Explore, discover, grow, empower : caring and freedom in a secondary interdisciplinary pathway

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Explore, discover, grow, empower : caring and freedom in a secondary interdisciplinary pathway
Bucher, Amanda J.
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
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Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of social science)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Social sciences
Committee Chair:
Swartz, Omar
Committee Members:
Duran-Aydintug, Candan
McDermott, John


This phenomenological autoethnographic case study illuminates the emergence of interdisciplinarity in a public high school. The intent is to study how interdisciplinary projectbased and personalized learning benefits both students and educators, particularly when working within a gradual release framework utilizing an ethic of care or a “Caring” approach. Using a phenomenological autoethnographic methodology via a series of reflective vignettes, the case study explores behaviors, practices, conditions, curriculum, and description of specific student outcomes. The design of the study examines my personal experiences, observations, conversations with others, and reflections on the implementation of this model within a high school building promoting two explicit pathways: disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Copyright Amanda J. Bucher. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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EXPLORE, DISCOVER, GROW, EMPOWER: CARING AND FREEDOM IN A SECONDARY INTERDISCIPLINARY PATHWAY by AMANDA J. BUCHER B.A., University of Northern Colorado, 2007 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Science Social Science Program 2018




iii The thesis for the Master of Socia l Science degree by Amanda J. Bucher has been approved for the Social Science Program by Omar Swartz, Chair Candan Duran Aydintug John McDermott Date: December 15 th 2018


iv Bucher, Amanda J. ( MSS, Social Science Pr ogram) Explore, Di scover, Grow, Empower: Caring and Freedom in a Secondary Interdisciplinary Pathway Thesis directed by Associate Professor Omar Swartz ABSTRACT This phenomenological autoethnographic case study illuminates the emergence of interdisciplinarity in a public h igh school. The intent is to study how interdisciplinary project based and personalized learning benefits both students and educators, particularly when working within a gradual release framework utilizing an ethic of care Using a p henomenological autoethnographic met hodology via a series of reflective vignettes, the case study explores behaviors, practices, conditions, curriculum, and description of specific student outcomes. The design of the study examines my personal experiences, observations, conversations with others, and reflections on the implementation of this model within a high school building promoting two explicit pathways: disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning. K eywords : Autoethnography , caring, disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, phenomenological autoethnographical study The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Omar Swartz


v DEDICATION For m y son Uriah, the light of my life . For my hu sband Clint, my rock, the one who has made sure I shall never again walk alone. For my mother. She has made this possible by caring for our family each week . For my high school teacher , Kathy Co c etti , who believed I was a scholar so now I am.


vi TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. TOWARD A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF EDUCATION 1 Introduction .. . . . . 3 Research Questions .. 4 The Evolution of the American Public Education System ..5 . . . 12 . 19 Overview II. METH ODOLOGICAL . .. .22 . Praxis and the Structured Vi g 31 Limitations of Methodological and Theoretical A ssumptions ... 38 III. .44 V ignette 1, : The Bow l of Fruit .46 Vignette 2, Parent Meeting: What is L earning? ... ... .53 . 61 IV. . . ...64 Vignett e 3, 6 4 Vignett e 4, Vignette 5, . . . 86


vii V. DRAWING CONCLUSIONS Vignette 6 , between . Limit ations of the EDGE Model . . Strengths of the EDGE Model . . Vignette 7 , Future Research Final Thoughts REFERENCES ..124 APPENDIX ..130 A. P itard (201 130 B. S ample EDGE Rubric .131 C. #freedompen Project Menu 133 D. .. 134


1 CHAPTER I TOWARD A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF EDUCATION Prologue It is imperative to illustrate the catalyst of my personal pedagogical shift. I am inclined to start out with the obvious , My story begins with ; however, I must stop there. Even though this story thesis will utilize a first person account, it is not just my story. Far from it, in fact. It is a story of students, mentors, teachers, parents, and administrators in a small, yet unique pocket of the world. This is our story and it begins with a young man named Ray . I met Ray in m y third year of teaching via the disciplinary pathway at Legend High School in Parker, Colorado. Ray was in my sophomore English honors class. He was kind. He was compassionate. He was both incredibly bright and frustratingly resistant. Sometimes I look ba ck at our email communication with fierce remorse. In the last few months of his short life, I frequently badgered him to submit a formulaic character analysis essay on The Crucible , threatening a D or F in the course if not completed ASAP. This was an ess ay he cared nothing about. But my content, my discipline was K ing, so I had come to believe. I think about his last day in my 8th period class: we read Henry Walden . He wrote the most magnificent poem that afternoon. I had finally introduce d something he cared about. About an hour after our class had ended, he died trying to save a friend who fell into a frozen over pond. mother his fin al piece of writing and assured her that his last and Ray and his da d had been co writ I smiled and nodded,


2 deeply ashamed because I knew nothing of this. As I harassed this student to complete a task I It has taken me about two years to be fully haunted, to be entirely aghast by this as I tried to convince myself that my behavior was warranted. I had to teach my content; I had to hold students accountable. I did not have the time nor the energy to person ally engage all students or to thoroughly acknowledge their distinctive human experiences outside of my class. They needed to show compliance in an upper level English honors classroom; I was simply preparing them for the future. As it t urns out, Ray was s o much more than I allowed him to be. He was an emerging poet and engineer, a rugby player, a gamer, a mathematician, a doting brother, a loving son, and an unsuspected hero. I am filled with remorse and deep, unrelenting regret. I was ignorant, focusing o liked by students, even nominated for the district Apple Award that year. Now that I am a leader and mentor in an interdisciplinary, personalized, project based pathway, one that Ra y would have absolutely thrived in, I understand there is a dire need to reimagine the American public high school experience for students and educators alike.


3 Introduction Imagine a day in the life of a high school stu dent. The morning starts with the pledge of allegiance, announcements about an upcoming football game, auditions for the musical, a Chipotle fundraiser for the cheer program, and a reminder to fulfill mandatory community service hours. The bell rings and s tudents systematically move to the next class within a 5 selected elective courses, perhaps art, engineering, or choi r. Although morning rituals and schedules like these are prevalent in many American high schools, this particular narrative takes place at Legend High School in Parker, Colorado, the site of this autoethnographic case study. T he division of disciplines in most high schools today look strikingly similar to those of evident in the industrial model of education along with the perpetuation of standardized testing via No Child Left Behind (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001). Fletcher (2000) illustrates the monumental influence the neo conservative position has had on c urrent educational policy , from legislative curriculum to standardized assessment protocols, particularly observing disciplinary knowledge at the expense of diverse student experience, and a monolit hic set of addition, the way we have categorized knowledge and organized the educational experience is often limiting and counterproductive, especially in the e ra of innovation where rote knowledge is


4 Moreover, such stringent focus on disciplinary content and mandated state testing have dehumanized the student and damaged relationships and bonds between adults and children in these educational settings, stripping away agency and autonomy while si lencing the unique contributions of individuals. Student and teacher strengths and talents are subsequently lost as math, reading, and multiple choice test questions dominate classroom productivity. This leaves little room for critical reflection, curiosit y, self discovery, or personal empowerment (Robinson & Aronica, 2015). Students feel inadequate because of a test score and move forward accepting a particular designation or lot in life, i.e., I am bad at math. I am bad at reading. I am bad at writing. I The questions lingers: why, then, are we still educating this way? Research Questions The object of this case study, the Legend EDGE (Explo re, Discover, Grow, Empower) pathway, strives to reimagine the internal landscape of American public education. In this autoethnographical inquiry, I, an EDGE leader and mentor, will investigate the past two years per the development and implementation of EDGE, an interdisciplinary project based and personalized learning pathway within a traditional public high school. Utilizing a series of reflective vignettes, this thesis seeks to understand what happens when a team of educators establish such a program, along with the ways these experiences have shaped the It also seeks to contextualize conflict surrounding opposing pedagogical proclivities through the evaluation of a building divide d into two explicit learning pathways. The reflections will employ the 2000 and


5 (1998) which will be particular ly useful in the evaluation of contrasting classroom experience s . This chapter is organized as f ollows: first I will explore the evolution of the American public education system , identifying enduring t hemes and systemic tendencies . Then , I will review the current literature that grounds my study. I will end with a c onclusion and chapter overview of the remainder of this thesis. The Evolution of the American Public Education System I t is imperative to r ecognize the historical evolution of the American public education system in order to see both how it has altered and, perhaps more importantly, how it has remained stagnant despite ever changing societal and global conditions. The Massachusetts Bay School Law of 1642 mandated that all families teach children to read in order to better understand th eir religious doctrine (Neem , 2017 ). This event sets the tone for the first of two themes prevalent in the formation of the Am erican public education system. The first illustrates a tradition of information dissemin ation from adult to child. Dewey (1938) describes this as a matter of education consists of bodies of information and of skills that have been worked out in the past; therefor e, the chief business of the school is to transmit education ; a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom t The second prominent theme depicts public education as a tool that maintains and cultivates a capitalist state. In a letter to Peter Carr, president of a highly regarded educational academy, Thomas Jefferson suggested a two track system comprised of t ( Jefferson, 1814 ). Twenty six years later, a group of wealthy business men constructed


6 the New York Public School Society with the intention of providing education to poor children. This org then passed information derived from the initial rote le cture down to younger students (Stevenson, 2015). Stevenson (2015) describes how Joseph Lancaster created this mod el in 1798 close to nothing, he could not afford to employ teachers; therefore, he designed a large and ith a regimented system of 2015, p. 71). McCluskey (2007) illuminates that between 1820 and 1860, larger agricultural businesses began taking over; therefore, people had to find work in cities. P ublic schools in prepare students to work in fact ories ( McCluskey, 2007, p. 9). B allantine and Spade (2007) contextualize such This theory declares that schools maintain need s of the dominant group by teaching students their roles in society and perpetuating the belief that the system was a fair and merit 2007, p. 14). workforce of immigrants (Neem, 2017 , p. 1247 ). Brouillette (1999) illuminates Horace Mann as an instrumental figure in the construction of the Massachusetts Board of Education. He was the first board secretary, serving from 1837 to 1848. In that time, he advocated for state control of public education. This paved way for larger governmental control (Brouill ette, 1999). Brouillette claims that the primary aim of reformers


7 ol districts under centralized town authority and to would serve in the quest for social unity ( 1999, p. 9). However, McCluskey (2 007) cites industrialization as a ma in the sense that it failed to uphold 9). ld give up the exceedingly democratic idea that all are equal and that our society is devoid of classes. The employee tends to remain an employee, the wage earner tends to remain a wage Furthermore, Thattai (2001) illuminates the relationship between the education system and influential national events, i.e., Th e Great Depression, major wars, and the civil rights movement. Iorio and Yeager (2011) identify the emergence of two explicit types of school education emphasizes rote learning, progressive education highlights the student experi ence in the present. Iorio and Yeager (2011) note the following progressive educational attributes: learning by doing, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, minimal reliance on text books, emphasis on varied learning resources, and adherence t o transferrable or real world learning outcomes . In addition, the concept of scientific management influenced public education throughout the early 20 th century. Iorio and Yeager (2011) recognize Frederick Win slow Taylor as the designer of Scientific Manag ement. Scientific M anagement encouraged


8 , as it had come to be known, particularly applied to education i n the execution of standardized testing, ratings, records, building evaluations, conditions, operations, curriculum, and financial compensation for teachers whose students demonstrated proficiency (Iorio & Yeager, 2011). Taylorism served as the catalyst fo r a persistent culture of standardization in the American public education system. Subsequently, the Educational Testin g Service sustained the efforts o f eugenicists like Carl Brigham, a psychometrician who worked extensively on the Army Alpha Test. This w as a test administered to World War I recruits with the intent to validate racial categorization (Perez, 2002). He was later employed by the Educational Testing Services to create an intelligence test for college admission; Brigham fashioned the first vers ion of the SAT which drew upon his prior , p. 21 ). In addition to the above mentioned factors, political interference also manipulated the direction of public education early on. Zhao (2009) discusses how, for the first time in the United States, education was utilized in terms of an official political platform in the late fiftie s and early sixties. Sputnik sparked President American education. As a result, the implementation of the first federal aid for public and private education, the NDEA (National Defense of Education A ct of 1958) along with increased government involvement came to fruition (Zhao , 2009). Zhao (2009) ascertains that fear was most certainly used as an operative tool exemplifying a nation at risk of falling behind the Soviet Union. Lyndon Johnson also made education a top priority, particularly noting various inequalities in the system. P resident Johnson believed that


9 racia l and eth Yeager, 2011, p. 18). Additionally, President Ronald Re a gan appointed a National Commission on Excellence in Education in response to an inadequate K 12 public school system (Iorio & Yeager , 2011). In 1983, A Nation at Risk , writte n by the commission, called for increased teacher preparation and competence in applicable academic discipline, market and performance based teacher pay, increased measures of accountability for teachers along with professional development, experience base d career ladders, etc. In addition, Iorio and Yeager (2011) hi ghlight ithou t the requisite coursework (p. 20 ). This meant that teachers no longer needed specialized teacher e ducation training programs and that content Zhao (2009) outlines the dangers of the modern American educational reform. H e illustrates an education summit in March of 1996; in attendance were numerous company CEOs, forty one governors, forty four business executives, and President Bill Clinton. Zhao (2009) . Professional educators and 671). As one might conclude , from this point forward, a damaged and politically charged public education system continued to spiral out of control. After everything, we s eem to be right back where we started. Iorio and Yeager (2011) describ e of this revolution influenced outsourcing of the U.S. manufacturing to other countries and the repl acement of some occu Yeager, 2011, p. 21). Friedman a more equal footing


10 than at any previous time in the history p. 7). This complicates things immensely. Because of this, public education is up against many challenges in preparing children to thrive in the global society. Zhao (2009) writes, To meet these challenges, we need to transform our thinking a bout education. It may still be locally funded and controlled, but we must think globally in terms of what knowledge and skills our children will need so that they can exercise their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in t he globalized world . (p. 1840 ) By failing to reevaluate public education given th e ever changing nature of the world, we debilitate our students and actively work against them which has been particularly evident in urban areas. While there are many American cities that help illustrate this point, Chicago may be one of the most signific of Arne Duncan, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), as US Secretary of Education in 2009 , 221). Features of this agenda include shutting down public schools and handing them over to private organizations, pay for performance aligned with harter schools and 2011, p. 221). In Lipman (2004) closely examines the relationship between globalization and the public education system. Her research highlights the ramifications of global city establis hment specifically on


11 f becoming either a high paid knowledge worker or part of the downgraded sector of labor. She claims that Chicago is a prime example of the paradoxical poverty and wealth that epitomize globalization and its effects on both the economy and the cultural pol itics of city space and race issues. Lipman (2004) declares that Chicago Public Schools has reduced teaching to the model of the industrial workplace via emphasis on information and procedures, student tracking, and differentiated curricula, thus preparing people for low skilled jobs. Lipman (2004) concludes that the increased accountability measures not only perpetuate inequities, but also contrib ute to new issues for students and communities who have been historically denied the equal opportunity to learn. Ironically, these are the students who are supposed to benefit from the new policies, yet they are unremittingly refused an intellectually stim curriculum, students on the cusp receiving extra support while underachieving students are ignored, mindless professional development, the limiting and eventual phase out of bilingual education, the redefinition of critical thinking as critically thinking about test questions, lack of creativity in the construction of learning and teaching, and , most importantly , the demoralization of students and staff, the feeli ng of failure and constant pressure of high stakes testing. Furthermore, Lipman (2004) notes that while some teachers and administrators maintain powerful tool of ass accountability policies exaggerate the subjugation of critical thought and action, identifying students and schools as either failures or successes, promoting the binary classifications of


12 and individuals (Lipman, 2004). This is the model that influenced the market based school reform of today. Additionally, Lipman (2011) illuminates the ways various external school policies e to the production of political, economic, and spatial inequalities, marginalization, and exclu p. 223). She discusses how closing down schools and replacing them with esteemed selective enrollment, magnet, and charter schools enhance a ultimately attracting middle and upper class home buyers. This ultimately displaces people of color while gentrifying their cities (Lipman, 2011). Moreover, Lipman (2011) comments on the state of managerialism in education ascertaini ng that private boards exert control over charter Lipman (2011) states, She concludes by questioning the nature of the discourse surrounding public education up to this point, i.e., what is public education, who gets to construct it, and, most importantly, what kind of society does it reflect? Literature Review In this section, I report on the literature that grounds my study, making several key observations. First, the literature i ndicates that traditional disciplinary models fail to sufficiently prepare students for the post secondary world. Wagner (2014) discusses his collaboration with leaders from a prestigious public high school in New England: their project aimed to ensure col lege readiness. The focus group included students who had graduated from the high school


13 three to five years before. These students were asked about the most engaging and helpful aspects of their high school experiences. The team found that students used v ery little of what they had learned in one of the most highly regarded public high schools in the state, one alumni tests a week l 1 02). Subsequently, traditional disciplinary approaches not only hinder caring relationships between students and adults, but they also place youth at a disadvantage in our innovation centered economy as overemphasis on rote memorization stifles autonomy a n d creativity . Wagner (2014) and Robinson and Aronica (2015) evaluate the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) world exam rankings. The agner, 2014, p. 93). The data shows us that our students significantly struggle in comparison with our global counterparts when asked to apply or transfer learning to unfamiliar situations or tasks (Wagner, 2014, Robinson & Aronica, 2015). In this regard, Wagner and Compton (2012) will be particularly useful as they call for educational change, addressing educators, parents, and the community at large. The authors contend that, in our innovation centered economy, students must learn how to think outside of the box in order to create original products and solve the complex problems of our world. Wagner and Compton (2012) evaluate th e journeys of top STEM and social innovators in of a company which specializes in bicycle powered maize shellers, and Laura White, a renowned higher education reform activist. The authors found that adult mentors in their youth fostered creativity and promoted a growth mindset. EDGE teachers and administrators have been designated as adult mentors and students are encouraged to call us by first names or nicknam es.


14 We forge particularly strong relationships through crew time which is a period in the day devoted to social, emotional, and academic mentorship with a smaller , designated group of students. In addition, the EDGE teaching and learning philosophy is la rgely one of personal growth which encourages students to care, try, and pursue their individual greatness. Moreover, Wagner and Com pton (2012) illustrate the need for play, passion, and purpose in the classroom. EDGE offers weekly passion workshops (both mentor and student led) along with an abundance Wagner and Compton (2012). In addition, Wagner (2014) will be consulted because, in his study, he draws upon a demographic similar to the one referenced in the Legend High School case study. He recognizes that urban schools have been historically marginalized; theref ore, he shifts the focus to suburban visiting several suburban classrooms across the country, Wagner (2014) identifies a chronic lack of criti cal thinking and d eep engagement . These schools are similar to the one that will be referenced in this thesis case study, Legend High School, which is 81% white and less than 6% economically disadvantaged according to U.S. News (2017). Several teachers and administrators in our disciplinary traditional pathway vehemently disagree with the EDGE model , many taking on the mentality; this conflict will be further discussed in Chapter 5. T hose critical of the pathway do not see the need for cha nge as t he majority of our students graduate and go on to attend an institution of higher education . However, Wagner (2014) concludes that there are two gaps: one nation wide and one world wide. The latter global achievement gap places American students at serious risk of falling behind in the global economy; at this rate, our students will not be able to successfully compete for the jobs of the


15 present or future. In addition, Robinson and Aronica (2015) claim that public education, at large, is outdated; t he industrialized model no longer satisfies our collective needs. Instead, the authors encourage educators to create highly personalized, engaging learning experiences for students. Wagner and Dintersmith (2015) ascertain that successful adults need to be able to ask meaningful questions, form educated opinions, collaborate, communicate effectively, and analyze information using a critical eye. Although the classroom is the perfect place to foster these essential life skills, they are not explicitly taught or even addressed in most American acknowledged this gap and is actively responding to this need via an unique evaluation system as communication , character, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and civic responsibility . Robinson and Aronica (2015) and Wagner and Dintersmith (2015) reference an exemplary educational mo del, High Tech High in San Diego, California. This is a public charter school that I visited in January of 2017. Because it is difficult to find meaningful professional development specifically aligned with our vision, EDGE mentors frequently visit impactf ul schools around the country to gain ideas and insight. Our aim is to synthesize strengths from each of these schools in the development of our own pathway. Aside from High Tech High , we have visited Vista Innovation & Design Academy in San Francisco , Cal ifornia , the NYC iSchool in New York, New York , The Met in Providence, Rhode Island, and Rise Up Community School in Denver, Colorado. High Tech High has definitely been a highlight as the model focuses o n interdisciplinary, real world learning experiences . While there, I witnessed powerful projects fusing humanities, math, English, science, and art, all the while emphasizing presentation to authentic audiences and real world scenarios and application. In one class, curators from a local


16 art gallery were me eting with a small group of students and providing feedback on their work . For a different project , students were paired with an elementary class and asked to write a featuring their young partner At the end, the y prese nt ed the book to the elementary student . One High Tech High teacher enthusiastically noted the ways this particular project inculcated a sense of intrinsic motivation and work ethic into his class. Instead of worrying about the grade students wan ted to produce a quality product for their excited kindergartener . As I toured the space, I co uld not help but notice an overwhelming sense of energy and joy in both students and teachers. Additionally, p ro found student work seemed to be displayed in every nook and cranny of the school . I observed a rt installations made from recycled material intended to create awareness about poverty in the U.S., empathy projects, a class magazine publication , and a project where students design ed merchandise meant to prompt prolific dialogue about race through the utilization of science, math, and humanities content. Personal observation aside, s tatistics suggest that the model is working. The majority of their graduates attend college, 70 perce nt going to a four year college: examined in the Legend EDGE case study, strives to imitate particular aspects of this highly effective learning model. We would, however, like to achieve similar outcomes in a secondary public school. M oreover, the li terature suggests that interdisciplinarity largely addresses many shortcomings prevalent in the industrial banking model of education, which is why it has become a staple of the EDGE pathway within the last year of our two year implementation. Mainzer (201 1) maintains that innovation will emerge from problem driven research which crosses


17 disciplinary lines. Rep ko (2012) and Moran (2010) provide the terminology for the explicit pathways identified in the case study: disciplinary and interdisciplinary. Interd isciplinarity was the missing piece in the first semester of our pathway implementat ion. This will be evident in reflective V ignette 1, n Night to be discussed on page 45 . In this vignette, we see an unintentional multidiscipl each fruit representing a discipline and being in close proxim mature inter disciplinary work is more like a well blended smoothie (p. 17). Repko (2012) asserts that while disciplinary work is often viewed as narrow, interdisciplinarity involves a more comprehensive understanding of various systems and problems. Repko (2012) asc ertains that truth claims of disciplinary experts, acknowledge the contingency of their claims, and recognize the potential of integrating them in order to enhan (2012) illustrates the notion that strict disciplinarian contexts often inhibit creative approaches to problem solving, knowledge production, and cognitive advancement. Furthermore, the l iterature elucidates the relationship between content standards and interdisciplinary studies. Robinson and Aronica (2015) address the ways in which some schools are reclaim ing autonomy despite the focus on standardized testing. In other words, educators d o not have to choose between content standards and progressive instructional approaches as often assumed. In fact, research suggests that interdiscipl inary instructional approaches improve test scores (Drake & Burns, 2004). Speaking to this point, Drake an d Burns (2004) emphasize the curricular or interdisciplinary approach (p. 20).


18 Additionally, the authors define acco p . 18 19). Drake and Burns (2004) proclaim that interdisciplinarity incorporating a standards based approach curriculum that is highly rigorous, yet readily adaptable to different p. 21). Moreover, the authors acknowledge that diligently teaching to the standards rarely results in high student engagement or motivation. Drake and Burns (2004) the standards together into meaningful clusters both within and acr short, this approach allows for more creative teaching and more purposeful and relevant learning outcomes. T he final assumption materializing from the state of the literature regards the significance of meaningful and sympathetic collaboration amongst students and educators. Savage (2011) anno play on words, i.e., subject/subjectivity, cleverly illustrates the idea that a cross curricular approach will inevitably start from within, but given the right pedagogical considerations, will work its way out to encompass other subject areas/contents in empathetic and enriching ways. In short, effective curriculum development cannot take place in isolation. EDGE mentors have experienced each of these considerations in the difficult shift from a culture of isolation and cont ent specialization to one of essential daily collaboration and deep sensitivity to the disciplines of colleagues. This translates to the student mentor relationship as well; students are considered co designers of their individual educational plans. We exp erience this human journey side by side, not by means of a hierarchical structure clearly defining the oppressor and the oppressed.


19 Conclusion At the beginning of the chapter , I described two themes prevalent in the evolution of the American public education system: a tradition of information dissemination from adult to child cultivates a capitalist state. There are many issues with these themes. What if the information banked into the pupil is indicative of the knowledge base and values of the dominant group? informed, narrow, or (dare I say) wrong ? What if those values ignore or disregard the interests of each magnificently unique individual child? Stearns distinctive features of the national experience, are meant to drive home an understanding of national values and competing narratives as reflected in conflict theory perspectives which allude to a system with the ever present possibility of major disruption because of the unequal distribution 2007, p. 16). Public schooling simply mirrors this. All sides at one point or another have agreed that education is in trouble; this seems to be our one common narra tive. Aronowitz and Giroux (2003 why are we still making the mistakes of the past? Because, accordi ng to Aronowitz and Giroux (2003 ), we have focused solely on external factors regarding social and political equity without acknowledging the very sub stance of education internally. Noddings (2005) Little attention has up; however,


20 in this problem, I am hopeful that we might find our solution despite pressing external influences. Overview of Thesis Chapter 2 will focus solely on the theoretical and methodological assumptions that ground this study . I n this chapter, I will outline the value of phenomenological autoet hnography in teaching and leadership while establishing autoethnography as a transformative research method . I will then evaluate the relationship between praxis and the structured vignette analysis; thus, justifying my choice to organize this autoethnogra phy utili zing the structured vignette analysis . In addition , I will define and expound an ethic of care, concluding with how this idea of caring translates to teaching and learning in schools. To conclude, I will illuminate and respond to limitations of bo th methodological and theoretical considerations. Chapter 3 will evaluate the rise of the disciplines along with the three learning outcomes as defined by Mayer (2002): no learning, rote learning, and meaningful learning. V ignette 1, tion Night: Th illustrates an interdisciplinary or cross curricular approach to teaching and learning as an alternative to the more compartmentali zed traditional structure. T his vignette will illustrate the benefits of interdisciplinarity f o r students an d teachers alike . I will transition to V ignette 2, Parent Mee vignette will stimulate questions surrounding mainstream notions of knowledge acquisition and learning. In my concluding remarks, I will discuss the ways knowledge and the learning landscape have changed , contending that we must change with it. Chapter 4 will focus on education as the practice of freedom. In this chapter, I will include V ignettes 3 and 4, Th ese vignettes will demonstrate the shift from compliant to empowered learning and teaching.


21 Subsequently , I will incorporate V ignette 5, #freedompenproject T his vignette will highlight specific student success stories where, through carin g and freedom, students actively intervened in the world and asserted their presence while making significant strides as readers and writers. In C hapter 5, I will draw several conclusions. First, I will exemplify V ignette 6 Between Pathways T his vignette will examine concerns of staff members in the disciplinary pathway along with our response to those trepidations . I will then explicitly outline the limitations and strengths of the EDGE model. Next, I will incorporate Vignette 7 Acts of Int the transformative nature of a project which allowed students to exert their presence in the world. Lastly, I will elucidate future research and my final commentary surrounding the relationship between Caring and a n interdisciplinary project b ased and personalized learning approach.


22 CHAPTER II : METHODOLOGICAL AND THEORETICAL ASSUMPTIONS My choice to utilize an authoethnographical approach st ems from a desire to explore my personal pedagogical developm ent in the context of larger societal and global considerations. As a teacher, it is easy to live in your own classroom space. In fact, it is quite difficult to think outside of the context of your classroom given the demanding nature of the profession. Ed ucators are consumed by assessment, social and emotional issues, routine professional development, student and parent emails, the list goes on. There have been several days where I did not have time to eat or use the restroom. I have worn an abundance of h ats over the course of just a few hours: counselor, friend, life coach, mandatory reporter, metaphorical punching bag, oh yes, and academic teacher. Whenever I had the chance to come up for air and reflect over the course of my eight years in teaching, I h ave often felt that things are pressed upon us without much justification or say. Initiatives seemingly materialize out of thin air and are passed down with the expectation of 100% buy in and flawless execution (at le ast this is true for those interested i n receiving a high performance rating/increased salary ). I have often felt like an object, a pawn, a mouth piece for someone who had never even entered my classroom. My choice to use autoethnography is simple: I want to better understand what has happened t o me, my students, and my colleagues these past eight years, while providing others with an intimate glimpse into our story. Additionally, the methodology fits my theoretical approach like a glove on its hand. Adams, Jones, and Ellis (2015) illuminate the 1). We shall see later in this section how the idea of human relationships directly correlates with an ethic of care in education. In short, I cannot imagine constr ucting this thesis in any other way. I saw an incredible opportunity in these


23 particular methodological and theoretical considerations as they have one important thing in common: they call for humanization. And this is something I feel public education in the United States desperately needs. Autoethnography as a Transformative Research Method Autoethnography illuminates the praxis prevalent in both reflective teaching and leadership practices. Starr (2014) claims y revolves around the exploration of self in relation to others and the space created between them, relational disciplines like education and qualitative research meth od that can be defined as the utilization of the autobiographical to examine and evaluate events within a wider socio cultural setting. Adams et al. (2015) discuss of thinking in reg ard to research methods (Adams et al., 2015, p. 21). Adams et al. (2015) own identities, lives, beliefs, feelings, and relationships influenced their approach to research and 22). Put simply, autoethnography allows the researcher to unite empirical knowledge w ith perso nal knowledge (Adams et al., 2015, p. 22). The authors maintain that autoethnographers might start with a personal experience in need of more profound understanding. These might be referred to as epiphanies or realiza tions that significantly shape or alter the (perceived hence, the prologue in the opening of this thesis. To this point, Adams et al. (2015) note the significance of p . 47 48 ). Next, autoethnographers situa te themselves in the various accounts of a story: our own personal stories, the stories told by others through existing re search


24 and writing, etc. Adams et al. simultaneously, moving inward and ou experience will, no doubt, affect the researc h process; therefore, it will be imperative to incorporate a strategic and intentional structure that both surfaces and contextualizes existing biases honestly and in the spirit of critical reflection. This will be accomplished through reflexivity. By this I mean that I, the inquirer, will thoroughly and openly evaluate my role within the study, elucidates that reflexivity is not about progressing personal biases, but more about uncovering phenomenology remains essential in helping to articulate th e nature of everyday lived experiences. Rooted in psychology and philosophy, Creswell (2014) defines phenomenological who have undergone a mutual phenomeno n. emphasized in a phenomenological perspective becomes the site as well as the source of data for phenomenological approach has the potential to inform the praxis of leaders in an educational setting. F formative r esearch changes time, requires vulnerability, fosters empathy, embodies


25 creativity and innovation, eliminates boundaries, reveres subjectivity, and employs therapeutic benefits. This is fitting as the EDGE pathway strives to transform the way we think about education and learning. Custer (2014) claims that this research method has the ability to the past while informing her/his present and restructuring the future. He illuminat es the relationship between autoethnography and the Adams et al. (2015) identify the ways in which autoethnographers utilize this narrativ e form to ultimately create relationships To this point location of the interpretation of experience within a culture and a context of place an 142). Further , Belbase, Luitel, and Taylor (2008) illustrate h ow researcher s ultimately sustain a heightened sense of accountability a s they teeter the fine line between narration of experience or intricate biography from the past to t he present interpretation of consciousness in the political, econo mic and socio 88 ). I n addition, vulnerability is crucial in the sense t hat it forces us to fully engage . Custer the act of resurfacing intimate and sometimes painful thoughts and memories sounds undesirable, C uster (2014) claims that there is great bravery in this endeavor which, in turn, produces a clear purpose. Ngunjiri, Hernandez, and Chang (2010) state, Vulnerability is part of what makes reading autoethnographic works so compelling, as researchers expose their pains, hurt, loss, grief, heartbreaks, and other emotions experienced as they travai The authors claim that in sharing such intimate and personal accounts, researchers might create more empathy, which engende rs more


26 essentially enhance 7). Furthermore , cupying his psychological make up throughout the execution of his own autoethnographical process. Custer (2014) illuminates that , the energies cultiva ted throug h autoethnography are he process (p. 4). He examines how autoethnographers connect their personal experiences with others in a manner that potential readership (p. 5). Through my writing, I hope to build empathy for those in pedagogical opposition of an interdisciplinary project based, personalized learni ng pathway. In turn, I sincerely hope that they will build empathy for mentors and students in the Legend EDGE pathway, as I invite them to walk side by side with us on this journey. Additionally, Belbase et al. The ch arm of the research lies on how you enjoy reading it as a literary epic journey and reflect back on your own practices ; these acts inspire the e ). In this way, it is an imaginative method of inquiry filled with prospectiv e possibilities . Custer (2014) maintains that autoethnography exemplifies creativity and innovation as it allows the contemporary researcher to place a foot in each world: personal narrative and positiv ist investigation. He describes autoethnography as an art form that allows the modern and innovation that inspires change, transformation, and revolution offers multiple ways of es as it forces us to set aside biases and fully listen to the experiences and viewpoints of others (Custer, 2014).


27 Subsequently, Custer (2014) identifies the ways autoethnography encourages individuality and subjectivity as it calls for a self awareness t hat allows the researcher t o impact the surrounding world. Autoethnography is a transformative method that is important to science in the sense that researcher s an opportunity to evaluate the (Custer, 2014, p. 9). Lastly, autoethnography is therapeu tic. The autoethnographer, through discourse with self, may realize that some conflicts were never greeted with resoluti I have found this to be true. Belbase et al. (2008) irradiate the transformative nature of autoethnography as it pe rtains to educational pedagogy claimi ng that such changes in the practices of teaching and learning from behaviorist to constructivist or traditionalist to modernist and postmodernist constitu te a ). Through out this autoethnography, my will become apparent as a result of praxis accomplished via the structured vignette analyses . Praxis and the Structured Vignette Analysis (2016) str uctured v ignette analysis (see Appendix A Mizzi (2010) the use of vignettes, this form contributes to authoethnograp hic work. Rather than applying m ultivocality includes his or her The author discusses how m ultivocality encourages the the self with social context . T his,


28 in turn, gent on context ual considerations ( Mizzi, 2010, p. 6). ) notion of multivocality in mind , I purposefully situate each vignette alongside larger social and cultural context s ; this approach highlights the fluidity of my identity as I respond to conversations , shifting circumstances, and changing realities . The r eader shall see that I am both angry and joyful, both hesitant and bold , both enthusiastic and fearful. It is my hope that t hrough me, the reader might observe the complexity of teaching in America today. I position myself as a teacher leader who believe s that education should be the practice of freedom . My theo retical and methodological choices reflect this. For this reason, I have decided to use because I feel that it (2000 ) descrip tion of praxis in the sense that action paired with reflection is both liberating and transformative. Freire (2000 are praxis the praxis which, as the reflection and action which truly transform reality, is the source of knowled ge and creation. (pp. 100 101). The first component of the structured vignette analysis incorporate s an explanation of context . Ngunjiri et al. (2010) descr ibe conscious emphasizing it as a method that uses information others (p. 2). In addition, Pi tard (2016) claims that the context evident in each vignette encourages the reader to observe gradual advancements made by students and the researcher . This is f ollowed by the second step, an anecdotal narrative which reflects a remembered experience. Bryan (2010) discusses the r elevancy of memory in an autoethnographic inquiry, illuminating its reflexive nature and


29 understood; depicting episodes and turns in an individual life, which can be related to larger As it pertains to teacher development , Belbase et al. (2008) describe the ways autoethnography reinforces a sense of critical self re flection which is achieved in remembering past events while con textualizing (p. 94 ) . Evaluation of context and remembered anecdote allows the researcher to re imagine the future and make continuous pedagogical enhancement s paving way for further p ossibilities of al ong with the cultivation of new wings Belbase et al., 2008, p. 94 ). I lluminated next as the third phase responses experienced as the existential crisis unfolds. An emotional response is involuntary and unc that autoethnographic process often surfaces a n abundance of em otions; however, through our willingness to be intr ospective and honest about suc h emotional response s . juxtaposes criticisms surround ing use of Such methods have been historically f a nd erratic ; thus, a roadblock in the obtainment of objective and ( Adams et al., 2015 , p. 8). To this point, Adams et al., (2015) question the aim of social science, declaring social we must accept autoethnogr The authors elucidate , Adams et al., 2015, p. 10). Adams et al., (2015) go on to di scuss the ways emotional response provokes honesty in the research process particularly , disparaging the ethnographic inquiry. For example, ethnographers researching experiences like d


30 p. 11). In studying human life, emotion will inevitably emerge ; therefore , it must be acknowledged i n the research process. R eflexivity is the fourth step in the structured vignette analysis. Wall (2006 ) defines reflexivity as the researcher s inclination to pause and presence , standpoint, or characteristics might have influ (p. 148). Pitard (2016) notes how reflexivity in educational research has been increasingly revered due to the ways researchers are able to attain more substantial understandings regarding student teacher interact ions. In addition, Starr (2014) describes the importance of reflexivity in educational leadership, claiming that knowledge should be used to inform our practice. Starr rticipants in their use of autoethnographic inquiry, because they are simultaneously participant and Wall (2006) comments on the significance of reflexivity Taking the question of voice and repr esentation a step further, we could argue that an individual is best situated to describe his or her own experience more accurately than anyone else increasingly cognizant in te The fifth step, , assumptions in order to better respon d to student needs while mapping out how the researcher will modify behaviors moving forward (Pitard, 2016). Freire (1998) notes that in the context of true learning, the learners will be engaged in a continuous transformation through which they become au thentic subjects of the construction and reconstruction of what is being taught, side by


31 p. 33) . P itard (2016) discusses how the utilization of structured vignette analysis c ultivates the development of critical awareness in the sense that it provokes the researcher to evaluate how existential crisis shifts ways of thinking and doing things. Lastly, the sixth step, comments on layers will allow me to synthesize the various asp ects of my account; thus, further establishing my overall understanding of the existential events outlined in each vignette. a finality and the cyclical nature of praxis suggests that we are never finished. It is important to note that t he utilization of vignettes , when analyzing lived experiences , comes from pl (Pitard, 2016, p. 2). Each vignette employed in this thesis will provide, for the reader, a ponsiveness on behalf of the researcher. They will highlight the ways an existential moment in time not only shifted my thinking, but also influenced my behaviors moving forward. From Method to Theory: Caring in Schools I remember feeling suc h pride when I first arrived at Legend High School in 2013. It was so rigorous and intense. I felt like a true professional in my field: I was an esteemed English teacher. I commanded the room and assigned college worthy reading and writing assignments. I the recycling bin as they left the room. I remember feeling a dull throb in the pit of my stomach as I lectured at the front of the room while students appear ed bored , when I made students jump through hoops; thus, submitting to my authority in order to feel good about giving them a non -


32 noticed when I was grading a final assessment and I did not have a score to plug into my gradebook. In truth, I did not realize that there was another way of doing public education. These moments are painful, yet transformative , because I have made the choice to do something about the m. Autoethnographic phenomenological inquiry has allowed me to focus on these lived experiences to better understand my observations, conversations with others, experiences, and reflections; thus, finding my place within the wider context of the American p ublic education system as a whole. S tarr (2014) discusses how leaders who participate in phenomenological autoethnography engend positional or title, but to relationsh motifs have surfaced as a result of my research: the need for freedom and liberation void of hierarchical tendencies and the importance of caring relationships in an e ducational setting. These ideas are dependent upon one another: one cannot exist without the other as will be evident in each structured vignette analysis. A dams et al., imagine a logic or pattern to our narrative and to explicitly theoretical framework of Caring . Caring engages the particularist emancipatory educational In a Different Voice . Fletcher (2000) are concerned with the ways


33 relationships as essential in establishing the ethical context of an action (Gilligan, 1993). has to decide whether or not to steal an overpriced drug for his dying wife, Gilligan (1993) specifically focuses on female responses when posed with this moral dilemma. She found that , inst ead of arranging morals in a formulaic hierarchical ladder as men tend to do, women more so regard morality via an interconnected web like structure where relationships of care take precedence (Gilligan, 1993). Fletcher (2000) and Noddings (2005) build off work, others, self, inner circles, strangers, distant others, the environment, the human made world, and is t he terminology I will employ throughout this thesis. Noddings (2005) and Fletcher (2000) provide powerful context and commentary which will help curricular or interdisciplina ry approach to teaching, learning, and collaborating with colleagues. E ducational care theorists claim that instead of concentrating solely on content knowledge, schools should help students cultiva Noddings (2005) illuminates the importance of fostering growth of students as capable, healthy, and moral indi viduals, discussing the ways that curriculum, instruction, and classroom management have wrongly dominated discussions regarding effective teaching practices. e rror of supposing that method can be substituted for individuals, and this attempt may well have


34 inflexible lessons often provoke boredom and lack of engagement. of language, asserting that both ways of viewing non disregarding the individual desires and circumstances of students and reducing them to numbers, data points, or resourc es, meaningful caring relationships between adul ts and students are diminished. The want to be cared for is a c ollective human characteristic (Noddings, 2005). It is, however, important to note that caring is not about merely doting over an individual according being in relation, give attention to students while fostering in them the ability to care for others. Noddings (2005) in , rather , a matter of rethinking priorities in schools. Likewise, caring in schools challenges the idea that strict disciplinary knowledge should be the primary goal of education. In other words, educational experience should be structured based on themes of care rather than the traditional disciplines (Noddings, 2005). Fletcher (2000) clarifies, With respect to curriculum content, care theorists often advocate dislocating the current emphasis on traditional subject matter definitions of curriculum and replacing it with opportunities for students to engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary forms of inquiry, often based on activities that have a plausible connection to the lives children actually lead (or could lead, if given the op portunity) outside of school . (p. 30) Noddings (2005) suggests we move beyond the disciplines in her critique of liberal rather than specific occupations or p


35 included literature, language, fine arts, science, history, mathematics, etc. Furthermore, this content of liberal education is not what all children need, declaring that, instead, students need an Next, students need individualized curriculum specific to their interests and unique capabilities. 2005, p. 30). Noddings (2005) goes on to discuss the importance of students experiencing success, noting that the precursor of success often correlates with student interest. As a former math teacher, Noddings (2005) discusses her own experiences in the cl considerable differences between what is achieved in, say, geometry by students most and least interested in mathematics eachers, perhaps we must embrace the fact okay . After all, not every student wil impressionist painting, the structure of a musical fugue, or the fine points o 2005, p. 29). Moreover, Noddings (2005) illuminates the key concepts of care: caring for self, caring for the inner circle, caring for animals, caring for the human made world, caring for strangers and distant others, and caring for ideas. For our purposes, I will focus on self care, inner circle care, caring for strangers and distant others, and care of ideas as the re flective vignettes will specifically draw upon these concepts.


36 C aring for self incorporates the physical, spiritual, occupational, and recreational dimensions of life. Noddings (2005) notes the importance of fos tering these aspects of student s individual lives. Noddings (2005) acknowledges the self We To elaborate The inner circle includes both equal and unequal relationships. Equal relations include those with significant others, friends, and colleagues and neighbors, w hereas unequal relations include those with children and students. In equal relations, each party cares for one another more or less equally. In unequal relations, one party tends to be the primary care giver while the other tends to be the cared young people learn how to discern and accept care, they can gradually and multicultural educa tion. Noddings (2005) contends that if curriculum were restructu red 114). Subsequently, t he author describes caring for ideas. Here, Noddings (2005) suggests that students should be exposed to a multitude of disc Each of these pillars of care will be elaborated upon in the reflective vignettes as they will serve as my lens in evaluating the existent ial events outlined. f public education. Freire (2000 ) contextualizes various issues surrounding traditional pedagogical pr the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in


37 the world, with the wo rld, and with each ) discusses the dehumanizing nature of particularly prevalent in American public education. Students and educators have been dehumanized via inappropriate poli tical influence and ill informed and/or unrealistic initiatives that essentially discourage caring relationships and liberation in public educational spheres. In order to liberate students and educators, we must re think the natur e of learning and educatio n. Freire is skeptical elite, and h 2009, p. 128). Freire (1998) contends that teaching is not just a matter of transferring knowledge, but rather a human act emphasizing freedom, deep respect for curiosity, student autonomy, etc. Freire (1998) 03). Again, these ideas of freedom, oppression, dehumanization, and humanization will be embellished in the reflect ive vignettes analyses. The EDGE pathway within the Legend High School case study strives to humanize students through thi s interdisciplinar y project based, and personalized learning experience. When students come to us in their freshman year, many ask for worksheets, checklists, and detailed step by step directions. They want to be told what to do, whether they may or may not use the restroom internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonom y and re (p. 47). We have been charged with sympathetically helping students to move from a formerly established culture of compliance to one of autonomy and empowerment. EDGE mentors actively resist the oppressing banking model of education, instead, cultivating an environment of


38 genuine compassion and love for our students. This synthesized theoretical framework allows me to better interpret and understand mentor, teacher, parent, administrator, and student behaviors and reactions as we experience th e unique dynamics of a building divided into distinct disciplinary and interd isciplinary learning pathways. Limitations of Methodological and Theoretical Assumptions It is imperative to identify the limitations prevalent in the abovementioned methodologi cal and theoretical assumptions. Autoethnography has been criticized for various reasons. First, Adams et al. (2015) discuss how certain critics refuse to acknowledge the method as academic telling a nd first person narration in research sacrifices the analytic p The authors go on to acknowledge the limitations of a first person account illustrating an argument between colleagues . Although a utoethnographic research might be filled with cohesive rhetoric and , t he critical colleague maintains (Adams et al., 2015, p. 100). Critics have questioned the validity of the research process claiming that auto ethnography is self indulgent (Ellis et al., 2011). Moreover, Jackson and Mazzei (2008) question dependence on first person narrative , asserting that autoethnographers are in jeopardy of substituting one privileged voice with another. Wall (2006) iden placed on a pedestal and separated from oth the autoethnographer psychotherapeutic one (p. 155). Wall (2006) notes criticism surrounding reminiscent personal writing that relies on a direct emotional response from a reader rather than offering analysis, grounding in theory, and methodological rigor 155).


39 Further , because this method is part autobiography and part ethnography, critics have 2011, p. 10). In a similar critique of interdisciplinary work, autoethnographers have been disparaged for aiming to attain validity in scientific realms (Ellis et a l. , 2011 , p. 11 ). Such reproaches point to a lack of fieldwork along with the s et al., 2011, p. 11). The authors claim, Autoethnographers are viewed as catering to the sociological, scientific imagination and trying to a (Ellis et al. 2011, p. 11). I n respo nse to these criticisms, Adams et al. (2015) defend the first person voice and construct a set of indicators that evaluate effective autoethnography. Indicators of this rubr ic Adams et al., 2015, p. 102). Perhaps one of the most important refutations lies in the act of making significant contribution s to existing knowledge. Adams et al. (2015) illuminate the ways owledge is both situated and contested particular, nuanced, complex , and insider (p. 103). In addition, Ellis et al. (2011) contend that criticisms surrounding scientific legitimacy science a Ellis et al. (2011) c onclude with the contention that arguing over an autoe thn ographical approach is futile . It is like


40 comparing apples to oranges. Holman Jones (2005) comments on the ways autoethnographers interpret the socially just nature of writing and inquiry ; o pposed to fixation on accuracy, the overarching goal is to produce analytical, accessible, and social ly transformative texts ( p. 764). Likewise , c ritics have pointed out various limitations of care theories. Fletcher (2000) acknowledges critical responses to cari ng and examines whether caring, in fact, reproduces feminist critics about the caring perspective concerns its capacity to explain and resist the sexist practices response to such critiques, Fletcher (2000) suggests that caring, as a m oral theory, must be scenario. There is no way of knowing the n realm; thus, the critique seems fruitless . an reach beyond the limits of relatively intimate or local associations to account for the responsibilities we bear Because caring is so personal, so inexorably relational, connection between self a strangers Noddings (2005) recognizes obstacles surrounding caring at a distance. She warns us against . It is i mperative to understand the struggles and limitations of caring at a distance; educators must carefully frame this particular pillar of care as we ask our students to evaluate what we ought to do as human beings, while recognizing endeavors we should refra in


41 from doing (p p . 110 111). Noddings (2005) identifies two specific challenges of caring for cause unintended 113). About caring at distance, Noddings (2005) makes a few important suggestions. Educators might encourage students, on a larger scale, to care for their community, their own nation, and other nations while, on a more personal scale, we might encourage students to live in moderation Moreover, c aring has been outlined in universal terms; this is ironic because caring as a (Thompson, 1998, p. 526). Thompson (1998) ascertains that in order for theories of care to be non Whiteness of their political and cultural children how to navigate these difficult waters through the development of self knowledge along she illuminates the importance of real dialogue in classrooms and cautions educators to refrain from preaching to students about issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and religion . Noddings (2005) again s tresses the vulnerability. She admits her own uncertainties as she struggles to grapple with these sensitive topics, but her desire to care and create a more in clusive world remains obvious as she argues


42 be resisted (p. 121). Similarly , k has undergone wide ranging critique . Smith (1997/2002) argue in simplistic terms via the contention that we are This type of one dimensional rhetor ic runs the risk of rudimentary political evaluation. In addition, Smith (1997/2002) points at propensity to situations of a pedagogical framework. Smith (1997/2002) discusses the ways in which t h is e stimation has the pot ential to undermine dialogue: Educators need to -but when we concentrate on this we can easily overlook simple power of being in conversation with others Furthermore, Freire work has been criticized for its sexism. hooks (1994) concedes that in reading Freire, she has been cognizant of leaders, intellectuals, critical thinkers such as Fanon, Memmi, etc.) constructs a pha llocentric (hooks, 1994 , p. 49 ). ed to because in response to own model of critical pedagogy invites a critical interr hooks (1994) goes on to describe an event at the University of Santa Cruz where she was a student and Paulo Freire a teacher. In striking narrative form, hooks (1994) discusses the way Paulo Freire practiced what he preached in his work as he eagerly invited her criticisms of sexism in his writings; this led to a transformative dialogue and his attempt to address such issues in later work (p p . 55 56). It is my contention that caring cannot exist without freedom and th at freedom cannot exist without caring. If we truly care for students, we hope for their liberation. Caring is not inherently oppressive, but gentle, encouraging, and empowering. My


43 choice to join the critical pedagogy of Freire ( 1998/2000 ) with the femini st pedagogy of Noddings (2005) and Flet cher (2000) is attested to by hooks (1994). She irradiates, hat version of feminist pedagogy I believe hooks, 1994, p. 52). Although the nature of our feminist pedagogy differs, our sentiments reflect like intent. This delicately woven theoretical framework contextualizes my pursuit to unconditionally love and liberate my students.


44 CHAPTER III : KNOWLEDGE AND THE LEARNING LANDSCAPE (Moran, 2010, p. 4). What is knowledge? What k nowledge is important or useful? What constitutes the effective teaching of that knowledge and who decides this? First, it is important to trace and unpack mainstream views of knowledge acquisition. Moran (2010) discusses the formation of the disciplines, merely created self contained bodies of knowledge, happy in their isolation; it has been accompanied by frequent attempts to assert the superiority of certain fields of learning over other subjects, included poetics, fine arts, and engineering (Moran, 2010, p. 3). It is interesting that in designated as elective or optional courses. t having to categorize knowledge in such a manner; harmful specializati The Enlightenment reinforced the specialization of knowledge as reason and rationality took along with enhanced emphasis on specialized learning especially in mathematics and the ablish the laws that explain


45 (Moran, 2010, p. 5). These ideas were contested even at the time. Moran (2010) examines Italian commonl y voiced one: that once disciplines have established themselves, they develop vested interests, defend their territory and reinforce their exclusivity through particular types of s apparent in the core classes students are required to take, the content selected to be included on the ACT and SAT, and in the attitudes regarding elective or optional classes which are often taken less seriously. I have heard students and colleagues say former creative writing elective teacher, I cannot count the times an exceptional writer had to put their novel or short story aside to focus on work in one of their core classes. On the flip side, I remember feeling frustrated when a student in my English II class chose to work on his photography assignment over my book annotations. Two years ago, I thought English II was more important than photography. Perhaps that photography elective led that stud ent to a fulfilling and meaningful life and career and while cramming my English content knowledge down his throat, I was unknowingly preventing him from developing his craft. I also realize that certain aspects of my discipline will help him once he enter balance all the time. T he following vignettes reveal the role that interdisciplinarity plays in this balancing act of learning, st century.


46 Vignette 1 , Exhibition Night : The Bowl of Fruit As mentioned in Chapter 1, EDGE mentors often travel to schools around the country in our journey. Once we returned from the E ast Coast trip, we began to build our framework with the intention of piecing together the best parts of our observations. After creating our mission, vision, and philosophy of learning, we started to develop the EDGE curriculum. The succeeding vignette be gins with the im plementation of EDGE unit one. Context F examine themselves as authors, social scientists, mathematicians, designers, scientists, and Spanish speakers. F or English, content worksho ps included weekly narrative writing instruction along with choice novel liter ary analysis. Humanities workshops included a broad exploration of psychology, aesthetics, and social nature. In math, workshops incorporated scale and proportions, sol ving equations, analyzing data, and functions. Our science mentor decided to hone in on the scientific proces s along with basic principles of c laims, evidence, and reasoning. In technology, students developed their skillset through the uti lization of design software. In Spanish, stu dents expanded their vocabulary, connecting word acquisition to unit themes. For each subject area, students demonstrated their learning through the creation of some type of artifact. For example, I chose to inco rporate a personal memoir as the English artifact because it kept me somewhat in line content wise with the disciplinary pathway as to not ruffle any feathers. A t that time, a few staff members were questioning the nature of the learning landscape in EDGE. Because of this, we shot for subtlety. In that first unit, it felt as if we made an


47 ad always been done at Legend High School. Additionally, the structure of our days closely resemble d that of the disciplinary pathway, the only difference being that students created their own schedules. They still had mandatory workshops. Periodically, I would try and connect activities surrounding student reading to humanities content, but for the mos t part, our disciplines stood alone. We reverted back to the familiar, finding solace in our subject areas. The artifacts students completed for each class Studen ts had a choice about how they presented their living portfolio, the only stipulation being that the format had to demonstrate something about their individual identity and/or development as a student. We felt like all eyes were on us, but reveled in this. Given the staff concerns, so much was riding on this evening. Our administrator asked us to stand up and present content curriculum to everyone in attendance prior to the presentation of learning in case there were still doubts. It seemed that the message The weeks leading up to exhibition were filled with excitement and anxiety. Although we were nervous, we simultaneously adopted a clandestine smugnes s. At the time, we had both pedagogical and financial support from the district. What we were doing aligned with district initiatives and the dense evaluation system . W e felt secure and confident . In the following vignette, I will illustrate the consequenc es of hubris, of reverting back to old teaching habits, and of changing language, yet failing to alter deed. The following anecdote proves that, in playing it safe, we botched our orig inal vision only to find our redemption in the promise of interdisciplin arity .


48 Anecdote It was Wednesday, October 5 th , 2016, our first exhibition night! Students were set up in the pod. The air buzzed with nerves. Each mentor stood on the stage and discus sed the content we had covered in the classroom up to that point . As I l istened, I kept thinking about the individuals who were struggling with the model. I remember thinking that they were probably pleased and relieved that we were still hitting standards in a way that closely resembled that of the disciplinary pathway. After presenting our content coverage in the theater, our administrator gave us high fives. He told us that it was exactly what people needed to hear. We then walked around viewing student living portfolios. One student, who was passionate about golf, built a m ini golf course and every time an audience member made a hole, he pulled up an artifact. Another student who loved wrestling created a giant wrestling ring with his content artifacts taped to various parts of the ring. A student athlete, Ashley, constructe d a model soft ball field with each artifact sitting on bases and in various positions in the outfield. Although s tudents professional conversation s about their living portfo about these displays of learning . Jagged paper corners, tape, and mediocrity flooded the space. We knew , however, that parents were pleased having received rave reviews verbally and in follow up emails. They see med to be blinded by the novelty of a public presentation of learning and their adoration for their well dressed, newly acclimated high school student . I was right: those in attendance were satisf ied, yet something felt wrong. Emotional Response At the e nd of the night, we were all disappointed. We felt the evening to be anti climactic, of average caliber at best. I knew that something was missing. I felt an odd mix of


49 both pride and dissatisfaction . Student communication skills were impressive. I had nev er before witnessed students speak to adults with such professionalism and self assurance. We had preached that the implementation of a personalized, passion driven environment where, instead of taking tests, students had to present to an authentic audienc e, would result in inexorable engagement and intrinsic motivation. In lieu of this sentiment, I was surprised to find that a decent number of students did not put their best foot forward and this was obvious in the quality of their overall per formance. Whi le that was disappointin g, there was something else I was unable to immediately identify. I had a pit in my stomach as I wondered if every exhibition night would look this way. For some reason, that thought was unacceptable. Reflexivity We had shaken thi ngs up so much within the walls of Legend High School and for what? There was a reason we left our content departments and came together to create a more connected experience for students; yet, somehow this detail eluded us in those first few months. We we re doing what we had always done, but calling it something different and occasionally throwin g in a few interesting bonuses in terms of field experiences and guest speakers. We had worked so hard and sacrificed so much; yet, our first exhibition night, our entire first unit, lacked dimension and depth. The artifacts haphazardly glued to cardboard frames and wooden structures looked just like the assignments my students would toss into the recycling bin in years past. It was like we were gingerly dragging ou the plunge. Ironically, effective collaboration was not happening at that point. It felt as though we were constantly meeting to develop systems, but strangely isolated from one another as we reg ularly shut our classroom doors both physically and metaphorically. Because of this, we had failed. This was not a differen t pathway for students. I t was a lie. Simply allowing students to re -


50 organize their own mandated an alternate learning pathway. Moreover, o ur l earning outcomes in terms of content and product had not changed. The only differe nce was that we had students present out formally at exhibition night. My instruction had not fundamentally changed. Maybe I encouraged a bit more creativity and personalization in the learning process, but other than that, any student in the school could paste their final assessments for each subject area on a cool board that simultaneously depicted a personal interest. We promised students a different learning experience and failed to deliver. Things were disconnected in terms of content and people. What we were saying and what we were doing proved to be two separate things altogether. We missed the mark and, in that moment, it became clear that we had to go back to the drawing board. Strategies Developed We knew that there needed to be connections betwe en disciplines. In our observance of schools across the country, those with a cross curricular or interdisciplinary focus were the most impressive in terms of meaningful learning outcomes. We also knew that we wanted to spark student curiosity, passion, an d interest. At first, we thought about connecting content areas to existing student pas sions, i.e., geometry in dance and physics of baseball. We quickly realized that this approach would be limiting for students as it would not allow us to expose them to various skills and content. Perhaps , as an upperclassmen, a student might pursue something along these lines, but for now, we needed density. We wanted students to acquire relevant knowledge and skills in order t o experience liberation with minimal limitat ion by their senior year . At this time, we started discussing the gradual release framework. This would allow us to


51 provide students with everything they might need in the first year and a half of the program; by mid sophomore year, the sky would be the li mit. The idea drove our next unit. We constructed two units/projects after thinking about the tools students need from each of our disciplines. We merged English, science, and technology for one project and humanities, math, and Spanish for the other. I wa with creating a class publication, the Scientific EDGE Magazine . Students chose their scientific topics, conducted research and worked through the writing process while eval uating and constructing their own claims and supporting evidence. They then used tech tools to properly format their final articles while developing their aesthetic eye as designers. This new way of doing things encouraged connection between people as well . Implementation of our strategies developed as a response to that disastrous exhibition experience required us to engage in more rewards of interdisciplinary work comes when teachers do it collaboratively. Collaboration leads The second exhibition night certainly came up against its own set of challenges; however, this was the first step in the right direction. Comments on Layers Clearly, the living portfolios turned out to be bowls of fruit rather than well blended b portfolios proved to be visually appealing which prompted the mistaken praise of audience members. Actual i nterdisciplinary work, according to Repko (2012), includes the following: an intentional selection of disciplinary insight, a solid process of integration, a new outcome or


52 dimension. The authors describe cover the v ast amount of knowledge in even the finest curricular construction. Ellis and Stuen n thematic ideas definition, it should seek the best points of intersect a mong disciplines, and those points are 7). O living in isolation, students and men tors were seclude d as well. Caring was absent and this, no when subjects are taught in isolation, why should we not expect students to view learning as fragmented? And why sh irradiates the purpose of cross meaningful co ve curricular and professional development (p. 72). Moreover, cross curricular teaching and


53 72 73). hooks (1994) refers to the ways e students want us to see them as whole human beings with complex lives and experiences rather elucidates interdisciplinarity as an essen tial component to knowledge acquisition and the learning landscape as it discourages compartmentalization and encourages connection between content and people alike. In the following vignette, we will more thoroughly explore the relationship between what Ellis and Stuen (1998) call the and the obtainment of knowledge. Ellis and Stuen (1998) examine one specific example in the k nowledge produced via print medium alone . After tracing print production (which includes books, newspaper s, scrolls, periodicals, etc.,) from 1850 produced as in all preceding centuries combined. How does one build a meaningful school curriculum when the knowledge base has doubled in the s Stuen, 1998, p. 5). In the following portion of this chapter, I implore the reader to consider the sentiments of Ellis and Stuen (1998) along with the following questions: what does it mean to learn? H ow does the overfl ow of information and more accessible knowledge alter our notions of learning? What knowledge is useful and who decides? Vignette 2 , Parent Meeting: What is Learning? Emphasis on k nowledge ab out self along with knowledge about how to better navigate the world using transferable skills has been at the forefront of our thinking from the start. hooks (1994) highly regards those teachers who essentially helped her to defeat years of socialization conditioned her to view the


54 s , striving not just for knowledge in books, but knowledge about how to (hooks, 1994, pp. 14 15). The next vignette prompts the reader to think about what it means to educate the whole child in the 21 st century. Context Early on and w ith the help of a f ew amazing parent volunteers, we developed explore potential interests and passions through a series of guest speakers, field experiences, and passion/ individual interest projects. Students were able Students also participated in targeted transferrable skills workshops surrounding things like professionalism and written and oral communication. In addition, w e took st udents to Snow Mountain Ranch for an outdoor excursion focusing on program culture, collaboration, problem solving, resilie nce, and basic survival skills not once referencing traditional content material. Students were engaged and excited. We felt like we were finally educating the whole child. We were on cloud nine. A t the end of September, parent meeting requests began to flood our inboxes. According to our Google calendar records, EDGE mento rs attended 15 morning and lunch meetings as a This does not include other issu es that will be addressed in the third of Freedom: any emails, phone calls, undocumented drop ins, and individual meetings with students and parents from our crew times. Although the content of these meetings varied, a


55 verything we had done, students and/or parents felt like learning was not happening in EDGE. It was a discouraging time. We knew that we had a long way to go and that many systems were in need of refinement, but this ? Several students claimed that they tal ked with friends outside of EDGE addition, student and parent concerns about the upcoming PSAT were brought up in most meetings. It is important to note that t years before taking the actual test. Parents and students wondered: would they be prepared? How did we ensure that they would be successful on the PSAT if our primary focus was not the strict disciplin ary content represented in the test? Suddenly, parents did not seem as impressed with o ur pursuit to spark curiosity in their children or our emphasis on critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills. Yes, those things were great, but the reality of the situation is that college admission boards want to see competitive SAT/ACT scores. These parents wanted results on the upcoming test and considered taking their children out of the program if we were unable to deliver. Although there were several t o choose from, I decided to utilize the following parent meeting because it best illustrates opposing viewpoints regarding assumptions about the nature Anecdote Jay was a student in my crew time. I had developed an excellent relationship wi th him and his family in a short period of time. I adored them and still do. Jay had always been a high achieving student. By this I mean that he has historically maintained a 4.0 GPA along with high test scores. ith EDGE mentors and administrators. Sherry was particularly concerned with math and felt like Jay should be moving at a faster pace


56 and receiving more worksheets and homework. They both felt as if the PSAT should be more of a program focus. The meeting be gan with Jay speaking. He stated that his friends outside of EDGE were much farther along in the math textbook. He was not feeling challenged. He needed more practice worksheets. He felt like he was behind, like he was not learning as much as students outs reviews. Jay had missed two problems. The math mentor posed a question: what was the difference between 15 and 100 problems? Why would I give you more problems if you cannot master this handful? The math mentor explained that , often times, students take pages of practice questions home only to get them wrong. Our focus is mastery and depth over quantity. We do not typically assign homework unless it is work students are unable to co mplete during the work day. Students are often excited to work on projects or read choice novels at home which is basically the extent of our homework assignments. This concerned Sherry as Jay had hours of homework each night in middle school. She wanted a rigorous educational pathway for her gifted student and was not shy about voicing her concerns. After much back and for th, it finally came out that, although Jay was an excellent memorizer which had served him well througho ut elementary and middle school , he struggled by means of creative problem solving and deep critical thinking. Jay liked to be told exactly how to do th ings. He and his Sherry reveled in seeing the 100% on the top of a multiple choice exam . We explained that, a s we initially brainstormed what we want ed EDGE to look like, we envisioned students ask ing why we were doing something rather than focusing on how much that thing was w orth . We were trying to build intrinsic motivation in students. Their value should not be measured using a score or a number. uation should be reflected by their


57 own personal growth. Additionally, w e explained that we did not beli eve rote memorization to be actual learning. Memorization is necessary to some extent, but certain goal. We wanted Jay to transfer his knowledge and skills to new situations, to find his interests and passions, and demonstrate growth in content, but more importantly in his skillset. As we gently explained all of this, their bewilderment was clear. Sherry even cried. They had experienced something completely different for the past nine years. They thought they had everything figured out and in this moment seemed to be experiencing a paradigm shift. We ended on a p ositive note and pleaded with them to stick with us. Jay would do incredible things in EDGE; we had no doubt. They agreed and two years later, Jay is one of our top students. Emotional response Immediately after the meeting, I was frustrated and upset. We all were. Why was everyone questioning us? We had done our research and thought about this day in and day out for over a year! We had a plan for the PSAT. Just trust us! Simultaneously, I felt a sense of pride and confidence in what we were doing. We did n ot want a standardized test to be at the forefront o f this educational pathway. The meeting v alidated our mission. We were confident that we could give Jay everything he needed and more. I was so scared to lose him. Reflexivity After a bit of contemplati on that week , I felt a wave of sympathy for this family. When Sherry cried, it was devastating. I wanted to reach out and embrace her across the table. It was heart breaking, really. Here was a mother who wanted the best for her son. I thought about my own son. What would I do? I know that test scores matter. But I also know that I want so much more than that for him: I want his educational experience to be filled with curiosity, passion,


58 excitement, and exposure to various careers and interests so that, in a competitive capitalistic somehow fou nd my passion in teaching, I do not want my son to blindly stumble upon a career path after so much wasted time and resourc es. I want for him to be surround ed by mentors/ teachers who will put their all into creating powerful learning experiences, who would sit down for an hour before school just because they care , who would personalize his experience and play upon his strengt hs. On top of all this, I also want him to get into the college of his choosing if that is what he decides to do. I do not want anything to get in his way. I empathized with this mother. It felt like we were all put in a tough spot and I did not like it. O ur EDGE mission is the relentless pursuit to design an educational experienc while our vision states, Students will be empowered to discover their passions through personalized learning in order to critically solve real wo rld problems, engage in professional networks, and communicate effectively while designing a m (Legend EDGE, 2018) . We had our work cut out for us. How would we execute our vision and mission while functioning within a flawe d system designed to quantify the student learning experience through GPA and test scores? Could we do both well? These were the thoughts that haunted me each day in our first year. Strategies developed Although we knew there was a plan for student succe ss on the PSAT, our parent s and students felt left out of the loop. They did not trust us, and why sh ould they? We were a new pathway within a previously established high school and had not proven anything yet. They were cautious and had a right to be beca use t his was just as new to them as it was to us. After the string of meetings, we realized that we had to maintain better co mmunication with parents. We


59 began hosting morning coffee chats to help parents understand our vision. Also, thanks to another incr edible parent volunteer, we sent out monthly newsletters to keep our community in the know. We implemented PSAT lessons during crew time and had students create and track their personal goals based on their first attempt on the test. Fundraising efforts al so allowed us to bring in a company to help students with specific content and test taking strategies. W e found that students and parents needed constant reminders, to be re conditioned after years of living an e ntirely different educational ex perience. Our lead administrator began hosting . These sessions expose students to the same research and literature mentors use to develop systems within the program while consistently ad dressing their questions and concerns . Freire (1998 ) compels us to assume the authority as a teacher whose direction of education includes helping learners get involved in planning education, helping them create the critical capacity to consider and parti cipate in the direction and dreams of education, rather than merely 1998 , p. 379). Instead of getting angry and demanding their b lind trust, we have inst ead done everything we can to co create meaningful and relevant educational learnin g experiences for students. In addition to the aforementioned strategies, we consistently seek out their feedback through surveying and individual meetings . It is not always easy, but in every meeting, phone call, and email, we strive to demonstrate unders tanding and an ethic of care in our relations hips with students and parents alike. C omments on layers Robinson and Aronica (2015) discuss similar struggles High Tech High experien ced in their first few years, claiming that establishing such unfamiliar cur riculum requires the buy in with the High Tech High method The founding principal, Larry Rosenstock, discusses how parents initially


60 questioned the model , yet due to the fact that their children suddenly adored the school experience; g etting an added bonus ( Robinson & Aronica, 2015, p. 129). Needless to say, Jay performed fantastically on the PSAT, ranki ng 3 rd out of the entire freshmen class . Even now, I have to check myself for feeling an inkling of pride here. I too have been conditioned for the past eight years. During one of our PSAT prep se ssions, one of my more talented writers and thinkers express ed her concern about a particular practice question . She got the answer wrong, but was able to critically think her way to another possibility. Her reasoning was spot on. I could not disagree with her logic. I had to coach her to avoid critically thinking in this way when working through the test . This was no doubt a shameful moment for me as an educator. M oreover, o ne of our most impressive students, Laila, has served as the public relations coordinator within our EDGE student leadership group and created a non profit organization focused on educating the public and raising awareness about no kill animal she lters in Colorado. Laila has also partnered with an organization and collected used eyew ear at the local level all while writing a grant proposal on beh alf of the EDGE program. From this, she ended up the 2018 recipient of the Groove Auto DRIVE for education grant. Did I me ntion she did all of this as a freshmen in high school? Laila had a surprisingly low PSAT score . What does this tell us about Laila? Is she a struggl ing learner , as some might suggest ? here means acquisition of what alre ady is incorporated in books and in the heads of the elders. Moreover, that which is taught is thought of as essentially static. It is taught as a finished product, with little regard either to the ways in which it was originally built up or to changes tha t I , for one, do not view Laila as a struggling learner because she scored low on the PSAT. On the contrary, I would whole heartedly put my money


61 on Laila as a future social innovator who changes th e world for the better. So then, what does this say about the w ay we measure student learning in the public American education system? Concluding Remarks I will now take a moment to reflect on my own background as a learner. I will use my experience t o illustrate a few po ints. First, is my contention that useful knowledge should align with individual stud e nt interest along with transferrable skills that will enable students to capitalize on their unique pursuits and strengths in our competitive world. Wiggins and McTighe ( 2005) c Transfer involves figuring out which knowledge and skill matters here and often adapting what we know to address the challenge at hand . Next, I assert that student knowledge of their own interests and strengths do not manifest from r ote learning or the banking model of education , but rather from experience in some capacity . not a discipline in the world so severe as the discipline of experience subjected to the tests of intelligent development and direct In addition, I will discuss the correlation between student interest based interdisciplinary learning and enduring knowledge as reflected by my own high school experience. I mess. But looking back, I realize that I was only a mess in certain classes. I f you would have asked the theater or English teacher what they thought of me, they would have expressed pleasure at having me in class . If you would have asked my Algebra II te acher what she thought of me, I am not so sure . I was never going to be a math person. I could have tol d you that in the fifth grade when I set up folders to block the class from seeing me cry during a multiplication timed test. I was required to take math from 1 st grade to 10 th grade . Throughout my ten years of mandatory math classes, I remember little of what I learned. As an adult, I teach myself necessary math concepts as they


62 arise. I can only wonder where I would be today if I had the chance to explor e my strengths and interests earlier. Noddings (2005) poses an important question: regardless of their aptitude, interest, or plans for the future, struggle through algebra or geometry ? (p. 29 ). Now, please do not get me wrong: I am not advocating for the elimination of math content for students who simply are not interested. Students do not know what they do not know. It is our job as educators to expose them to various disciplines and ideas to see what might stick . But it is wo r th asking ourselves: to what extent do we expose students? F urthermore, M ayer (2002) acknowledges three types of learning outcomes : no learning, rote learning, and meaningful learning. No learning is evident when the student can neither recall yet is unable to transfer it (Mayer, 2002). almost nothing in the process of memorizing and cr Mayer (2002) describes meaningful learning as the tendency to the knowledge and cognitive processes needed for successful problem If I could have experienced, first hand, the benefits of a mathematical concept say in analyzing the cost of competing acting agents , something I was extremely interested in at the time, perhaps I would have been more motivated to le arn the content. A collea gue once asked if everything had to be problem based. I thought about this for a long time and came to the conclusion that, yes, eve rything to some extent poses a problem. The problem might be as simple as no t knowing which acting agent to go with , how to ride a bike or write a professional email , but through solving problems we acquire knowledge about the world around us; it is how we learn. Take for instance my young son. He is cu rrently learning to swim. We can re ad books about swimming. I can talk to hi m about how to swim and show him visuals,


63 but until he get s in the water, he will not know how to swim or whether or not he has any interest in it. Besides, w hat good is a head full of meaningless, unused knowledge? Lastly, Fletcher (2000) discusses the relationship between subject matter (as an expression of disciplinary knowledge) and experience (as an expression of individual needs and the opposition between subjec t matter and experience is based on a profound misunderstanding of In dictating knowledge in such rigid ways, we undermine the power of raw experience and individual curiosity . Freire (1998) c a level of mechanical memorization of certain aspects of The spirit of p raxis and caring implore us to reconsider our stagnancy as an educationa l system. Wagner (2015) nor pragmatic to reject a thoughtful set of goals just because they differ from goals set 125 years p. 42). It rema ins evident that the nature of knowledge acquisition and the learning landscape has drastically changed and, d espite inevitable push back and structural deficiencies, we have to change with it.


64 CHAPTER IV : EDUCATION AS THE PRACTICE OF FREEDOM The following chapter explores education as the practice of freedom. Freire (2000) 88). Through our ability to change the world, we are human. Freire (2000) identifies the importance of dia logue, claiming that those who deny others the right to speak and, in turn, the right to act and reflect are guilty of must not be called dialogue instrument for the domination of one person by Freire , 2000, p. 89). hooks (1994) maintains spiritual growth of ou Moreover, Freire (2000) of the world, which is an act of creation and re creation, is not possible if it is not infused with The following vignettes will illustrate the role love and caring plays in the practice of l iberatory education for both students and educators alike. Vignette 3, Fear of Freedom: Student EDGE ment ors are passionate about voice , choice, and autonomy, constantly reminding our students to Ideally, EDGE students are independent learners who wish to realize their interests while both setting and pursuing their own goals : These dreamers want to break from the t raditional classroom environment. They are determined to acquire the freedom to collaborate EDGE, 2018). We have found th is to be easier said than done as will be evident in the following vignette.


65 Context Just ab out every student in the program has grappled with her or his o wn aversion to , or fear of , this structure. Elle was th e first student who brought such concerns to our attention . Elle came from a middle school educational pathway promoting a pedagogical approach different from the one practiced in EDGE. Throughout the course of her first few weeks as a freshmen, Elle would frequently cry and hyperventilate as I offered my hugs, g uidance, and words of reassurance. Whether it was about the openness of an assignment or constructing her own weekly schedule, Elle was often flustered and anxious about her autonomy as a student. She ended up leaving EDGE , claiming that she wanted to be t old where to be , and at what time , every day . She was not used to such an environment ; t here was too much freedom. She needed a set schedule. She needed more solidly ou tlined rubrics and check lists. It is important to note that our rubrics are fairly open ended to allow for personalization of pr ocess, content, and/or product . Students unique needs as learners ; in this way, their growth is not streamlined or predetermined , but truly i ndicative of where they sta rt and where they finish (see A ppendix B for Sample EDGE Rubric ). As one of my beloved colleagues always says: students set their own ceiling s . Setting her own ceiling and c oming up with project ideas while outlining the focus of her education was not easy for Elle . On the contrary, she was incredibly stressed out each day. early phases of EDGE . Situations like these made the idea of a gradual release framework even more attractive as it allows students to experience personal liberation at a more comfortable pace. It is essential to provide the context of this gradual release framework as I will go on to discuss specific student outcomes aligned with our curricular journey.


66 I n th e first few wee ks of our second year, students partook in a content F reire (1998) ascertains it is as necessary to be immersed in existing knowledge as it is to be open and capable of producing something t Before we can expect students to stitch together something new, they must be familiar with pre established knowledge. These content boot camps allowed us to cover foundational disciplinary concepts in a more familiar environment (structure and schedule wise) prior t o jumping into our p rojects . An Intensive is a large chunk of time (2 3 traditional class periods) devoted to the synthesis of various contents in order to create an original product, solve a problem, etc. After the initial ex posure to disciplinary content, we dove into two mini projects: Frenemies and Scientific EDGE . In these mini project s, students only had choice in their research focus . Process and product were both mandated. Scientific EDGE was described in the previous v ignette. For Frenemies , students became social scientists who created a business dashboard which clearly analyzed the patterns within various relationships. If students are to be liberated, they must be i nformed; they must be armed with knowledge and skill s that allow them to more fully recognize their capabilities and full potential . Freire (1998) describes education as 99). In order for students to intervene and assert their presence in the world , they must be equip wi th tools that allow them to turn their alone, as we witnessed between authority an For our first full blown project , Metaphor Machines , students were granted a bit more autonomy as their topic could be anything that i llustrated the nature of change. In this project, students were exposed to a wide variety of content an d skills that would set the stage for more


67 open ended future projects. First, s tudents identified, collected, and applied reliable research communicate d through an Adobe Spark Page. We read excerpts from Thomas K uhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolution and discussed key vocabulary and concepts that we would later inc orporate into the oral presentation of learning and abstract that would be placed on the wooden project board. After determining the amount of rev olutions leading to the final paradigm shift, students identified the number of gears which served as metaphors for each tra nsition throughout the process of change. Students were asked to analyze a system of gears while determining the speed of the driven gear based on the speed of the drive gear. In addition, students found the direction of motion of the driven gear bas ed on the direction of motion per the drive gear. They then described the relationship between the input force and output force of a gear system and the purpose of a simple machine while providing examples of its uses and advantages in the real world. Moreover, students drew a gear and determined the diametral pitch, number of teeth, inside diameter, pitch diameter and outside diameter. They evaluated a gear ratio and drew a gear train that fit within 25% of the wooden project board. Next, they calculated the center distance and slope between the centers of their gears. Finally, students applied persuasive techniques in their Ted EDGE oral presentation which explained and analyzed various aspects of their machine and topic incorporating a hook, body, conclusion and proper gr ammar and mechanics throughout. S avage (2011) acknowledges ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) as an effective mediating tool surrounding cross curricular work. He th for each given content area, claiming that t echnology is a w ay to bridge these (p. 172). For this reason, technology is consistently incorporated thro ughout the


68 various phases of EDGE project s. This is particularly imperative when implementing a dense project like Metaphor Machines which sy nthesized five content areas. In Metaphor Machines , s tudents used software to create items for prototyping and production, created an origi nal product that demonstrated basic knowledge of engineering design and assessed available resource s to formulate a p lan that effect ively solved the design challenge at hand. students now had to tools t thus, becoming philanthropists asked to respond to a social, environmental, or political issue tha t was important to them via an organ ized campaign for change . First, t hey were exposed to a local environmental non profit organization, 350 Co lorado . Our guest speaker took them through her ng them to brainstorm their own topic of interest while thinking about how they might model various campaign strategies in their own project . Students then read articles abo ut social, political, and environmental sustainability using active reading strategies . At this point, they had to cl early define their problem and research h ow and why a change campaign was a needed solution. We encouraged students to go beyond asking for donations; we wanted them to focus on a more sustainable and enduring plan of action. After, t hey were charged with desig ning, analyzing, and applying financial and business plan s based on short and long term goals. In addition, students wrote for an inte nded audience using persuasive techniques and proper grammar and mechanics per an English and Spanish PSA (public service announcement) . This allowed them to reach a wider audience while practicing their bi lingual skills. Each campaign had a website which included self designed logos, mission and vi sion statements, visual appeal, contact and about me pages, and research about their problem and proposed solution. In addition, they utilized software to create various publications and/or products specialize d for their campaign, i.e., pamphlets, promotional items, etc. Many students


69 took this project to the next level, partnering with various business es and non profit organizations. I will discuss this more in V ignette 7 Acts of Intervention For our final ninth grade proj ect, students designed and executed their own Passion Project . This was the most autonomous project of the year. The only stipulation was t hat students had to synthesize at least three disciplines . They chose the content, process, product, and authe ntic audience, a few even deciding to continue their change campaigns . While working on the final project, students simultaneously completed commu ni ty service, job shadows , and the development of their professional college and career portfolio and resumes. T like a mantra f or students throughout the lifespan of the program , especially when things get too autonomous or challenging ; this phrase particularly resounds in the stressful days leading up to an exhibition night. One exceptional EDGE student, Raye, who completed our a ccelerated English Honors pathway while working to establish a school wide self defense program for young women said , t want more structure , but I need She ended up leaving the program after an outstanding freshmen year. course of countless conversations. In the following anecdote , I chose to illustrate the stor ies of Kayleigh and Liv . Kayleigh chose to leave as her fear of freedom outweighed her wildly impressive performance throughout the course of her time in EDGE. Liv chose to stay despite her fear of freedom which ultimately led to her shift from compliance to personal empowerment. Anecdote Kayleigh was a freshmen st udent in my cr ew time who had an exceptionally strong start in the program. Many students do not yet know what they are passionate about upon entering EDGE; this was not the case with Kayleigh. She loves photography, poetry, animals, and the


70 environment and we were committed to giving her the freedom to explore these interests. For her first project, Kayleigh wrote, formatted, and designed a scientific article comparing human and canine brains specifically in terms of dopamine production. Ka s metaphor machine was about deforestat during exhibition night. F or her next project, K ayleigh decided to apply her know ledge about deforestation through the creation of an environmental change campaign. In this project, sh e generated a website, b usiness cards, business and financial plan s , a bi lingual PSA, and attended a live COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committ ee) hearing in order to watch an example of on foot environmental activism. As she was working throug h these projects, Kayleigh was also writing an 18 page poetry book about th e power of perspective. F or her Passion Project , she focused on the psychology of color while completing community service along with her professional portfol io and resume . The final project required daily independence and self advocacy; in the end, it proved to be too much for Kayleigh . At one point, there was a misunderstanding surrounding t he display of her Passion Project . I misheard her idea about demonstr ating her information on a poster board as her final product and thought she was using a poster board to simply gather data about her audience . When I was out sick, Kayleigh went to another mento r who had questions about the quality of her final display. I n this moment, she felt like she was hearing two different things. This left Kayleigh angry and confused. Around this time , she began coming to me with her concerns. Much like Elle, she did not like setting her own schedule each week. As a self admitted ov er thinker, she was frustrated with the freedom surrounding such open ended projects. The project idea generation phase along with the emphasis on technology and applied mathematics proved to be a challenge for Kayleigh. She had several questions about wha t the disciplinary pathway might look like.


71 was repeated over and over. I showed her day to day schedule and, much to my surprise, she seemed relieved . Although she expressed disdain for some of the course titles, she liked the idea of knowing exactly what she would be doing and when each day. After our final whole group meeting (EDG E mentors, Kayleigh, and her father ) which took place on the last day of school, her father sent us an email expressing Kaylei I wish her all the best, but cannot help but wonder what things would have been like i f had she decided to stick with us. Subsequently, Liv maintained a 4.0 in middle school; she was only interested in the pathway because her best friend , who had siblings in EDGE, would be joining . At this time, Liv would not have described herself as struggled quite a bit upon entering EDGE her freshmen year. As a student in my crew time, Liv and I met frequently. Because Sp anish is included in the pathway, students who choose to t ake an alternative foreign language express anxiety at time management and workin g their language into Intensives . This was the case with Liv who chose to take French. In a perfect world, we would love to include every language in EDGE; however, we do not have the resources or bu dget to do this . Because of this, scheduling workshops for these students can be difficult. Sometimes Liv had to complete one on one sessions with mentors to make up for missed workshops. Aside from struggling with the foreign langu age piece, Liv also struggled with the autonomy. Once she told me that she had become accustomed to doing everything one way in school. Teachers provided the topic and process, telling students exactly how to take notes and learn the mandated material. Whe n we asked her what she wanted to study, she was at a loss in that I have the freedom, what do I Liv found that she had to rediscover herself as a student and learn the w ay


72 she learns best , on her own terms. After several mee tings, tears, and triumphs, Liv decided to stick with us. Unlike Kayleigh, Liv did not have a strong focus coming in. No one had ever asked her what she was curious about. She had little of what Freire (1998) would call he had a lot of ex ploring to do! A fter a few speedbumps, Liv ended up having a succes sful freshmen year. For her Frenemies project, Liv studied how having a close relationship with someone who has a men t al illness influences both parties emotionally and socially. She went on to examine the paradigm shift resulting from the French Revolutio n for her metaphor machine. For he r change campaign, A Helping Paw She did all of this while writing a 20 page multi genre paper on animal rights and completing the English honors accelerated path way which focuses on advanced literary criticism and analysis. Now a passionate EDGE supporter, Liv is currently making plans to help us recruit students. She and another formerly hesitant friend, Mary, have created a presentation and will be traveling wit h us to middle schools next year. In one conversation with Liv, she told me that her strong relationships with mentors helped to get her through that difficult transition. She felt connected to us, like she could tell us anything. Just a few weeks ago, sai d t old me t hat she did not know whether or not she would have struck it out had it not been for the ongoing and uncondi tional support of EDGE mentors. Emotional Response Looking back, the meetings between Kayleigh and Liv felt so different. Each meet ing with Kayleigh left me frustrated. She seemed so disgruntled. It was like she could not hear what I was saying. I felt like she was afraid of the responsibilities tied to autonomy. She kept asking if she could do cool projects with us, yet go to classes in the disciplinary pathway. We explained


73 that it would be too much; it had to be one or the other. She was angry at hearing this. It seemed that she wanted the best of both worlds. I was disappointed, sad, regretful, angry, and, to be honest, a little su rprised by her decision to leave EDGE. Quite honestly, I thought she would push through and end up one of ou r success stories. T he meetings with Liv felt more productive. I was never frustrated in these meetings. I was hopeful and patient. found love of this pathway. It has been fun reflecting on this experience and looking back at the evolution of her work , to wa tch her spontaneous curiosity blossom into a more epistemological one. If, at the beginning of the year, you would have asked me to predict which student would leave , I would have said Liv without a doubt. At that time, I would have absolutely described Ka yleigh as the . This situation left me bewildered. Reflexivity Two questions linger: what went wrong in the case of Kayleigh? What went right in the case of Liv? Kayleigh has a very sick pa rent w ho is in and out of the hospital. She is fragile and needy, with frequently shifting moods . Although, at the time, I felt like I was taking care of her and meeting her needs, I now realize that she required much more support: perhaps weekly Monday or Frida y morning meetings to get her situat ed prior to each week or even access to the school counseling team. I also realize that she needed even more of a gradual release. I n my and most productive meeting , one I actually felt good walking away from, I provided her iority. In the days after, she would proudly share each time an item could be checked off her list. In these meetings, I could not help but notice the overwhelming work load. In trying to appe ase the critics, it seemed we had


74 unintentionally buried students in content assignme nts and daily tasks alongside Intensives , field experiences, and portfolio development. No wonde r Kayleigh was at her wits end especially considering everything goi ng on at home . Liv, on the other hand, is a more resilien t, confiden t , and organized individual who is able to maintain stable emotional connections with peers ; t his is not the case with Kayleigh who struggled with friends all year. Strategies Develope d Personalization in education is not just about learning, but about providing unique human experience s based on each individual. These existential moments have shown me that , although some systems must be streamlined like our gradual release project seque nce, if yo u are doing it right, there will be deviations within those systems to meet the physical, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of every student . Case in point, the example of Claudia. It is customary for us to meet and work in large group sett ings during Intensives. Claudia cannot process this way as she becomes overstimulated and unproductive; therefore, we allow her to work in a smaller educationa would have helped her overcome her emotional struggles and fear of autonomy? This anecdote establishes the need for a few changes as we venture into next year. First, I feel t hat we need a stronger student mentorship program. We started this at the beginning of the year, but it slowly fell apart. Kayleigh might have thrived under the mentorship of a well adjusted sophomore. It could have provided her some perspective along with a built in , healthy friendship. Next, the most important shift will be the reestablishment of our curriculum. In the upcoming school year, less emphasis will be placed on individual subject workshops while more emphasis will be placed on dense interdiscip linary Intensives equip with a strong synthesis of subject areas.


75 Although students will still attend content specific workshops, meaningful interdisciplinary projects will take precedence. This will alleviate stress and the workl oad allowing students to f ocus on quality over quantity. Additionally, passion or interest based workshops will still be offered weekly. Comments on Layers helps us to copiously evaluate the actions o f Kayleigh a nd Liv , pa r ticularly emphasizing the ways these an ecdotal outcomes correlate with the relationship between freedom and responsibility and personal resolve and co mradery versus fear and isolation. I would like to say once again how much I believe in freedom and how fundamental it i Freire, 1998, p. 97). Freire (1998) describes autonomy as the bi product of a process involving var ious and . e. She was afraid of decision making and taking personal r in each conversation, it was clear that she did not trust her own judgeme nt as she would constantly second guess herself. She would often scratch entire projects only to start over in frustration. In addition, s he was never satisfied with her final products. She would start out strong and then, once difficult decisions had to b e made regarding the direction of the project or task, she would flounder and fall short. on experiences that stimulate decision making and responsibility, in other words, on experienc es F reire (1998) contends that limitless problem with the fi de cision to leave the pathway .


76 That pr oject was a mistake on our part for various reasons. Kayleigh was not the only fresh men (Freire, 1998, p. 99). Freire (1998) argues that there is a fine balan Furthermore, F reire (2000 Liv pursued her freedom with great tenacity, contributed to her fear of freedom and responsibility. Freire (1998) oppressed, who have adapted to the structure of domination in whic are repressed from waging the struggle for freedom so long as they feel incapable (p. 47). I would argue that both would have been considered risk takers in their very decision to enter the pathway in the first place. So then what , besides the undesirable outcomes of one project, went wrong throughout the course of In my estimation, Kayleigh was lonely: acquaintances with many, close friends with none. Freire (2000 ) ascertains , can be (p. 47). Simply stated, Although Liv experienced difficult personal struggle s along with the a dded foreign language obstacle, it re mains evident that she experienced a strong sense of comradery w fear of freedom and responsibility along with her isolation and lack of deep peer connection proved to be too much to overcome. W hereas Freire enables us to c ontextualize the behaviors of t hese two individuals, Noddings (2005) and Walker (2017 ) ultimately encourage us to rethink looming frustratio ns and ,


77 instead, empathize with U tilizing an ethic of car e requires us to move beyond Kayleigh and do everything we can to ensure her liberation and h umanization. If at the end we fail, at least we know that the carin g was complete and circumstances outside of our control ultimately influenced her final decision. Had Liv undergone the same set of circumstances, her outcome may have been similar. It is important to situate U.S culture within a broader context ; this shows that fear of freedom is not innate, rather a product of social conditioning. Walker (2017) discusses his teaching experience in Helsinki, Finland , specifically commenting on the perpetuation of student agen cy both at home and in school. Through conversations with students and colleagues, Walk er (2017) was surprised at the level of autonomy and personal responsibility granted to even the younges t of children. One student described how he had been independentl y commuting to and from school since preschool. Walker (2017) observed that the autonomy granted to his students early on led to enhanced student responsibility and maturity in the learning environment. He was stunned when his class pitched a bake sale fun draiser idea and independently orchestrated the entire event both financially and logistically. In adopting this lens , Liv appears to be the outlier while warranted in a culture that largely discourages responsibilit y and au tonom y in young children. We must constantly examine how we, as a pathway, might combat this prevalent ideolog y; thus, helping students to revel in their freedom. Next, we shall investigate a teacher as a learner experiencing similar struggles in his pursu it to obtain autonomy within his own practice. Vigne tte 4, Fear of Freedom: Teacher Moving into the EDGE pathway has been one of the most challenging professional endeavors I have ever experience d as things that we never had to think about before , in a


78 m take center stage. We consistently experience systematic struggles surrounding s cheduling, the organization of field experiences, and student evaluation and feedback outside of the traditional numerical Moreover, n othing about our pedagogical practice is easy. Interdisciplinary project based learning is hard. Creating personalized experiences for students: even more difficult. Striking a balance between our mission and standardized testing initiatives: nearly impossible. When I in the disciplinary pathway , I used to be able to close my door and distribute a worksheet or conduct an activity I was comfortable with , one that I knew directly addressed standards. Now, everything has to be excruciatingly intenti onal in its connectedness. Daily instruction and the personalized feed back loop is reactive and intricate . Adjustments are frequently made in response to obstacles arising within the construction of a project or an unexpected field experience opportunity that we could not pass up. We are on our toes each day, doing everything we can to make it work. Context While the lack of predictability and order can be unsettling at times, the greatest struggle mirrors our student sentiments surrounding autonomy. Mo st of us have relied on a previously established curriculum in the past working in predominately content based Learning Communities) . These groups focused on a single common assessment per unit. In the dis ciplinary pathway, groups meet weekly, creating and discussing rubrics, instructional strategies, ideas for assessment, and student outcomes . In these meeting, I remember generally knowing where we were going as we had a fairly predictable curricular scope and sequence. It was more or l ess simple and, at the very least, measurable. You could quanti fy it while having fun deciding on how you might get from point A to point B. Early on , Legend High School adopted the framework for backward planning in the sense that we start the planning process


79 keeping the ideal end outcome in mind. Wiggins and McTighe (2005 ) discuss the three stages of backward design. The first stage includes the identification of sought after student results. Next, stage two hones in on the creation of viable asse ssmen t evidence. Stage three incorporates the development of a learning plan which will help students meet the goals established in the first two stage s. In the disciplinar y pathway, stage three is the only place teachers exercise total individual autonomy. In the case of interdisciplinary project based and personalized learning, it is often difficult to know where to begin the planning process as stages one, two, and three must be whipped up from scratch and open ended enough to allow for personalization of con tent, process, and/or product. To want to do with it? This question nestles at the heart of each EDGE planning session. The following anecdote will illustrate a mentor success story. Through an ethic of care, one mentor journeyed from skeptic ism and fear to ownership and empowerment. Anecdote Cole is one of our humanities teachers and a dear friend of mine. Cole was an incredibly effective AP (Advanced Placement) Psychology and social studi es teacher in the disciplinary pathway. His success was evident in h is charismatic way with kids, solid test scores, and strong instructional practice . Cole was tired of passionately teaching about things like ancient civiliz ations while mistakenly thinkin g that students loved the content as much as he did . Years late r, he would talk to students, feeling disappointed that they did not remember a single thing he so tirelessly worked to instill, rather they talked about how much they enjoyed him as a person. I recently had a conversation with one of our mutual former students and a good friend of mine. Having had Cole as a teacher her freshmen year , she said that she remembered overarching topics like Egypt and Mesopotamia , but no specific content. Nonetheless , Cole has mentioned


80 that a clear and linear pro gression in curriculum is the thing he misses most about the disciplinary pathway. Needless to say, Cole struggled early on as an EDGE teacher . He often questioned things and wondered if this was the right pl ace for him. He was resistant when we wanted to make drastic changes, pleading that we just try something for a longer period of time while making more subtle adjustments as we go. He expressed his doubts to me on several occasions and I honestly did not t hink that he would stay. Cole was tied to a specific humanities project: one that he had executed in content based workshops . It wa s a good project, yet lacke d cohesive interdisciplinarity and also lacked assessment geared toward an authentic audience . This was a source of contention in various meetings. We tried to find a way to incorporate it into an Intensive, but failed. One pivotal p lanning session changed everything. We had just come off of two surface level , mediocre projects ; we needed rigor and power in this next unit. After some discussion, Cole conceded. One of our a dministrators had us do an online scavenger hunt, the ta sk being to find the best idea, manipulating it to fit our unique mission and vision. It was actually Cole who stu The title alone sparked our first real conversation as an interdisciplinary team. M etaphor Machines was our pathway paradigm shift. Cole adores wood wo rking and took on a lead role in , not only the hu manitie s side of things, but also the construction of the student project boards. Cole trained every student on safety and tool usage . Only periodically taking breaks to gather himself, he was swamped for the duration of the project , yet somehow he seeme d happier than ever. From that point on, Cole has thrived. He is a leader. He is more reflective , adopting a new found growth min dset. I would describe him a s flexible and adaptable, a team player in every sense. He let go of his fear and


81 doubt and is now at the heart of each conversation and decision, truly owning every aspect of this pathway. Emotional Response In that first year, I found myself upset with Cole in certain moments . I was frustrated by his caution. I felt like he was holding back, like he was not giving us his all. I was troubled by his unwillingness to just jump. I felt like he , in some ways, w as still a slave to his content; I did not feel total buy in from him . He was missi ng the ability to engage in p raxis, missing the inclination to critically reflect upon and refine his practice and the pathway as a whole . M ost of all, I was angry that his uncertainty and fear intensely mirrored my own. Talking to him was hard because he was actually saying the things I was thinking. My hesitation w as reflected in his honesty. I had often wondered if I was up for this challenge of b uilding an alternate pathway, if I was up for Watching Cole thrive in the Metaphor Machines project made me feel energized and hopeful. It was the first time I actually thought that this just might work. After that project, we were no longer afraid. We were ready ; we knew we were on to something great. Reflexivity I think that my use of language in the anecdote of this vignette is indicative of the overall attitude toward Cole. I describe how he was resistant to changes we wanted to make. At that point, C ole was not a subject bred by his We did not consult him on everything. His voice and concerns were often overlooked as a handful of us charged forward despite his discomfort with the pace. I really hear, This was not what we were doing. As we


82 construct the pathway, sometimes the loudest voices tak e precedence in our dialogue. I believe that p eople need to feel valued. They want to be fulf illed. They want their w ork and lives to mean something, to contribute to their spheres, to intervene in the world. We must be weary with regards to banking in this capacity. You can bank anything in to child and adult learners alike; I will elaborate on this idea in Chapter 5 . Although Jackson and Mazzei (2008) discuss this concept with particular re gard to au toethnography, their contention ring s true for my purpose s with in the context of this reflection as we have to watch substituting one privileged per spective with another . In addition, vulnerability are crucial. Freire (1998) declaring Nothing of what I experienced as a teacher needs to be repea (p. 51). I have talked to dozens of veteran teachers, a few claiming that you do not fully know your content curriculum until you have taught it for years . I always wondered about how these teach ers react to new individuals, shifting group dynamics , a nd surfacing knowledge within a discipline . Do they adjust at all? If we are deeply engaging in reflective and responsive praxis, it seems to me that material should never be repeated without revision . is will ingness to e ngage in p raxis without fee perfect and final destination. That is not what teaching is. We might think about it like a road trip, kids yelling from the backset, A uth is: w e will never be and that fact is liberating in and of itself. P ursuit of freedom is arduous. It takes great responsibili ty on the behalf of the teacher. I have never felt so swamped, so overwhelmed in my life. In this complicated pathway, you have to enjoy what you are doing , I mean really love what we are doing. You must find fulfillment in


83 what you do every day. We lost a teacher one year in because the work load proved to be greater than her sense of contentment . s voice wh ile ensuring we stay true to our pathway goals? How to we satisfy the needs of our souls so that we are compelled to persevere , to continuously overcome obstacles each day? The relationship between care and freedom is complex, yet, it is necessary that we grapple with this in order to liberate everyone involved. Strategies Developed This portion of the vignette is still very much a work in progress. Confronting our f ear of autonomy is a daily struggle . Sometime s we will feel comfortable in our freedom and then something will happen. In these moments we will once again become shrouded in fear and discomfort. For example, a group of students might come to us claiming that they are worried they are not getting what they need conte nt wise or we might notice a drop in a particular area of our PSAT scores. In such instances, o ur minds so quickly revert to this is not working or I have to go back to what is comfortable. W e have combatted this looming internal dialogue in a few ways . First, p laying upon interests a nd strengths of individuals has been crucial as prevalent in the case of Cole. For me, the team knows that creative writing fills my heart with joy ; therefore, they have given me space to do this with similarly interested students. One of our science mento rs loves orchestrating outdoor education excursions for kids, while another mentor is particularly interested in developing leadership and project management skills among students . s imperative , in my estimation . Based on conversation alone, I have noticed that mentors who have something like this generally exhibit a more positive outlook and a higher quality of work life than those who do not engage in such personally energizing end eavors. For some, they love their content and the


84 de emphasis on content workshops has proven to be unsettling for them. This is something we must address moving forward. If they love their discipline , chances are a student loves their discipline . We must be better about creating space for every individual to thrive; thus, avoiding Universalist tendencies that inadvertently position one voice over another. This issue will be more explicitly addressed in the final chapter of this thesis. Comments on Layers C a re for self and inner circle is imperative in the pursuit of freedom and autonomy. These centers of care from doubt and fear to complete ownership and empowerment. In light of this conclusion, Freire (2000 ) illustrates th e correlation between freedom and caring : Education as the practice of freedom as opposed to education as the practice of domination denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in their relatio ns with the world. (Freire, 2000 , p. 81) Prevalent in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary pathways, self care has be en involuntarily sh unne d. Teache rs at Legend High School and many schools throughout the United States have become martyrs, essentially priding ourselves on being overwhelmed and overworked. Walker (2017) actually cites this widely held ideology as his rea son for moving to teach in Helsinki, Finland. In a recent Time Magazine article, Reilly (2018) comments on the volatile conditions o f teaching in America, illustrating pay discrepancies which often result in teachers having to take a second job or even don ate plasma . All single teachers on t he EDGE team have a second job. But, as Rei lly (20018) affirms, we d o it for the kids. This , often detrimental, selfless mentality has become especially problematic in EDGE where somehow even having a planning period has been coined as taboo. We pride ourse lves on our ability to hooks (1995) cautions us against this inclination:


85 actively committed to a process of self actualization that promotes their own well being if they are t o teach in ). I will elude to the idea of self actualization a few times throughout the remainder of this thesis; hence, I find it important to explicitly outline what I mean by this. The English Oxford D ictionary def ines self actualization t he realization or fulfilment of one's talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyo I would say that self care and adherence to personal well being has greatly contributed to the ess actualization in ways that inspire me to be better in this regard. As the introvert that he claims to be, he is good about excusing himself to re charge in a dark classroom. Additionally, h e share s his beloved gifts with others. Over th e summer, he and another mentor held a week long wood working session for students. It is apparent in my observations and our conversations that he takes good care of his spirituality and zest for travel and adventure, frequently setti ng up excursions with his cherished wife. The s willingness to engage in p raxis. His newly found reflective spirit paired with his willingness to act, to intervene in our sphere , has resulted in one of the greatest come ba ck stories I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Cole is an incredible example for students and mentors , no doubt, positively influencing and empowering them each day. Moreover, the people ( students, m entors, and admi nistrators) compel me to stay des pite my fear. We often discuss this with a joking, yet entirely serious undertone : without the unconditional love, support, and compassion of this amazing team, we would all be long gone by now! Noddings (2005) describes caring for the inner circle, noting the importance of relations that , to be the career In the most functional


86 relationships on the team , reciprocity is present. It was clear that, once Cole felt cared for, he better cared for those around him. Stu dents and teacher s are afraid, bu t through caring, we can overcome our collect ive fear of freedom; thus, establishing a culture of autonomy and empowerment. The following vignette will highlight two student success stories, demonstr ating that care and freedom should not substitute academic achievement, rather, these components can enhance academic outcomes when executed with intention. Vignette 5: Caring and t he #freedompenproject As an EDGE English mentor, it is my responsibility to ensure the students become critical readers as well as capable and versatile writers who are able to generate meaningful ideas while incorporating effective organization, engaging voice, intentional word choice, proper grammar and mechanics, and varied sentence structure. At the beginning of each unit, I think about h ow can I give students what they need academically while cultivating Caring relationships and adhering to our pillar s of project based and personalized learning. The ensuing vignette illustrate s results of this intent. Context In this more content specific English project, I chose the most open ended Colorado Common Core State Standards (CCSS) I could find and turned th learning targets ; whereas the numbers indicate the specific reference to the standard . My learning targets are I can cr eate a narrative to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well chosen details, and well structured event sequences (CCSS: W.9 10.3). I can engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or


87 characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events ( CCSS: W.9 10.3a ) . I can utilize a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole ( CCSS: W.9 10.3c ) (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2018). I knew that I needed to include a great deal of student voice and choice. I also knew that, like many people, this particular group performs better when in front of an audience. Keeping these considerations in mind, I created the #freedompenproject. In this project, students were able to choose their purpose, writing style, topic, and publication forum. Although a menu was provided as some still struggled with ulti mate freedom, students were encouraged to get creative and mix and match menu items in a unique way that would keep them engaged throughout the course of the unit. If they had an idea not included on the menu, they were encouraged to run with it (see Appen dix C Because this underlying writing project would begin in December and take us deep into the spring, ultimately spanning across two semesters, they would be required to write 20 50 pages. These pages had to be coherent and co hesive whether through the formation of a traditional plotline or via a n uniting thematic exploration. Knowing that my and created an Instagram account of my ow n, its purpose: to publically praise quality student writing. I invited students and parents to follow me with the intent to provide weekly posts highlighting student success stories using the tag #freedompenproject. I had students begin this endeavor w ith the construction of personalized driving questions, i.e., How can I, as a blog writer, create a work that entertains and informs my followers? How can I, as a social scientist, create a work that informs and persuades policy makers? How can I, as a fic tion writer, create a work that persuades the Teen Ink editors to publish me?


88 Students then constructed written project proposals. In these project proposals, students had to indicate topic, purpose, intended audience, personal connection to the work, and individual resource and instructional needs. I needed to know the latter in order to help them successfully execute their unique writing projects as I predicted that many would chose to dabble in unfamiliar waters, i.e., blog writing. Subsequently , s tuden ts created personal writing goals based on their in dividual needs as authors. These goals included things like organization, voice, sentence fluency, and so on. Our l ibrarian generated a list of books that correlated with student goals. For example, if a s tudent wanted to work on the utilization of more interesting word choices, ou r librarian selected texts that employed e xceptionally strong word choices. Students Englis h workshops ran as follows s own personal goals, mini lesson explicitly teaching to indicators in rubric, writing time devoted to the application of learning from r eading and mini lesson, and open microphone segment focusing on share out and the feedback loop. The following anecdote illustrates the stories of two students. Through caring, these individuals not only grew as readers and writers, but nuous transformation authentic subjects of mentor, 8, p. 33). Anecdote At the point initial project p roposals were due, I was excited to see what students came few others proposed to write poetry books, one wanted to create a full blown literary magazine with a partner, one chose a multi genre piece about animal rights, and some chose weekly


89 Although most students were off to a great start, some indicated that they were having trouble figuring out what to write. I proceeded to have individual meetings with each of th ese students. Throughout this process, Kieran and Michael st ood out. Kieran was a student I had not been able to reach. He struggled in English. Prior to the #freedompenproject, I received little work from him. His idea for the project actually materialized during a crew time morning check in where he had expressed family difficulties. After listening to a heart breaking story of abuse and deceit, I realized t hat this young man was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He felt responsible for the tragedy that had befell his little brother and there were many unresolved things he seemed to be repressing from a painful past. Given these circumstances , I recommended a personal memoir. Once he started writing, he could not stop. We began meeting more frequently, each time he would enthusiastically share a break through in his writing. He was beginning to make sense of what had happened to him and his si blings. It opened up a conversation with his mother and he requested that she and I meet so that we could discuss ways to help him cope and heal. During one workshop, hands shaking and voice quivering, he shared his heart breaking introduction with the cla ss. This brave gesture brought tears to our eyes. Reaching far beyond twenty pages, Kieran is still writing. He hopes to one day share his story with other young adults struggling to overcome family hardship. Michael is a student who is on an IEP (Indivi dualized Education Program) and who qualifies for ESL services (English as a Second Language). In his most recent IEP team meeting, it was noted that his PSAT test scores were among some of the lowest the group had ever seen. Naturally, he was nervous abou t the 20 50 page requirement given a history of low test scores


90 and formal designations that point to his academic deficiencies. I assured him that we would work through it together and that I simply cared about was his individual growth . In our first meet ing, we brainstormed a topic of interest. In the Scientific EDGE Magazine project, Michael enjoyed researching climate change. He also wanted to write a little about his own life. Throughout the course of our many discussions, he decided to write a fiction al story about the world after humans had destroyed it. The main character was based off of himself and the secondary characters were based off of his family and friends. Michael wrote seven chapters, an r potential readers hitting exactly twenty one pages. I never nitpicked his mistakes. I provided feedback in the way I provide feedback to all students in the form of a compliment, a question, and a polish. In one memorable feedback session, I remarked on his outstanding use of imagery. I asked if he had thought about building that up even more because it was so powerful. I ended suggesting that he change lines and indent with each new speaker. His final product was fantastic. He demonstrated immense growth in his development of an engaging plotline as well as use of sensory details and grammar and mechanics all while applying more varied sentence structure. This piece of evidence contributed to a re designation of his ESL service status placing him on a one year monitoring period. Emotional response I had not anticipated the student outcomes of this project. I had done something like this the year before, but did not see the same quality nor the same level of passion. Upon reading their final submissions, I was impressed by the growth from the first writing sample which was a more prescribed literary analysis piece. Across the board, I was thrilled with what they came up with. Looking back at this memory fills me with joy; it gives me goosebumps and brings proud tears to my eyes. My emotional response immediately following their final #freedompenproject


91 submissions was simple: a deep sense of love and unequivocal pride. Moving forward, I wanted to do more things like this. It felt important and necessary. R eflexivity Throughout the course of this process, I continuously wondered about whether or not I was doing right by kids. Were they getting what they needed academically? Was it too open ended? Would this experience help them to be successful in college o r in their careers? I then started to think back to my own high school experience. I had a hard time remembering most writing assignments or books I pretended to read , in all honest y . I recall the really interesting projects /assignments associated with The Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn , but I only remember deeply engaging with two texts: Johnny Got His Gun and Waiting for Godot . Why? Because I enjoyed the content. I was interested in the topics presented in these texts. For this reason, EDGE English men tors encourage student choice in read ing selection. This pro ject led me to seriously reconsider the role of the English discipline. The student who loves English content will eagerly engage in as Moran (2010) succinctly coins it, but for everyone else, what has this discipline become be sides an irrelevant hoop to jump through? I remember feeling devastated when my honors students admitted that they did not actually read most of the literature I assigned. We had suc h deep discussion s about literature. Their essays were satisfactory , yet they somehow accomplished this without reading the book s . At the end of my last year in the disciplinary pathway, an entire class period admitted that they frequently utilized Spark Notes for full chap ter summaries, character descriptions, literary analysis, etc. I felt as if I were living a lie. The #freedompenproject changed everything as it restored my faith in the promise of high school English. I had never before witnessed such genuine growth and a chievement in students . I feel that the success had something to do with individuals feeling a


92 sense of pe r sonal fulfillment and connection to their choice novels and written work. For students who do not plan to be English scholars, how can we build their capacities as critical readers and capable and versatile writers ? Because, at the end of the day, all students must have such skills in order to assert their presence in the world. Strategies developed eedompenprojects turned out to be ex ceptional. Some were mediocre; students did not really get into it like I hoped they would. A handful really just went through the motions which is exactly what I strive to avoid. I realized the common thread, however: s tudents whom I connected with on an emotional level produced stronger products in direct contrast with students I did not connect with. Fletcher (2000) states, Educational theories based on caring thus aim at creating conditions under which students can e xplore issues of self identity and self expression through the projects they pursue in a Students with whom I executed an ethic of care thrived while others experienced great difficulty or aversion to the task. The documentary project, for example, was a struggle. There were too many writers in the group which made it harder to connect on a personal level. I think they could also sense my indifference to the project. It was a satirical piece. I felt like th ey were poking fun at the project. This was unfair of me to correlates with the imperative nature of a Caring approach. In this, I breached my own pedagogical inclinations; thus, in the future, I would like to build in time for more one on one meetings each day. I will add the requirement that students cannot work with partners. This is about their personal writing progress and unique human journey; therefore, t he project requirement s should directly reflect this moving forward.

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93 C omments on layers Both bell hooks (1994) and Pau lo Freire (1998) understand education as the practice of freedom. Education is more than an assessment loop: assign a task that includes information we think they ought to know, provide feedback, have students revise and submit, grade work, return, and repeat. It has to be more than this. It is about humanity. It is about deeply caring for self, others, ideas, and the world (Noddings, 2005 ). (pp. 106 107). We efforts at inclusion to pursue their own growth, and this is exa We must be weary of enthralled by the exercise of power and authority within their mini I have obs erved many classrooms. Some, at first glance, appear to be exceptionally organized and efficient. The teacher is firm, unyielding in rule s an d expectations outlined in a standardized s yllabus filled with standardized assessments. Furthermore, these assessments often call for little c reativity or personal connection. Freire (1998) the students the beauty of our way of existing in the world as historical beings, capable of intervening in and kno classroom, e specially in a time where students can easily fake it until they make it using resources ranging from SparkNotes to apps that actually solve mathematical equations for you upon s napping an image of the problem . For example, Photomath is an application with a calculating camera. Upon scanning, the calculator immediately solves problems associated with algebraic expression and fractions to derivation and integration. Students can el oquently speak in a Socr atic Semi nar having never read the book

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94 or solve a math problem having never set foot in class. Why do we insist on faking it? What are we fighting for with this false teaching? hooks (1994) declares that th at is meaningful. They rightfully expect that my colleagues and I will not offer them information without addressing the connection between what they are learning and their overall Connection and care are the essence of education as the practice of freedom.

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95 CHAPTER V : DRAWING CONCLUSIONS This chapter elucidates conclusions surrounding both limitations and strengths of a n interdisciplinary project based and personalized learning model . E valuation of anecdotal vign ettes situated next to research studies and publications will allow us to contextualize various circumstances and conditions . Lastly, I shall explore the significance of connected learning, balanced curriculum, teacher as learner, and the cultivation of jo y and hope in the classroom. Vignette 6 , The EDGE pathway was rolled out at the tail end of volatile district conditions surrounding unfamiliar pedagogical territory , a difficult evaluation system , and market based pay for perf ormance. This toxic environment had educators spinning. Near the beginning of my time at Legend, the district brought in a speaker who made some pretty lofty statements about technology replacing literacy. Many teachers actually walked out . As a new teache r, I uncomfortably shifted in my seat, waiting for a cue from our administration. I remember thinking: Do we walk out too? I cannot rock the boat because I am new to this d istrict, but t his is wrong! As a sc hool, we chose to stay put, reluctantly riding ou t the storm. I will never forget the post conversation in our English department. People were worried about their jobs and fearful for the future of the district if the message really was that Engli sh was a dying field. This event set the stage for the rol l out of what could have been a positive thing; its ramifications will become evident throughout the course of the following vignette. Context I nstead of focusing on narrow and specific content standards, the district really just wanted content to serve a s a vehicle in the development of collaboration, communication, critical

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96 thinking, creativity, and so forth . Many legitimate, research based principles surrounding 21 st century skill development were employed; hence, why EDGE has opted to embrace this emph asis as well . Ironically, in focusing less on content and more on innovation and transferable skill development , us this new and unfamiliar way of doing things . From a teacher perspective, it appeared that evaluators had to be p redominately fixated on the outcome/skill explicitly listed on the board. Our backward design plans had to include buzz words surrounding outcomes, some evaluators even preferring a color coded map. I personally went with italics and underlining to differe ntiate skills and content in my 15 page unit plan. The result: a strange blend of existing traditional content incorporating innovative skills strictly stated in written form only, i.e., s tudents will evaluate Puritan culture by completing an anticipation guide for The Crucible ; s tudents will strategically create meaning through complex writing by constructing an imitation diary entry. We strained to synthesize what we were already doing with what we were being told to do and it was evident that these 21 st century skills did not really live in most classrooms. Rather, individuals developed a begrudging attitude as they Teachers were not the only one s impacted by these mandates. The ne w initiatives were banked into students a s well. Administrator s would come in and ask our kids what they were working on. Students would look at the board, robo tically rec iting the painstakingly posted outcomes . Once, a custodian wiped our white boards clean. Many teachers were in tears over this as we had spent more time writing mini novels on the white board than actually planning meanin gful lessons. In turn, s tudents were highly critical of these constructs ; it was as if they sensed the absurdity of it all. I remember kids mocking t he outcomes , resentful at having them crammed down their throats each day .

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97 Subsequently, collaboration proved to be challenging for everyone in the building due, in part, to the implementation of market based pay for performance. This initiative has been labeled by individuals both in the disciplinary pathway and EDGE as one of the most damaging ied to subjects they teacher, and hours of tim and fluctuation of raises according to the performance rating designatio ns: highly effective, effective, partially effective, and ineffective . This competitive evaluation system essentially forced individuals within a building (even those on the same team) to compete with one another . Once word g ot out that there was a cap and only a set number of teachers in a building could receive a highly effective rating, people were furious. Talk about a collaboration killer. So now, not only were people swimming in the revamping of curriculum, bu t hesitant or even unwilling to collaborate in ways that made the work load more manageable and productive. From my countless meetings and conversations, I h ave come to the conclusion that, for many, EDGE represented everything that the district stood for and peopl e had a bad taste in their mouths because of it. Teachers were on high aler t and understandably sensitive to inequity within the building. Having the support of district in the beginning , EDGE received funding that allowed us to visit schools around the co untry a nd redesign one wing of the school. In the first year, we had fewer students and vast access to resources. Additionally, in trying to sell a project based , personalized learning model, our lead administer inadvertently pointed out flaws surrounding the nature of the more traditional classroom experience. There ha ve been several instances where, out of sheer enthusiasm for EDGE, students spoke critically abo ut the

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98 disciplinary pathway as well which further added to rising frustration among staff . In a s Best Kids one student commented on the redundant nature of 2018). In addition, EDGE was featured in a recent publication called Maver ick Teachers: How Innovative Educators are Saving Public Schools . One of our students was quoted s tating , as cited in Baugh & Juliani, 2019, p. 150). The student goes on to discuss the repetitiv e n ature of her days before EDGE, claiming, as cited in Baugh & Juliani, 2019, p. 150). People were upset by thi s. Likewise, t here were EDGE parent accounts of di sciplinary teachers talking negatively It became a vicious cycle, many feeling hurt by the whole thing. It is important to remember that , before this, we were close with our content based departments, working together, laughing together, celebrati ng together, and sometimes mourning together. At the climax of this tension, the district experienced a shift due to turn over follo wing a dense transition period; everyone was left in a state of disillusionment unsure as to where we were going next. I kn ew that wounds were not healed and that disparities had to be addressed if we were going to move forward in a positive way as a scho ol. I always thought it amazing that we offered different learning pathways for students. A student no longer has to attend a charter school when the disciplinary model is not working for her. Such vastly different pathway s both breathing within a public h igh school? Unheard of. This is worth fighting for. As department chair, it was of the division . I would attend department chair meetings completely vulnerable, open to feedback and, in some cases ,

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99 criticism. I encouraged individuals to reach out to me with questions and/or concerns. The first several meetings were about resource allocation. There w ere many questions about student teacher ratio , classroom spaces, and how the disciplinary pathway wa s bein g portrayed during informational and recruitment sessions . I had worked tirelessly to address these concerns, advocating for building equity. The following anec dote illustrates a shift I noticed in two particular meetings. In these particular meeting s, looming frustrations became less about the abovementioned concerns and more about explicit pedagogical opposition. This anecdote begin s to illustrate the limitations of this model. Anecdote On Tuesday, February 14 th 2017, we reached out to a few teach ers in the disciplinary pathway in order to get some feedback . We knew that a few people were unhappy and concerned about the program; word got out that a small group met with the principal to discuss trepidations surrounding the weakening of Legend cultur e. We called the meeting because we genuinely wanted to know what we could do help our pathways run alongside one another more cohesively . We chose teachers who had been at Legen d for several years, teachers whom we respected from various content areas. In the first meeting , two science teachers and one math teacher made it a point to attend. This first meeting went really well. The re w as an air of mutual respect, genuine understanding and empathy. Many of the issues stated in the context were addressed. I feel that everyone felt heard, their feelings and thoughts validated. We agreed on quite a bit. Near the end of the meeting, however , curriculum and content emerged under the pretense that students who left EDGE were behind in science and, predominately, m ath classes. They were concerned about the content that students were receiving in EDGE. This viewpoint caught EDGE teachers a little by surprise. We knew that people did not always pedagogically agree with what we were doing,

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100 but we had wrongly assumed th at we were all agreeing to disagree. We discussed the possibility of streamlining a more or less common set of learning targets. In other words, all students would hit the same targets so the end goal for every Legend student was the same. How students get there is up to them, through a more traditional disciplinary model or through a project based interdisciplinary and personalized learning pathway. We also discussed the importance of better communication when students were moving in and out of pathways. T his way, teachers would have a heads up and could fill students in accordingly. As a group, we called a meeting with the principal to share some of our thinking. The tone shifted. The tension became palpable. Several more concerns surrounding math emerged . There were other issues brought up, having more to do with us, the mentors . It was no longer strictly about administrative considerations . H ands shaking and voice quaveri ng, I ended up in tears. I had been working so hard to rectify matters and now it se emed that things were not going as well as I had originally thought. We again discussed common learning targets. From there, conversation headed in the d irection of common assessments. I ended up having to leave to pick up my son. No explicit resolution wa s establishe d. Emotional Response I left feeling hurt and upset, wondering if my efforts were in vain. Would there ever be peace? Was that possible in a building promoting two fundamentally different views on education and learning? I was upset because I had helped build this. I had worked tirelessly to c reate, what I felt to be, some of the most powerful experiences for kids , to right my wrongs in the classroom by c ultivating an environment of empowerment and liberation . Unlike any prior meeting, this on e felt personal.

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101 Reflexivity So much more played into this hostility. I had to remind myself that there were bigger socio cultural issues pitting us against one another . It was not personal. People were upse t by the disparity surrounding pay, resources, lack of au tonomy in their own classrooms, unreasonable initiatives, not having a voice nor being treated like a professional after years o f education paired with an abundance of student loan debt. Reilly (2018) recognizes discrepancies between teacher pay and other careers requiring a college degree, lack of support and funding, and societal conditions impacting the classroom, i.e., the effects of student poverty and the threat of school shootings. She notes that the majority of Republi cans and Democrats al ike actually believe that ha ). of the teacher within bourgeois educational structures seemed to denigrate notions of wholeness and uphold the idea of a mind/bo (p. 16). The sense of compartmentalization and divide hurt us, ultimately serving as a distraction from what is really important . Individuals do not have the time or energy to deeply engage in the necessary philosophical conversations that would , no doubt, move us forward. We close our doors and do what we feel is best, neither challenging nor applauding one another. It is important to note that the majority of Legend educators , regardless of t he pathway, want to do right by kids. At the end of the day, we all have one thing in common: immense care for the well being of our students. So where was t he disconnect? Why the strife? Ironically, on our common ground also lives our source of contention : we want what is best for students, but have very different ideas about what that looks like . On one side, disciplinary teachers are concerned about college readiness and SAT scores. This has been evident in many meetings and conversations, one teacher ev en telling me that his 9 th grade son would love the program, but he

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102 wanted to go to a specific post secondary school and he did not feel like EDGE could get him there. On the other side , interdisciplinary teachers are worried about career rea diness, transf erable skills , and the student centered experience . No one is wrong in their thinking , per se . The question remains: how do we provide students with a seamless blend of content and skills while always keeping their health and well being at the forefront of every assignment , pro ject, and expectation? This is a question I know we are all eager to answer. Furthermore , when I talk to people about educat ion as the practice of freedom, many claim that students must comply in the work place. Compliance is a par t of the college and career experience Sometimes they While this is true, it is my sincere hope that EDGE nurtures self awareness and vast ex posure to various topics and fi elds; thus, directly leading students to a college and/or career path that they enjoy. I have to jump through hoops in my profession, but overall I am happy. I do it for a reason and it lends itself to a bigger picture , to my own self actualization . That is different than compliance in a job you despise. Why would anyone want to live in a state of resentful compliance as evident in the case of our own past district experience ? Students s hould be accustomed to freedom so that w hen information is being banked into them, they can more efficiently identify and question the nature of their lived experience. S wart z, et al . (2009) illuminates various issues surrounding banking education the didactic, standardized, test taking orientation of public primary and secondary schools in this country. The focus on federally enforced standardized testing of math and reading deemphasizes transformative learning and privileges mechanistic, a cont extual thinking p. 125). I t must be said that stand alone

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103 there are many educators in the disciplinary pathway who use a more constructivist approach in dealing with matters of specific content. By this , I mean that some have deviated from tests, fo cusing more on real application, multi disciplinary connections, and adheren ce to student desires , life experiences, and/or in terests. Here is the point where my inquiry becomes more complex. What level of foundational disciplinary knowledge is appropriate? When does content become stifling and oppressive? When, by withholding content, are we encumbering students in terms of the ir own liberation and sense of self actualization? When, by withholding skills, are we encumbering students in terms of their own liberation and sense of self actualization? These are difficult questions, but worth every second of contemplation as we are m orally obligated as educato rs to do what is right by kids; thus, ensuring that the caring is complete. Strategies Developed Effective fall semester of 2018 , EDGE significantly reduced our teaching staff . We are now at two English, h umanities, and Spanish teachers spanning three grade levels. We are sharing rooms. Having undergone such drastic leadership turnover at district level, w e no longer receive district aid as it seems w e have been lost in transition. Instead, we answer to a board while participati ng in program fundraising endeavors that support field experiences, room and hallway design, etc. Students take more math workshops than any other subject, following a more t raditional math sequence on top of math applied in Intensive projects . In addition , we have changed titles to avoid confusion in the event that an EDGE student transfers out. Our message is more positive. In fact, out of all of these meetings, two things were established: use of the terminology of those pathways as interdisciplinary and disciplinary because throughout the course of communication, the word unintentionally developed a negative connotation.

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104 Comments on Layers To conclude, I will address a few of the questions posed in the final leg of my reflexivity. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) defines a containing and procedures. Mathematics is a domain, or at a finer resolution algebra and nu mber theory can domain must be first understood and then mastered before creating something new. A discipline functions similarly. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) claims that one cannot innovate without existing knowledge. Pablo Pica sso once said, To this point , Csikszentmihalyi (1996) irradiates, Artists agree that a painter cannot make a creative contribution without looking, and looking, and looking at previous ar t, and without knowing what other artists and critics consider good and This is not banking, ra ther a means to liberation along with the recognition of i Although Noddings (2005) acknowledges t he significance of pedagogical practice rooted in the she warns us against the withholding of disciplinary discourse for stude nts who might someday have use for such k nowledge . Noddings (2005) should have an opportunity to learn those subjects in Furthermore, Strauss (2017) 15 year study intended to Google hired based on the quality of STEM he top skills did not include knowledg Strauss, 2017, p. 1). Skills minus content is not the answer. Content void of skill

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105 development is not the answer. There shoul d be a healthy balance of each. We must never limit students. We need to give them every tool possible if we want them to intervene in the world. Limitations of the EDGE Model There are v arious limitation s of interdisciplinary project based and personalized learning. I will first identify and expound upon the limitations regarding interdisciplinarity in a more general sense . C ritics of interdisciplinary studies have commented on mere perceived as merely passable, their levels of expertise often questioned, rejected, and criticized especially when dabbling in dogmatic disciplinary fields. Furtherm ore, Moran (2010) acknowledge s the ambiguity prevalent interdisciplinary have mistakenly coined i These terms are largely undefi ned and used interchangeably , ultimately In contrast, acade mic disciplines enjoy a few advantages particularly in scholarly communitie s where common history, terminology, and assumption s prevail. These scholarly spheres specify which phenomena to study, advance certain central concepts and organizing theories, embrace certain methods of investigation, provide forums for sharing research and insights, and offer career paths for (Repko, 2012, p. 4). R epko (2012) due to the curriculum (p. 8). Herein lies another challenge for interdisciplinary work : the construction of curriculum. How do we decide wha t to include in curriculum at the secondary level? Ellis and Stuen (19 98) urge us to be weary of this, stating,

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106 applications of interdisciplinary curriculum are (1) its siren call of superficiality, and (2) the temptation to use it when a separate subjects approach would better serve both t eachers and Ell is and Stuen (1998) clarify the dangers of fitting round pegs into square holes . We must, according to the authors, be cogni zant when developing curriculum; we do not lly demands In addition, critics are concerned about the loss of the progression of knowledge hesitant to integra or literature, or whatever, lacking both depth and continuity Stuen, 1998, p. 11). As etimes the best answer is integration and sometimes it is separatio Stuen, 1998, p. 12). Finally, Jones (2009) acknowledges interdisciplinary curriculum as time consuming requiring a strong sense of collaboration. This, in tu seem like a hard and exhausting (Jones, 2009, p. 80). C ernavskis (2015) notes the limitations of a secondary proje ct based learning experience through the evaluation of a High Tech High alumni. Post high school, the student attended the University of California, Santa Cruz. As one in over 15,000 undergraduates, the student expressed nostalgia for the tight knit projec t based environment, claiming that essays and exams now make up the bulk of her assessments. Cernavskis (2015) poses the important question: MacMartin (2017) research illustrates various challenges surro und ing the shift from a project based learning model employed in high school to a more traditional collegiate experience. Study participants identified of college, the pace

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107 (MacMartin, 2017, p. 88). N ot surprising at this point of the narrative, math was ment ioned several times, some even l prepared to take the math courses (MacMartin, 2017, p. 93). MacMartin (2017) notes how individuals even could strengthen their performan Moreover, e xecuting a caring personalized learning approach is not for the faint of heart. Personalizing learning e xperiences for over 250 students is tricky , especially when students are shy or uncomfortable advocating for themselves. It is simple when a n individual comes to you with an issue, i.e., the case of Claudia, the young woman who explicitly communicated her need for personalization in working environment or Michael, the young man who openly expressed a need for extra writing support. What about the student in the corner, silently suffering or simply conditioned to shut up and do what she or he is told? How do we ensure personalization for these students? In addition, the feedback loop can be especially exasperating as, at times, every student is working on a different project or have opted to take their work to the next level in a way that you must support . It is hard to keep track of students . Feldstein and Hill (2016) view look at course designs and identifying those areas that fail to make meaningful individual contact 1). Although valid and worthy of immense contemplation, this is easier said than done as we struggle with limite d resources and lack of funding. Personalized and real world learning require funding for additional staff and bussin g/payment for meaningful and individualized field experiences largely based on student interest and need.

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108 If funding is a struggle for EDGE, a pathway situated in an affluent suburb, imagine the immense challenges posed in a lower SES environment. As men tioned in Chapter 1, I had the opportunity to visit Rise Up Community School in the fall of 2016. As a free public char ter school, their goals closely reflect our own, the catch being that they target students who have either dropped out or are at risk of dropping out (Rise Up, 2016). While there, I was impressed by their presentations of learning. I could not help but notice, however, the conditions of their building ( sharing the space with another organization) and quality and quantity of their resources. It definitely did not look like Lege nd High School. Instead of actually b ringing ideas to life via the utilization of technology, many assessments a ppeared to be hypothetical. For example, one student presented his business Shark Tank pitch to our panel. It was not in digital form, rather written on a piece of paper and performed out loud. We, on the other hand, have a our building where students have the opportunity to actually film , record, and create high quality products. Clearl y, there are various limitations that must be addressed. In the following sec tion, I shall respond to such limitations while highlighting s pecific strengths of interdisciplinary project based and personalized learning. I will also attempt to find common p edagogical ground in the hope that we might agree on a few pivotal veracities surrounding best educational practice moving forward. Strengths of the EDGE Model This section begins by identifying research based benefits of interdisciplinarity proj ect base d learning, and personalization . It will conclude with a vignette which illustrates suc h strengths through my observation of transformative student learning outcomes. In reference to the application of interdiscip linary work, Repko (2012) notes that the di sciplines should not be the interd all be all; rather , the emphasis should rest on the issue, problem, or

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109 (p. 7). This is an imperative clai m as we should view disciplines as tools in innovative practice and problem solving rather than unquestionable building blocks of truth. Freire (2000 ) The content thus constantly expands and renews itself. The task of the dialogical teacher i n an interdisciplinary team working on the thematic universe revealed by their In light of this contention, physics and applies it to molecular bonds can make a more substantive contribution to chemistry r disciplinarity allows us to make interesting connections, often creating something new or, at the very least, adding knowledge to an existing field. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) also discusses the importance of extending beyond disciplinary lines in order to creatively solve the complex problems of our world. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) cites prominent scientist , Barry Commoner , as one of the first to a cknowledge the strain various technological advancement has had on human health. Although Commoner testifies to the utilization of the scientific method in the identification and evaluation of problems and solutions, he admits having throughout his process ( Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, includes many such interdisciplinary approach in their endeavors . Csi kszentmihalyi (1996) maintains, viewpoint that breaks across disciplinary boundaries is needed, a way of understanding that

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110 From a secondary educational standpoint, Drake and Burns (2 004) clarify that that these classrooms are often partic . Drake and Burns (2004) contend that achievement in ways t hat actually enh p. 30). Jones (2009) supports this contention, declaring interdisciplinarity as taught enhancement of student performance, an integration of methodology and pedag in direct correlation with essential lifelong l (p. 78). The author have the skills that inter disciplinary courses provide are so valuable to our future that they are now sought out by colleges and businesses ( Jones, 2009, p. 78). Interdisciplinarity and project based learning go hand in hand and , once combined , result i n enduring understanding an d sustainable learning outcomes. With regard to project based learning, MacMartin (2017) identifi es improved student Sumarni (20 15) acknowledges the way s project based learning affords individuals the capacity to be because it encourages student ownership of research, design, problem solv ing, and decision making (p. 478). Project based learning f ortifies a real world skill set by intentionally providing the opportunity to not only learn content , but practice and implement 21 st century skills. Sumarni (2015) discusses the ways project based learning enhances communication, project management, and cr itical thinking

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111 skills. oral and written communication . EDGE visitors often comment on their ability to professionally interact with adults . When , David E. Baugh, author and superintendent of schools in th e Pennsylvania Centennial School District came to interview individuals in the EDGE program, he commented on how our students were B etter collaborat ion and social learning skills along with i mproved knowledge retention has similarly been acknowledged by MacMartin (2017). Our students cre ate tea m collaboration contracts where they explicitly outline communication, decision making, participation, and conflict/resolution preferences a nd protocol s . After signing the contract, they team members based on breaches regarding previously agreed upon infractions. Further, knowledge retention has been noticeable. Without being prompted, EDGE students often include formerly acquired knowledge into projects. For example, one team wrote an entire business and financial plan for a collaborative space design project. This was not a requirement. When asked why they included these components, one student W ell that is what yo u taught us last year in the change campaign project. MacMartin (2017) claims, ral sources indicated that deep er understanding of material results from collaborative learning experiences, such as those The author recognize s the MacMartin, 2017, p. 36). In addition , project based learning, according to MacMartin (2017) betwee n low socioeconomic status and the availability of quality resources due t o reduction of textbook purchases 37 38). Further, MacMartin (2017) notes the ways project based learning Finally, Sumarni (2015 ) emphasize s project based learning as a mechanism that

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112 ultimately enhances creativity. This leads to enjoyment and a higher quality of life, according to Csikszentmihalyi (1996) who notes the relationship between the creative process and personal fulfillment. Csiksz entmihalyi (1996) contents that when we are involved in inventive processes, we perceive ourselves to be living more fully than during the rest of life. The excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab comes close to the ideal fulfill ment we all hope to get Lastly, I will identify the strengths of personalized learning as it requires a deep care and respect for each student unique circumstances and interests. Quate and McDermott (2013) discuss how the fluid, all depending on what the students (pp. 94 95 ). Moreover, they outline the significance of students having voice and choice in the classroom. Quate and McDermott (2013) claim that stu dent s tend to work harder when they have input regarding their topic of study. On top of improved student effort, the authors assert that we can build autonomy while providing access to more challenging content through voi ce and choice. In addition, having input allows students to work at a more individually suitable pace . Some students might simply select resources and outcomes while more advanced students may actually construct their own driving questions and overarching focus and res earch pathway s . Quate and McDermott (2013) claim that once students realize the journey to access difficult, challenging, and important work work that has the power to transform them an Personalized learning requires us to cast students exactly where they are. Vignette 7 , further establishes t he

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113 strengths of interdisciplinary project based and personalized learning through the depiction of transformative student learning outcomes. Vignette 7 , The spring of 2018 was the most powerful and life changing semester of my tea ching career. After partaking in foundational projects, EDGE stud ents were finally ready to intervene in the world. Fresh men students were engaged in a more humanities based Be the Change campaign project running alongside a science specific choice of cybe r security, chemistry of soap, or topics of the brain . S ophomore students , coming off of a business, event, or non profit implementation unit, were working on Project Ignite , a relatively open ended, interdisciplinary student interest based passion project . Walking through the halls of the E pod was invigorating every day for the duration of these units. I discussed specific change campaign project requirements in Vi gnette 3, therefore, here I will focus primarily on student outc omes. Context T wo young women , Jane and Kora , were moved by a discussion blog they had stumbled upon . People wer e sharing their stories and providing one another with various le vels of su pport in these posts. Jane and Kora were horrified to find that victims are often unable to reach out for help in fear of b eing caught by their oppressor. They often have to utilize more secretive measures. Kora, an aspiring young artist designed a powerful image for their logo; the two then partnered wit h a safe house, their sticker design serving as an indicator for individuals in need of a safe space. Witnessing the first phone me eting between Jane and the represent ative from the safe house was a note worthy experience. The young wome n displayed

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114 an immense level of professionalism and care throughout the course of their email communication and multiple conversations. In yet anothe r instance, freshmen students Cal and Emmy generated environmental change campaigns teaming up with a local environmental non profit organization . At a live community hearing reported on by Channel 7 News , both students spoke passionately and persuasively abou t their environmental concerns surrounding fracking. They were among dozens meeting hall to have their voices heard Kovaleski , 2018 ). Utilizing a strategic combination of emotional and logical appeal, these students engaged a room o f community activists, members from the press, and COGCC board members. Additionally, sophomore student Gloria stood out for both her job shadow experience and passion project. Gloria is a n individual who desperately wants to help others. She wants to mak e the world a better place. Gloria chose to attend a surgical center for one of her field experiences. While there, she was asked to change into scrubs so that she could follow the doctor to each of his scheduled surgeries. She is now very interested in th e medical profession , describing the day as one of the best experiences to date . Simultaneously , Gloria was working t irelessly to create committed to helping underprivileged Haitian students through the promotion of enhance d health practices. Throughout the course of this project, Gloria collected over 2,100 bottles of hand sanitizer from Ora Labs, a personal care product business, and local elementary schools with the intent of reducing disease for youth in educational sett ings. Recipients sent back pictures of beaming children receiving and using the hand sanitizer ; the caring was complete and it was an exciting time for us all. It was the fir st time our program had made a difference outside of the United States. I could ex tensively write about any of the above mentioned scenarios as each are notable and worthy in their own right;

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115 however, I chose the following anecdote as it is the most vivid. I was an outsider looking in on the power of student ownership, intrinsic motivat ion , and worldly intervention. Anecdote Maria and Audra were passionate about mental health . E ach having a pers onal connection with the topic, t hey wanted to specifically focus on anxiety and depression for their change campaign. After days of research, t he pair found that scent and color greatly influence general well being and can actually help alleviate causes of symptoms. From there, Audra and Maria decided to create a bracelet company that incorporated these important bits of knowledge; hence, They created bracelets using utilizing th e various therapeuti c c olors and scents. These young ladies worked hard to establish a partnership with an applicable non profit organization. One day, the young women were sitting in the hallway having a disagreement. I walked over and sat next to them, asking how I could support. The two were going back and forth about profit they were working with. Audra wanted to slow things down, clearly uncomfortable with the pace, whereas Maria was eager to move forward. They were clearly stressed. As they worke d through the conflict, I felt helpless. I weakly added, half jokingly There is no need to worry. You know, you both are g etting an A+ for this project , right? They briefly looked up, visibly annoyed at being interrupted in such an important moment , really do not care about that right now , we just want to have our site up and running because we pro mised our They continued to problem solve. I was shocked into s ilence. It was no longer a profound display of intrinsic motivation.

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116 Emotional Response I was bursting with jo y. I th ought to myself: How could what we are doing be wrong in any way ? All of our limitations felt minuscule, of little significance, paling in the iridescent light of this moment. Immed iately after this anecdote, I w as exploding with energy, shouting fr om the metaphorical rooftops, running around the school boasting my pride to anyone who would listen. Total bliss best describes my emotional response post anecdote. Reflexivity I could chuckle about all the mistakes I have made in the past had they not b een so tragic and erroneous . Nothing I had ever accomplished in my eight years of teaching came even remotely close to the five minutes I spent listening to Audra and Maria enthralled in their learning, in their process, completely engaged in a personally fulfilling project that simultaneously addressed content standards. I have to check myself because it was not my triumph , it was theirs. We had just given them the space and freedom to do something important and meaningful. The se two emerging entrepreneurs cared about spreading their idea , about changing the world for the better above all else : Swartz et al . (2009) discusses the ways that this educational approach better inspires students to be actively engaged in positive social reinvention and tr ansforma p. 135). They were confident in their presence and ability to implement change and intervene in a world that they felt, unlike many young people, to be just Freire (2000 ) identifies the problematic nature of anestheti education as the involves a constant unveiling of reality. The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter strives for the emerge nce of consciousness and critical intervention in p. 81). How would we continuously re create this magic? What

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117 would future projects look like? We still had two more years to fill with rich and meaningful content. We had big shoes to fill, this m uch was certain. Strategies Developed T hese projects were by no means perfect. We definitely had some fine tuning to do with regard to fair subject allocati on among other mishaps . We now know that the next time we implement a project like this, we must a im for more intentional pacing so that disciplines are not left out. Per the English side of things , I wanted students to engage in more discussion, critical reading , and formal writing about their topics. My tasks always seemed to be a second thought, the first to be set aside, as they were not entirely essential to the final product. I now realize that I must be the voice for my content. Interdisciplinary project based learning requires us to both embrace other disciplinary considerations while advocating for our own. In addition, I found myself in a particularly sticky situation after organizing our entry event . The guest speaker I brought in was not shy about her negative feelings surrounding fracking. We happened to have a student whose family was in th e fracking industry. This student was perplexed presentation. He admitted his surprise at hearing this other side; he did not even realize there was another side. Two of his family members commented on the unfair nature of our entry eve nt , asking that we rectify this moving forward. Next time, I will bring in speakers f rom both sides of the spectrum so that students can see a more complete pictur e in order to avoid the slightest inkling of pushing a biased agenda . Lastly, some were frus trated that a handful of individuals had the opportunity to travel and engage in real experiences like the COGCC meeting while others did not. We definitely need to develop systems surrounding equity in this regard moving forward. My thought is that we req uire students to create plans for travel via a formal presentation or proposal. That way it

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118 requires some responsibility and planning on their behalf , taking a little off of the plate of the mentors and administrators. Comments on Layers This entire episo de illustrates a monumental pathway shift. It felt as if we had accomplished what we set out to do so long ago. In the spring of 2018, we felt that students had c 1998, p. 46). This success by no means suggests pathway perfection, however. I originally ly changed it because this statement would be wildly inaccurate. Praxis suggests we will never fully arrive. I do not wish to provide a road map here, to capture and package t his spring semester curriculum, bestowing it onto the world as truth or final, u nquestionable authority in best educational practice . We must, as educators, be constantly aware of our unfinishedness. As long as we covet the spirit of critical reflection resulting in thoughtful acti on, we need not fear besting efficacious work. We must trust in the contemplative process. We need only fear once we become stagnant. In fact, this unfinishedness is essential to P raxis is a n ongoing cycle. We must revel in this continuity, content with the fact that we will never reach our destination. This knowledge is liberating in and of itself. Future Research I have addressed the observable benefits of the EDGE model through my interpretation of variou s behaviors and events ; however, it is important to note that we are only two years and one quarter in to the program . It appears to be working now, but we do not yet know where or how

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119 our students will end up post high school . In a Buck Institute for Educa tion (BIE) blog, one High Tech High graduate attests to the fact that her project based school experience better prepared her for Columbia University. Rey (2017) claims that she quickly learned how to function in the lecture style environment of exams and note taking alongside peers who persistently struggled to speak in class, participate in collaborative work , interv iew for jobs, and exercise self advocacy with their professors. While of tradi tional disciplinary experiences, there has been little formal research done on long term im plications of interdisciplinary project based, and authentic learning utilizing a Caring gradual release framework. F uture research would do well to evaluate our stu school . MacMartin (2017) suggests the incorporation of a larger sample size pertaining to the effectiveness of project based learning and college readiness. MacMartin (2017) identifies the perceptions of college preparation of students from e similar mathematics challenges for students who took traditional AP courses alongside those who graduated from a pr ojec t based learning model (p. 142). Furthermore, the researcher over a 4 attitudes surrounding the re lationship between the project based learning experience and college preparation alter as matriculate through upper mo ve toward MacMartin, 2017, p. 142). With this in mind, a study s of their transferable skillset (much

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120 like the ones evaluated in the EDGE pathway ) would be usefu college students who graduated from both traditional and PBL high schools . A more comprehensive longitudinal study might survey professors while tracking grades in partic early, mid, and final semesters. This would allow the researcher to measure the relationship between soft skills and student academic success throughout the course of their collegiate experience . Without more substantial research, it will be diffic ult to establish the effectiveness of non traditional learning models. Final Thoughts At the beginning of this story thesis , I implored the reader to imagine a day in the life of a typical high school student. Let us now take a moment to visualize a day in the life of EDGE student, Ronnie. A normal day goes something like this: a field excur sion to the Eisenhower T unnel as Ronnie is curious about structural engineering. Next, Ronnie heads back to Legend, lingual interview at a neighboring urban middle school, Ronnie is now tasked with transcribing his notes so that he can create a written and digital vignette along with an original paper lantern. Each project compone nt will reflect the experience of the middle school student he conversed with. He is excited to begin the science portion in the actual lighting of the farolito , or lantern, where he gets to explore qualitative and quantitative understandings of charge, cu rrent, voltage, resistance, and their various connections. At the end of the project, Ronnie will gift his work back to his promising school year. After, Ronnie will h ead to crew time where a mentor checks in on his social, emotional, and academic well being. Ronnie will venture to lunch and then math where he learns about geometry through the design and construction of his product. For the last period

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121 of the day, Ronni e has independent work time. He wishes to p ursue two accelerated pathways: science and English honors. At this time, he will work through online modules and literary analysis, asking the mentor in the room for additional assistance in the event he gets stu ck. 30 minutes before the bell rings, he requests to go to the woodworking shop to complete the measurements he started the day before. He stays after the bell, fully enthralled in his endeavor. This is the reimagining of the American public education system. Has it been easy? Absolutely not. Is it worth fighting for? Without a doubt. I understand this exact replica is not possible for all educators in the curre nt climate; therefore, supposing that our common goal is to foster the development of passionate, self actualized, successful, happy, civically responsible, and resourceful individuals, I wish to impart a few simple, yet transformative take a way s. First, t he importance of connection reverberated t hroughout the cour se of my inquiry. We must cultivate connections between people, ideas, disciplines, and community liaisons. Uniting what students are doin g with reality is essential; w e must provide opportunitie s for them to leave their mark in the world . I have been pleasantly surprised to f ind that professionals are willing to help our youth. It is important to r each out to businesses, non pro fits, and neighboring schools, to send an email or call in a few pers onal favors . Let us m ake learning live . In addition, we need to know students well enough to use their personal experiences in the development of meaningful curricular pursuits. If we find a common social/emotional theme, we might think about applicable te xts, data, statistics, content connections, etc., in the construction of an upcoming unit. Throughout the conception

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122 empathy. We began planning, not with a ssessment in mind, rather the unique needs of our kids. Content can fit just about anywhere; human connection cannot. Furthermore, we must strive to f ind balance in all things education while letting students know what we value most: them. Let us j uggle c ontent, skill development, authentic learning, and care in a way that provides students with everything t hey might need to be succe ss ful. At the same time, we must never forget that success criteria will look different for every child; hence, it is imperat ive to personalize the learning experience wherever we can. P erspective should live alongside this balance . W e know that we have to play the game of standardized testing, but it should not drive our day to day. We must appropriately contextualize the role of standardized test ing with in the comprehensive snapshot of their larger human experience. Our students should know that the test is a side note, a hoop we must jump through so that no doors will be closed to them. Let us b e honest with them in this regar d . Their understanding and worldly sense never fails to surprise me . Perspe ctive and balance are crucial. Likewise , it is important to e ngage in the learning process with st udents. We must not be afraid to occupy praxis side by side, reveling in, what Fr eire (1998) has coined as our Let us thrive through utilization of a growth mindset . It is okay to admit fault and struggles t o students and team mates alike, to fully engage, to put it all out there, and to be vulnerable. It is important to model failing forward for our kids. From my experience, they have more respect for educators who can achieve this . We must cast away the authoritarian classroom and find comfort in learning and developing together as equals . Most importantly, w e shoul d be joyous together. Let us laugh with them, play with them, hug them, ask them about anything other than school. We should never start an individual conference or check

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123 What do you Freire (1998) describes hope as something shared between teachers and students. The hope that we can learn together, teach together, be curiously impatient together, produce something together, and resist together the obstacles that prevent the flowering We must care for and, in turn, liberate our students with hope, joy, patience, and grace. Why must we assume that a young person should wait until a certain age to be passionate, self actualized, successful, happy, civi cally responsible, and resourceful individuals? Why must we insist on short changing our students? I cannot help but think back to Ray and the ways I stifled his human potential during our time together. He never made it to the SAT. He never made it to col lege. Do we really feel morally justified in placing a test and a tradition of rigid academia above profound human experience? I certainly hope not. And if this line of reasoning fails to convince the reader, we might simply acknowledge that b anking educat ion is no t only dehumanizing, but futile as verified by Wagner (2014) and Robinson and Aronica (2015). Wagner and Dintersmith ( 2015 ) irradiate we replace all flowers with the same lifeless, overtested weed. We take every ounce of bold creativity out of the classroom, replacing it with a soulless march through dull curriculum and In refocusing our attention on the individual child through caring and the cultivation of student autonomy , we can feed their souls while preparing them for the future. We can foster self actualized individuals while closing existing achievement gaps. Through love, liberation, and the resolve to reconfigure our schools and classrooms, we wi ll give our kids a fighting chance in our ever expanding world.

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124 REFERENCES Adams, T., Jones, S.L. H., & Ellis, C. (2015). Autoethnography: U nderstanding q ualitative r esearch . New York , NY : Oxford University Press. Aronowitz, S., & Giroux, H. (2003). On e rethinking the nature of educational r eform. In Education still under siege: The conservative, liberal, and radical debate over schooling . (pp.1 22). New Fetter Lane, LDN: Taylor & Francis e Library. Baugh , D.E, & Juliani , A. ( 2019). Teacher maverick s: How innovative educators are saving public schools . New York, NY: Routledge. Ballantine, J. H., & Spade, J.Z. (2007). Getting s tarted: Understanding education through sociological theory. Schools and Society: A Sociological A pproach to E ducation , thi rd edition. California. SAGE Publications. Belbase, S., Luitel, B.C., & Taylor, P.C. (2008). Autoethnography: A method of research and teaching for transformative education. The Journal of Education and R esearch , 1(1), 86 95. Retrieved from Brouillette , M.J., (1999 , July ). The 1 830s and 40s: Horace Mann, the end of free market education, and the rise of government s chools. Mackinac Center for Public Policy . Retrieved from https://www.macki Bryan, B. (2010). From Boston to Brixton: An autoethnographic account of schooling from Jamaica to the UK. Changing English , 17 ( 2 ) , 141 152, DOI: 10.1080/13586841003787258. Cernavskis, A. (2015). Hands on high school prepares students fo r the real world and jobs, but what about college? The Hechinger Report Covering Innovation & Inequality in Education. Retrieved from tech high prepares students for the real world and jobs but what about college/ Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2018). English Language Arts Standards Writing ( CCSS: W.9 10.3). Retrieved from the standards/ Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2018). English Language Arts Standards Writing ( CCSS: W.9 10.3a). Retrieved from the standards/ Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2018). English Language Arts Standards Writing ( CCSS: W.9 10.3c). Retrieved from the standards/ Creswell, J. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods a pproaches (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

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125 Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the p sychology of discovery and i nvention . New York: HarperCollins Publishers . Custer, D . (2014). Autoethnography as a transformative research m ethod. The Qualitative Report , 19 (37), 1 13. Retrieved from Dewey, J . (1938) Experience and e ducation, New York, Macmillan. Dewind, A. (2017) . School board to consider suspending pay for performance for a year. Parker Chronicle . Retrieved from t/stories/board to consider suspending pay for performance for a year,254082 Drake, S.M., & Burns, R. C. (2004). Meeting Standards t hrough integrated c urriculum. Alexandria, VA : Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An o verview. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research , 12(1), 1 18. Retrieved from http://nbn e:0114 fqs1101108 Ellis, A. K., & Stuen, C. J. (1998). The i nt erdisciplinary c urriculum . Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education. Feldstein , M. & Hill , P. (2016) Personalized learning: What it really is and why it really m atters . EDUCAUSE Review . Retrieved fro m learning what it really is and why it really matters Fletcher, S. (2000). Educ ation and e mancipation : Theory and practice in a new constellation. kids]. Denver, CO: FOX31 Denver KDVR TV. Retrieved from https:/ / traditional learning at edge/ Friedman, T. L. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty first century . New York , NY : Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York , NY : Continuum. Gilligan, C. (1993). In a d ifferent voice: psychological theory and women's development . Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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126 Holman Jones, S. (2005). Autoethnography: Making the personal political. In Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative r esearch . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom . New York , NY : Routledge. Iori o, S.H. & M.E. Yeager. (2011 , July ). School r e form: Past, present and future. Research Gate . Retrieved from h ttp:// depttools/depttoolsmemberfiles Jackson , A.Y & Mazzei , L.A. (2008 , September utoethnography : A d econstruction. Research Gate . Retrieved from Jefferson, Thomas. (1814). Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, September 7, 1814. The Thomas Jefferson papers, series 1, Library of Congress . Retrieved from: Jones, C. (2009). Interdisciplinary approach advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdiscipl inary studies. ESSAI, 7(26). Retrieved from Kovaleski , J. (2018). State oil and gas commission meeting reaches a fever pitch over public comment rule change . Denve r 7 ABC. Retrieved from news/state oil and gas commission meeting reaches a fever pitch over public comment rule cha nge Legend EDGE (2018). Legend EDGE Ex plore, Discover, Grow, Empower. Retrieved from Lipman, P. (2004). High stakes education: Inequality, globalization, and urban school reform . New York, NY: Taylor and Francis Books, Inc. Lipman, P . (2011) . Contesting the city: neoliberal urbanism and the cultural politics of education reform in Chicago. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education , 32(2), 217 234. L. Re y. (2017, April 2 4). How my project based school prepared me for Columbia. Retrieved from MacMartin, T.T. (2017). The Impact of Project Based Learn ing on Collegiate Preparedness (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

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127 Mainzer, K. (2011). Interdisciplinarity and innovation dynamics. On converg ence of research, technology, economy, and society . Poiesis & Praxix, 7(4), 275 289. Mayer, R. (2002) . Rote v ersus meaningful l earning. Theory Into Practice , 41 (4), 226 232. DOI: 10.1207/s15430 421tip4104_4 McCluskey, N. (2007). Why we fight: How public schools cause social conflict. Policy Analysis : Vol. 587 . Retrieved from: es/pubs/pdf/pa587.pdf Mizzi, R. (2010). Unraveling researcher subjectivity through m ultivocality in autoethnography. Journal of Research Practice , 6(1), 1 13. Retrieved from Moran, J. (2010). In terdisciplinarity (2nd ed.). Abingdon, OX: Routledge. Neem, J.N. (2017). ducation in America . Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, P.L. 107 110, 20 U.S.C. § 6319 (200 2). Noddings, N. (2005). The challenge to care in schools: An alternative approach to education Ngunjiri, F. W., Hernandez, K. C., & Chang, H. (2010). Living autoethnography : Connecting life and research. Jo urnal of Research Practice , 6 (1), 1 15. Retrieved from Perez, C. (2002). Different tests, same flaws: Examining th e SAT I, SAT II, and ACT. The J ournal of College A dmission. Fall, 21 25. Pitard, J. (2016). Using vignettes within autoethnography to explore layers of cross cultural awareness as a teacher. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social R esearch , 17(1). Retrieved from http://nbn fqs1601119 Quate, S. & McDermott, J. (2013). The just right challenge. Portsmouth, NH: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. Reilly, K. (2018). be a teacher in America. Time Magazine . Retrieved from ching in america/ Repko, A. F. (2012). Interdisciplinary research: Process and theory ( 2nd ed). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Rise Up Community School. (2016). Retrieved from

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128 Robinson, K. & Aronica, L. (2015). transforming education . New York, NY: Viking. Savage, J. (2011). Cross curricular teaching and learning in the secondary school . New York, NY. Routledge. Self act ualization. (2018). In English Oxford dictionary . Retrieved from actualization Smith, M. K. (1997, 2002 , September ). Paulo F reire and informal education. T he E ncyclopedia of Informal E ducation . Retrieved from freire dialogue praxis and education/ Starr, L. (2014). Informing Education Research and the Praxis of Leadership through the Use of Autoeth nography and Phenomenology. Canad ian Journal for New Scholars in Education , 5(3), 71 81. Stevenson, W. (2015). MOOCs and Jo seph Lancaster: Lessons fr om a two hundred year precedent in mass learning on a global s cale. Educational Studies in Japan: Intern ational Yearbook , 9, 69 79. Strauss , V. (2017 ). The surprising thing Google learned about its employees and what it means . The Washington Post. Retrieved from sheet/wp/2017/12/20/the surprising thing google learned about its employees and what it means for todays students/?utm_term=.c2f8e07842b0 Sumarni , W. (2015 ). The strengths and weaknesses of the implementation of project b ased learning: A r eview . International Journal of Science and Research , 4(3). 478 484. Swartz, O., Campbell, K. and Pestana, C. (2009). Neo pragmatism, communication, and the culture of creative democracy. New York , NY : Peter Lang. Thattai, D. (2001). A history of public education in the United States. Journal of Literacy and Education in Developing Societies 1(2), 2001 11. Thompson, A. ( 1998). Not the color purple: Black feminist lessons for educational c aring. Harvard Educational Review , 68(4), 522 555. Torres, Z. (2013). District, union class over market based salary plan in Douglas County. The Denver Post. Retrieved from https://www.den union clash over market based salary plan in douglas county/ Wagner, T. (2014). The Global Achievement Gap . New York, NY: Basic Books.

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129 Wagner, T., & Dintersmith, T. (2015). Most likely to succeed: a new vision for educa tion to prepare our kids for today's innovation economy . New York , NY : Scribner. Wagner, T., & Compton, R. A. (2012). Creating innovators: The making of young people who will change the world. New York , NY : Scribner. Walker, Timothy. (2017). Teach l i ke F inland . New York, NY: Norton & Company. Wall. S. (2006) An autoethnography on learning about autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods , 5(2), Retrieved from . Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design . Alexandria, VA : ASCD . U.S. News and World Report. (2017). High School Rankings . Retrieved from: Zhao, Y. (2009). Catching up or leading the way: American education in the age of g lobalization . Alexandria, VA : ASCD.

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130 Appendix A Pitard (2016) Structured Vignette Analysis

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131 Appendix B Sample EDGE Rubric Leading Keeping Up Catching Up Humanities Economics Financial Planning Develop a financial plan including a budget based on short and long term goals Analyze financial information for accuracy, relevance, and steps for id entity protection World Geo Geographic Variables and Interactions of People, Places and Environments (Choose 2+) Apply geography skills to help investigate issues and justify possible resolutions involving people, place s, and environments Identify , evaluate, and communicate strategies to respond to constraints placed on human systems Explain how altering the environment has brought prosperity to some places and created environmental dilemmas for others Research and interpret multiple viewp oints on issues that shaped the current policies and programs for resource use Explain how information and changing perceptions and values of places and environment influence personal actions Define sustainability and explain how an tions may influence sustainability English Critical Reading & Application Evaluate credible supporting source in review format incorporating a summary, thoughtful commentary, and connections to bigger picture Apply information from source within ca mpaign in a meaningful way Elements of Persuasion Evaluate persuasive techniques (ethos, pathos, & logos) Apply each persuasive technique within campaign

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132 Grammar & Mechanics Write for intended audience using proper grammar and mechanics Techn ology Creative Production and Innovation using Technology Utilize software to create publications and communicate ideas for an intended audience. Design Principles Create original products that demonstrate a basic knowledge of design principles and p rocesses for multimedia design Design Process Assess available resources to formulate a plan that will effectively solve a design problem 21st Century Skills Collaboration (Responsibility & Productivity) Monitors and accepts individual and team res ponsibilities with a positive attitude. Assists others and values opinions in an effort to make adjustments and submit high quality products Creativity (Creative Production & Innovation) Effectively shapes original ideas into a product in an effort to m eet specifications Critical Thinking (Information & Discovery) Clearly defines the problem, investigation, or challenge. Engages in an open ended thinking process to develop a set of questions related to that problem and then identifies a key question o n which to focus

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133 Appendix C #freedompenproject Menu Step 1: Choose your purpose, writing style, topic, and publication forum from the menu below. match in a unique way that will keep you engaged throughout the course of this unit! Purpose (Choose 1 3) Writing Style (Choose one) Topic Ideas Publication Persuade (Advanced) Entertain (Int . / Adv.) Inform (Intermediate) Describe/Explain (Beginner) Technical Writing Poetry Song Lyrics Short Story Reflection Essay Novella Novel Graphic Novel Cartoon (Political or Other) SLAM YouTube w/written script Writing Portfolio (for those of you who cannot commit to one) Screen Writing Play Script Writ ing Chap Book (art or photography) Commercials Podcast & Script Personal Blog Newspaper editorials Magazine publication Ideas? See me! Music Current Events Social Commentary Horses Pokémon Fan Fiction A Movement Medicine Gaming Literature or poetry Educ ation History (event, war, person) Gardening Film Make Up Fashion Your life Motor cross Sports Theater Art Controversial Topic Ideas? See me! Formal Publication *Magazine *Contest *Professional Publication (Teen Ink, etc. Bucher will shar e Levels of Publishing Guide w/a list of opportunities for this) *Present to Group (elementary, middle school, panel, etc.) Informal Publication *Facebook * Watt pad *Personal Blog *Deviant Art *Create Space *Ideas? See me!

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134 Appendix D rable Learning Skills Collaboration Responsibility and Productivity Monitors and accepts individual and team responsibilities with a positive attitude. Assists others and values opinions in an effort to make adjustments and submit high quality products/o utcomes Conflict/Resolution Works through conflict in productive and respectful ways in order to enhance team outcomes. Demonstrates flexibility; capable of compromise when appropriate Communication Engaging in Conversations and Discussions Uses effective interpersonal skills (tone, body language, eye contact, etc.) during conversations to build positive relationships with collaborators. Listens to understand, not to respond Using 21st Century Communication Tools Is clear, concise, accurate and conveys id eas effectively in format appropriate to task and audience Oral Presentation Discusses presentation topic with passion and excitement while generating a high level of interest from the audience Creativity Creative Production Effectively shapes origina l ideas into a product or outcome in an effort to meet either pre established or self constructed specifications; Utilizes a wide variety of acquired tools (refrains from doing the same thing over and over) Idea Design and Refinement Regularly revises and revisits ideas to improve them. Sorts, arranges, categorizes, and prioritizes ideas in ways that turn options into creatively productive outcomes Demonstrates curiosity, flexibility, and openness to ambiguity in exploring ideas Habits of Innovation Asks q uestions and adjusts format to create something new and/or better College of Engin eering) Critical Thinking Information and Discovery Clearly defines the problem, investigation, or challenge. Engages in an open ended thinking process to develop a set of questions related to that problem and then identifies a key question on which to f ocus

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135 Reasoning Offers generalizations and logical conclusions that relate to the problem, investigation, or challenge by providing clear explanations and sufficient evidence Problem Solving Engages in effective trials of a wide variety of proposed solution s to develop (and Questioning and Feedback Identifies and asks questions that clarify various points of view. Accepts, applies, and/or defends feedback in a thoughtful manner Ch aracter Respect and Kindness Careful not to distract others. Is respectful to peers, adults, and the learning environment (respects personal and program property and the physical environment in and out of our pod). Demonstrates kindness, positive intent, Integrity Demonstrates integrity through ethical and responsible behavior in the interest of a larger group or community. Demonstrates honesty and awareness of self, others, and the space. Does the right thing even when n o one is watching Professionalism Keeps appointments and completes assignments in timely manner. Uses work time effectively and appropriately. Uses electronic devices appropriately Resiliency Consistently perseveres in exploring ideas when encountering moments of failure or experience Civic Responsibility Call to Action Translates ideas, concerns, and findi ngs into ways to benefit or improve the world Cultural Awareness and Perspective: Demonstrates sophisticated understanding of the complexity of concepts important to members of another culture (e.g. environmental, social, cultural, political, and economic relations) in order to evaluate, create, or hypothesize. Recognizes multiple perspectives on issues and can support personal positions while advocating for change peacefully and democratically