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InterContinental Hotel - Abu Dhabi

Ron Berger

Chief Academic Officer for Expeditionary Learning (EL) Education; instructor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Full Bio

RON BERGER is Chief Academic Officer for Expeditionary Learning (EL) Education, which supports over 150 public schools in the U.S. toward high achievement, character, and college readiness for all students. EL’s core work is building teacher capacity in schools and districts nationally through professional development and open resources.

Mr Berger works closely with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he teaches a course that uses exemplary student work to illuminate standards. With Harvard colleague Steve Seidel, he founded Models of Excellence: The Center for High-Quality Student Work, an open-source collection of the nation’s best K-12 student work.

Mr Berger is an Annenberg Foundation Teacher Scholar, and received the Autodesk Foundation National Teacher of the Year award. He is the author of six books: An Ethic of Excellence, and A Culture of Quality; recently, Leaders of Their Own Learning, Transformational Literacy, Management in the Active Classroom, and Learning that Lasts. He is a featured speaker nationally and internationally on inspiring quality and character in students.

Ron was a public school teacher and master carpenter in rural Massachusetts, U.S. for over 25 years.

Keynote: Friday, Oct. 20

An Ethic of Excellence

Our most important work as educators is to build and maintain school cultures that cultivate an ethic of excellence in students: forging a commitment to high standards for quality work, thinking, and character.

When we unite scholarship and character—and students demonstrate courage, compassion and perseverance in creating work that contributes to a better world—school becomes a different place.

We will look together at examples from a wide range of schools of students doing more than one would think possible to create beautiful work and improve the world around them.

3-Hour Workshop: Thurs, Oct. 19

Beautiful Work

When a student completes her formal education and enters adult life, she will be judged for the rest of her life not by her scores on tests, but by the quality of her work and the quality of her character. Imagine the power of schools centered on creating beautiful work together—beautiful work in mathematics, history, science, literature and the arts; beautiful acts of service, kindness and consequence.

We will look deeply at models of beautiful student work in all disciplines from a wide range of schools, and consider together the conditions that made that work possible. We will join in active exploration of resources and practices that move students toward quality.

We will examine closely the power of models and critique to empower students to have a clearer vision of what quality looks like in a particular domain, and practice using critique protocols to amplify quality in student work. We will look at the structure of formal critique lessons that equip students to analyze their own work more effectively and to give kind, specific and helpful feedback to others.

Target Audience: PreK-12

Continuum Level: 2 = Deepening Understanding (theory-based learning, investigating models, identifying experts)

NESA's Learning Continuum:

Learn more about how NESA plans Professional Learning

3-Hour Workshop: Fri, Oct. 20

Student-Engaged Assessment

The most important assessment that takes place in any school is not a yearly test or the course assessments given in classrooms. It is the assessment that takes place every day, all day long, inside student minds. Students assess everything they create and decide if the quality is good enough to turn in; they assess their understanding during every lesson: “Do I understand this well enough? Should I ask for clarification?”; they assess their behavior: “Am I respectful enough? Kind enough? Hard-working enough?”

If we wish to improve student learning, this is the level of assessment we most need to address. We need to get into student minds and turn up the dial for quality. We need students to stop seeing assessment as something being done to them, and instead put students in the driver’s seat of leading their own learning.

This workshop will examine strategies to put students in leadership roles in understanding where they are trying to get to in their learning; how to track their own progress; and how to present evidence that they are reaching those goals.

We will examine structures like student-led conferences, presentations of learning, and exhibitions, and analyze the foundation of those structures in student-owned learning targets and standards-based instruction.

Target Audience: PreK-12

Continuum Level: 2 = Deepening Understanding (theory-based learning, investigating models, identifying experts)

NESA's Learning Continuum:

Learn more about how NESA plans Professional Learning
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