400,000 people that is known for its racial diversity but also its income inequality; for example, 71% of the student body in Oakland public schools qualifies for free or reduced-priced lunch.
Consistent with the interests of the Abundance Foundation, a major focus of our work is serving students of color in under-resourced public schools. Our AbD fellows work in schools that serve more than 5,000 students, who come from a range of backgrounds and learning needs, but who are predominantly high-needs and students of color. One notable data point: In the schools at which our fellows work 70% of the students are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Additionally, 33% of the students in these schools are classified as English Language Learners, and 11% are classified with a disability.*
As we embark on this second phase of research, we know that having a balance of grade levels and content areas will be important in getting a full view of what documentation and assessment in maker-centered learning looks like. To that end, approximately one-third of the cohort works at the elementary school level, one-third in middle, and one-third in high school.
Additionally, the cohort has a range of content diversity, including:
The AbD Oakland Fellowship cohort is led by the AbD Oakland Leadership Team, which comprises four educators working in a variety of settings. This team collaboratively guides the fellows in their inquiry with the AbD framework, and their exploration of documentation and assessment strategies for maker-centered learning.
Ilya Pratt is the Design + Make + Engage Program Director at Park Day School, the sole independent school represented in the cohort. Ilya has been a part of the Agency by Design project from its inception and has helped to shape the questions and research along the way, both as a teacher-researcher and project coordinator.
Aaron Vanderwerff is the Creativity Lab Director at Lighthouse Community Public Schools. He is particularly excited about collaborating with educators interested in adopting the Agency by Design framework to turn learning over to students in meaningful ways. Aaron has been integrating making into his teaching and school programs for the past 15 years. He joined the AbD Oakland team in 2015.
Brooke Toczylowski is an Art/Maker Specialist and Coach in the Oakland Unified School District. She was a teacher-researcher in the first phase of the Agency by Design project, in which she experimented with AbD ideas in her art class at Oakland International High School. In the second phase of AbD research, Brooke is the lead coordinator and coach for the AbD Oakland fellows.
Wendy Donner is the Education Program Director for the Abundance Foundation, the funder of Agency by Design. A former teacher and school administrator, Wendy has been overseeing the Bay Area based parts of AbD since its formation in 2012.
This project represents a strong collaboration between public school teachers, education coaches, and researchers. Both the Oakland Leadership Team and the Project Zero researchers are thrilled to kick off this year of thinking with such a diverse and engaged group of fellows, and we look forward to the work ahead.
For more information about this local group, check out the Who We Are section on the AbDOakland.org website.