How do we design deeper learning experiences for students that emphasize equity, justice, and democracy?  It all starts with engaging educators in their own deeper learning as designers of their curriculum. This was the supporting premise behind the 2021-2022 Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning cohort as they explored this topic. Two co-researchers from last year’s Barnes cohort–Amy Burlock and Cheyann Ellis–had the opportunity to share their work and its implications for educators in the field with other researchers from around New England at the New England Educational Research Organization (NEERO) annual conference on May 4, 2023, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

2021-2022 was the fourth year of the Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning, named after lifetime educator and UVEI founder Barbara Barnes and supported by the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation and UVEI’s Board of Directors. Throughout last year, Barnes co-researchers Anik Avard, Amy Burlock, Cheyann Ellis, and Jessica Sperling took their own deep dive as they sought to understand how teachers might engage in the design process of educational opportunities for students that are built on the intersection of a deeper learning framework and the Social Justice Standards.  Their research, undertaken as part of their UVEI MEd degrees, was  supported by five site leaders who assisted with the initial design-creation process of this study as well as data collection from 15 participants from 8 schools between Vermont and New Hampshire.

“Collaboration is one of the most impactful and sought resources for teachers when designing/redesigning lessons.”

The cohort’s design included having various educators from different schools come together to provide feedback to each other on how to incorporate the Social Justice Standards into their unit plans as a way to engage students in deeper learning. Through this process, educators reported that their level of familiarity and comfort using a deeper learning framework and the Social Justice Standards increased, thereby making such learning experiences more likely in the future. By providing teachers with the tools of frameworks, unit and rubric templates, protocols to guide the discussion, and time to collaborate, teachers were “…able to create deeper learning experiences that reflect ideas of equity, justice, and democracy.” Furthermore, data collected from this study aligned with previous research to show that “…collaboration is one of the most impactful and sought resources for teachers when designing/redesigning lessons.”

Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning
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As we reported earlier this year, the desire expressed by educators for opportunities for meaningful collaboration is also a driving force behind the 2022-2023 Barnes Initiative as we are in the midst of exploring workforce development within the education sector by attracting, supporting, and retaining educators across their careers throughout Vermont and New Hampshire. While the time for collaboration has been reported to be in short supply, this year’s Barnes cohort seeks to identify ways to make the time that educators have to work together as meaningful as possible. Co-researchers will soon begin the data analysis process from this year’s study to identify implications for future practice with the hope that these findings, too, will be shared with educators across New England.

Adam Norwood, EdD has been the Coordinator for the Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning and a faculty member at UVEI since July 2021. His interest include deeper learning, curriculum design, and collective teacher efficacy.