Whenever there is talk of change in any organization, much of the resistance that we face is the reality that there is not enough time. Change not only requires time to train, practice, and evaluate, but change in and of itself requires sufficient time. One of the greatest strengths of the Fuller Model is that it provides exactly that: time.
In order to fulfill our vision, the most pressing issue was rethinking how we use our time if we wanted to see truly substantive change. Time to learn, time to process, time to collaborate, time to plan and reflect, and time to pursue passions. We rethought the school day and broke it into two blocks; the Academy-Based Learning block is structured, standards-based, engaged, collaborative learning; the Student-Directed Learning block is flexible, evolving, inquiry- and learning-driven, student-controlled time. These blocks can be arranged according to student learning strengths and in conjunction with mentors.
Academy-Based Learning Block: Within Academy-Based Learning, students engage in three-week learning experiences focused on one project instead of eight different content areas over one- or two-day schedules. The last of those weeks is completely dedicated to either extension or remediation based on the needs of individual students—time to continue and support learning. During the three-week learning experiences, students will have time in the following 5 areas:
- Time to Plan & Reflect: At the beginning of the academy block, students will have time to plan out their day. They will be given guidance on best practices for planning as they set individual goals as well as collaborative goals in a briefing/morning meeting/advisory atmosphere. At the end of the academy block, students will have a wrap-up meeting where they can reflect on the day’s activities: addressing challenges, successes, new ideas, directions, or focuses for the coming days.
- Time to learn: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” Using research based best practices, students will engage in various project, passion, & problem based learning experiences (PBL). They will interact with real world problems and pursue projects of varying interests. Rather than being taught in isolated subjects, students will explore and actively participate in relevant real world and academic content through projects. For he who does the work does the learning.
- Time to Process: Being able to focus on just one project for 3 weeks, the students don’t have to worry about their test next period. They can concentrate their efforts on processing and solidifying their learning, thus allowing them to develop and execute their ideas more effectively.
- Time to Collaborate: Students and teachers will regularly participate in Large Group Meetings (LGM); briefings, morning meetings, or advisories; and wrap-up meetings. In addition to formal meetings or times set aside for collaboration on a daily basis, students will also consistently work with other students and teachers throughout the day.
- Time to Remediate, extend, and/or support: The third week of the project experience will provide time to address and differentiate for individual student needs.
Student Directed Learning Block: In addition to a unique vision and utilization of time, we also have a singular method for validating student individuality and interests through our student-directed block. There are no “after-school” programs in our design. We want to send the message to our students that what they are interested in matters, and if our goal is to make the world work, that means anything they learn will help in that pursuit. In other words, there aren’t “school” topics and “other” topics; it is all about learning. The scheduling for how students will spend their time during this block is up to them: they create the schedule, set goals with their mentor/advisor, and then are responsible for the plan that they make.
This schedule also sets aside time for optional multi-day immersion activities (during the three-week break) that gives students the chance to get involved in activities and experiences that introduce possible career options, deepen learning, and provide access to new and emerging ideas and technologies. In other words, time to address and interact with our current realities.
Start Time: Research shows that students may actually perform better if given the opportunity to start school later than the typical high school day. Then again, there are some students for whom early hours are productive. Having a flexible schedule would allow students to plan their day according to what works best for them. This flexibility also provides opportunities for students who may be involved in sports to receive the complete learning experiences and not miss out. This can also benefit teachers as well–some teachers would be able to start early and be done early; others could start later and end later.
Calendar: While the model itself is flexible, we believe that the most benefit to learning for our students happens in an annual schedule and realized that three, three-week blocks, followed by a three-week break (a 45-15 model) allows for deeper learning and flexibility for families.
The student directed block allows for teachers to collaborate, innovate, and to review and refine their teaching practices on a daily basis, while also having time to assist students in their individual pursuits. This daily allotment of time for teachers will drastically increase the effectiveness of their instruction as they can address issues from the daily wrap up and plan, collaborate, innovate, and refine their ideas to better address their instruction. In addition, they will have the option to sponsor/direct activities during student-directed learning that they enjoy and are passionate about. Essentially, we’re making time for innovation, collaboration, research, and creating, for students and teachers–for the things that matter! Our plan not only utilizes time more efficiently, but actually dedicates time for those things that matter most: time for students, time for teachers, and time for families.
Ideally, academies would have collaborative learning spaces, open areas, and flexible interior modules, but one of the most important aspects to this model is that it can be implemented in any school regardless of the current set-up. Existing schools must be more flexible and adaptable to the needs of the students and teachers to determine the best setup for the school, but following these guidelines the schools can make the most of this model.
Classrooms: We’ve rethought the typical classroom to be more effective in facilitating learning. Teachers and students will use the spaces based on and directed by various purposes in the learning process. Some classrooms may be considered collaboration rooms, others research areas, brainstorming & ideation spaces, workshops, quiet study rooms, creating and developing rooms, and other academy specific needs for students and teachers.
Classrooms and departments will also be grouped by academy to better facilitate collaboration. In other words, instead of having a science wing or department with classrooms all grouped together, the Robotics academy, for example, of a school will have various content area teachers (English, math, science, engineering, art, design, etc.) that will specialize in the academy content and will all be grouped together. The math classroom may be right next to the science, which is next to the art, next to the English and so on. At the beginning of a three week project block, multiple classrooms may be set up to facilitate research and exploration, but as the students and teachers advance in their needs the classroom may change in their purpose and set up. Tables, desks, and chairs may be moved out to provide space for working, or the furniture may be grouped for collaboration.
Teacher & Student Flexibility: Students and teachers will be more fluid in their use of space: if a student or group of students needs to stay in the brainstorming/research center for a longer period of time–even the entire day–they may choose to do so. They will not be constrained by bells or periods. Students and teachers will use rooms for the purpose of the space rather than the topic or content area of classrooms or section of the school. For example, an English teacher might specialize in various aspects of the project process (brainstorming, research, analyzing data, thinking strategies, etc.), and if a student needs help with one of those skills or concepts he or she can remain with the teacher in the corresponding room until those needs are met. Another student may need more instruction from a math teacher on how to measure, apply, and present data that has been collected. Thus, students and teachers will more effectively use their space with purpose.
Media Center/Libraries: These facilities will be used more exclusively as collaborative environments as well as additional research and brainstorming centers and maker spaces.
Walls: Rather than fill walls with posters and rules, wall space will be used with a more defined purpose. For example, “Any non-porous surface can be a whiteboard,” says George Kembel, the executive director of the Stanford d.school. “Creativity follows context,” says Kembel. The main idea, he says, is not to segregate creativity from other activities. So, walls in classrooms will be used to enable and assist brainstorming, ideation, creating, and organizing. As many schools don’t often have much space, students will be guided in the effective use of walls, whiteboards, glassboards, etc. and encouraged to make use of the space around them–frequently in unconventional ways.
Halls: Halls will act as an extension of the classroom containing white boards, sitting areas, collaborative spaces, etc.
Beyond the School: Local businesses and community partners will play a large role in the development and progress of the academies. As such, students will be encouraged to participate in opportunities to advance their learning with local industry leaders: similar to internships or a Regional Occupational Programs (ROP).
We understand that not all schools have the resources to have the most up-to-date technology. The model does not mandate any specific level of technology; once again, the point is to work within what the schools have and can reasonably acquire. Any technology plans should be directly tied to the needs of the academies, and follow a technology vision and plan. We encourage schools to adopt a vision and plan that is forward-thinking but also wise. Technology should not be used simply to replace what we currently have. Instead, we see the SAMR model of technology as the basis for seeing and utilizing technology for what it can be.