I was afforded an amazing opportunity earlier this month to attend a conference sponsored by the University of Southern California entitled "Educating the 21st Century Mind." Among other things, the conference discussed the non cognitive skills that our students need to be college and career ready. One of the skills mentioned frequently was the ability to problem solve. With this in mind, I'm starting to brainstorm ideas on how to better "teach" this ability. This is easier with my AP kids who are primarily intrinsically motivated or in the very least put up with my whims because they want the quality points on g.p.a. My summer assignment will involve recognizing a problem in society, searching for five articles, facts, or charts that are part of the "problem" they've chosen, and then using at least three of these sources to write an essay about a possible solution to the problem they've identified. Basically, they are designing a synthesis essay. My Honors kids are similarly easy to manipulate, again, because they want the quality point. The 11th grade English curriculum centers around American literature, so I plan to use "problems" within each time period as a springboard. Additionally, I've contacted some former students to send along some of their essays from their freshman Composition class to provide some ideas for writing projects. My regular 12th grade class is where I'm coming up with some blanks. We are working on some practical skills such as letter writing, goal setting, and basic grammar/usage improvement. I'm thinking I may have them think about dilemmas they may encounter in the work place, then have them create Google forms or documents that may help alleviate the problems. I've scheduled the computer lab at least once a month for this semester, so I'm hoping to create something easy and engaging to fill those activity days.
If you are interested in some of the information from the conference, here is the link: http://www.usc.edu/programs/cerpp/21stcenturyknowledgeandskillsjan12.html
I especially recommend Conley's presentation on misalignment and real approaches to improvement, Session One on Common Core and National Assessment (NC is using the SMARTER balanced assessment and there are some sample test items), and Polikoff's presentation on what makes teachers ineffective (too many objectives, not enough depth).