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Union County Early College -- student centered for success

Union County Early College students Kacey Rudock, Lukas Pantus, Jevon Ray, and Briana Lebron discuss The Scarlet Letter, while participating in collaborative group work. (Photo by Naoto Barrett)

“Where do you go to school?” For most people the answer to this question is pretty simple. But students—and staff— at Union County Early College (UCEC) often find themselves giving a complicated response when asked about where they spend their days.

UCEC isn’t easy to sum up in a few words. It is not just a place where high school students find themselves sitting next to adults in college classes or where an associate’s degree and a high school diploma may be earned simultaneously. It’s a school that is unique, one where classroom instruction is distinctive, as it is developed around six key practices, or the Common Instructional Framework (CIF).

This instructional model was devised by The North Carolina New Schools project, an organization that partners with public schools to promote innovation. The goal of implementing CIF strategies in the classroom is student success, or, in other words, ensuring that all graduates are prepared for college or careers after high school.

The components of this instructional model are Writing to Learn, Scaffolding, Questioning, Literacy Groups, Classroom Talk, and Collaborative Group Work.
The fact that these practices are a part of routine classroom activity means that teachers aren’t the center of attention.

In the classroom, students work together to solve problems, while the teacher guides them towards achievement. This type of instruction demands engagement and requires that students play an active role in their own learning.

Early College students must read, write, think, and talk in every class. Every day. By doing so, they develop the communication and analytical skills necessary to meet the challenges of higher education and the 21st century workplace.

One of the CIF practices that engages students in learning is collaborative group work, where students work together to achieve a common goal. This instructional practice is strategic and well planned—the teacher does not merely say, “Get in groups and complete this project or answer these questions.”

Group members each have a clearly defined role to play and criteria to meet. Often students must play an individual role first and then collaborate. Typically, there is a presentation component to collaborative group work. And this instructional method sometimes overlaps with other practices, as it often involves questioning, scaffolding and classroom talk, and students in literacy groups must work collaboratively.

In the weeks to come, teachers at UCEC will be sharing some novel approaches to different CIF strategies with their peers at faculty meetings. During this same time, on the school’s website, as part of a series, there will be more information about these practices.

Written by: Liz Washburn, UCEC English Teacher
Posted: Mar 04, 2014 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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