Teachers around the world will soon be able to observe learning strategies used at the University of Wyoming Laboratory School, one of the latest schools selected to be profiled in the “Schools that Work” online video series.
The series, a collection of case studies that showcase practices and programs at successful schools — both in the U.S. and abroad — is featured on the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia website, web video producer Christian Amundson said. He and his crew spent Wednesday filming teachers and students at the Lab School and continued the second half of their work Thursday.
Amundson said he was drawn to the Lab School because of its test scores, its status as a laboratory school and the way it utilizes student teachers, also known as pre-service teachers.
“(It’s) a combination of teacher development and strong student learning metrics,” he said.
About three dozen schools have been featured in the “Schools That Work” series, with an average of about 12 case studies produced per year, Amundson said. The videos are shared for free on the Edutopia website and social media platforms, allowing teachers around the world to learn how to implement similar practices in their classrooms.
“We travel the country and even internationally now, looking at schools that have demonstrated success according to a number of metrics — not just test scores, which are important, but other things too,” Amundson said. “And we spend some time with the school, and we try to surface the practices that are contributing to that success. And sometimes it’s things that the teachers aren’t aware of.”
He expects to have the Lab School case study available online by early summer, he said.
“Part of the case study that we release is called “Voices from the School,” he added. “So, I’ll see if there are folks here who can contribute articles and blogs on our site on various topics.”
Lab School Principal Margaret Hudson said Edutopia contacted her about the project several months earlier, and a team came to the school for a site visit April 4.
“They came and spent two days being part of the school and looking at different things and asking a lot of questions, and then from that they selected some things that they would like to feature,” she said.
Two of the main videos will focus on using “learning walks” — a structured observation process for professional development — and the use of co-teaching strategies with pre-service teachers, Hudson said.
Co-teaching, which involves two teachers providing classroom instruction together, is designed to improve student learning, while simultaneously helping prepare pre-service teachers and giving them experiences in the classroom, Hudson said.
The Lab School has about 13-14 student teachers, who work with mentor teachers to develop their skills.
The school uses several different strategies when it comes to co-teaching, Hudson said. For example, the supplemental teaching strategy involves placing students in two groups — typically based on assessment results — and having each teacher tailor instruction to the needs of one of the groups.
“The ones (Amundson)’s focusing on are stations teaching, where multiple adults are teaching stations in a classroom and the kids are rotating through them, and team teaching, where the two adults are actively both teaching and working with kids and answering questions and monitoring,” Hudson said.
On Wednesday morning, the film crew shot footage of third and fourth grade teacher Julie Kortum and teacher candidate Brittany Montez, who teamed up to present students with a lesson on the Gold Rush and westward expansion. The pair acted out the roles of a gold miner and a homesteader, respectively, complete with costumes, and encouraged the students to think about what choice they would make if they lived during that era.
Kortum said she and Montez thought the lesson would be a good example of teaching strategies they use in the classroom.
“Co-teaching is when we were up there doing the play together — we’re kind of equal teachers, I suppose is a good way to put it,” Kortum said. “And then, parallel teaching — I had my group over here and she had her group over there, and we were basically giving them the same information, just a little bit differently.”