The Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning annually brings together educators from across New Hampshire and Vermont to understand and design solutions to common problems of practice. With the support from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation and UVEI’s Board of Directors, and named for lifetime educator and UVEI founder Barbara Barnes, the initiative is now in its fourth year. Building upon the Barnes Initiative’s previous research of the past several years, this year’s research topic highlights the intersection of two frameworks that are important to both schools and the larger community: Designing Deeper Learning Experiences with an Emphasis on Equity, Justice and Democracy.  

Supported by the conviction that schools must engage in continuous learning in order to effectively meet the evolving needs of all students, the Barnes Initiative embraces the elements of design thinking by utilizing an action-research model. For members of this year’s Barnes cohort, this means identifying a common problem of practice across all sites; design, prototype and refine a solution; apply this solution and collect data; and report findings and implications in a co-authored paper as well as public presentation of the results in August. 

Not only does the Barnes Initiative contribute to the knowledge base within the field of education, it also provides a unique opportunity to bring together a group of diverse teachers from across the region to engage in networked learning. In addition to the UVEI faculty, this year’s cohort consists of nine educators from eight different schools from both sides of the Connecticut River.

Four cohort members are UVEI master’s candidates and serve the role of co-researchers, while the remaining five cohort members will serve as site leaders and assist with the data collection process at each of their schools. 

Adam Norwood, the Coordinator of the Barnes Initiative, said “To say that we are genuinely excited about this year’s topic and diverse team of researchers is an understatement.” He added, “As we move forward with this year’s research process, the design and implementation will take shape and lead us to our end goal of providing practical and relevant tools for schools to use in the process of continuous improvement.”  We invite you to stay tuned and follow the progress of  this year’s cohort.

This year’s Barnes co-researchers and master’s candidates are Cheyann Ellis, 5th grade teacher at Penacook Elementary, NH; Anik Avard, 4th grade teacher at Lin-Wood Public School, NH; Amy Burlock, special education & case manager at Milan Village School, NH; and Jessica Sperling, high school science teacher at White River Valley High School, NH

This year’s site leaders are Becky Neuroth, library media specialist at Lyme School, NH; Erin Sweeny, English teacher at Profile High School, NH;  Jill Nichols, high school science teacher at Lyndon Institute, VT; Linda Ferland, math teacher at Vilas Middle School, NH; Alexis Sebilian, writing teacher  at Vilas Middle School, NH

Further information: • Upper Valley Educators Institute: https://uvei.edu/the-barbara-barnes-initiative-for-collaborative-learning/ • Adam Norwood• anorwood@uvei.edu

Adam Norwood is the Coordinator of the Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning.