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Appendix A

6 th Grade Learning Survey (via Survey Monkey)


What is your name? (Please write your first and last name)


How do you feel about learning at school?

a. Really Excited


b. Good

c. Bored


d. Unhappy


e. Other


Tell me about a time when you were excited about learning something (at school or outside of school)?


What’s the best way to learn about a book/topic?

a. A teacher lectures about a book and students take notes.

b. Students read independently and answer questions that the teacher has prepared.

c. Students discuss books in groups of four and ask each other questions.


d. Other


What’s the best way to show someone you’ve learned something?

a. Get an A+ on a test

a. Get an A+ on a test

b. Make a presentation to your classmates and parents

c. Put a lot of effort into your work

c. Put a lot of effort into your work

d. Create excellent work


Which way do you prefer to learn?

a. Independently

b. In pairs (2 students)

c. In groups (3 or more students)


Who should decide what you learn about in school?

a. Teachers

b. Students

c. Teachers and students together

d. Parents



Confidence is belief in yourself and your abilities. What is your level of confidence in the following subjects:











9. Who do you feel has the most control over your learning at school?









10. What are you comfortable with? How comfortable would you be if your teachers asked you to



Kind of

A little





Create your own deadlines for work


Make a choice about what to learn in an upcoming project


Make a choice about what role you will play in a project


Propose an idea for a project


Grade your own work


Share your work with visitors to our school




What do you want to learn this year?

12. What questions or concerns do you have about the world? (Write down as many questions as you can in the spaces below.)

13. What questions or concerns do you have about yourself? (Write down as many questions as you can in the spaces below.)


Interview Questions

Appendix B




Depth of Understanding

What’s working for you in humanities? What’s not working so well?


Tell me about some of the questions you’ve developed while

What are some significant things you’ve learned about during this project?

Tell me about a time when you were really into learning (like you didn’t want it to stop!).

working on our project?


How have you used these questions in your

Tell me about your favorite learning experience in humanities this year.



Democracy / Collaboration


How have we been making decisions during this project?

How’s it going for you?


What would you improve in our class’ co-design?


Note: This list of questions expanded with each interview. Many of the questions I asked flowed with the natural direction of the conversation or were triggered by observations in my journal.


Appendix C

Dream Big

If there were ever a time to dare, To make a difference To embark on something worth doing, It is now. Not for any grand cause, necessarily – But for something that tugs at your heart Something that is worth your aspiration Something that is your dream.

You owe it to yourself To make your days count. Have fun. Dig deep. Stretch.

Dream big.

Know, though, That things worth doing Seldom come easy. There will be times when you want to Turn around Pack it up and call it quits. Those times tell you That you are pushing yourself And that you are not afraid to learn by trying.


Because with an idea, Determination and the right tools, You can do great things. Let your instincts, your intellect And let your heart guide you.


Believe in the incredible power Of the human mind Of doing something that makes a difference. Of working hard Of laughing and hoping Of lasting friends Of all the things that will cross your path this year.

The start of something new Brings the hope of something great. Anything is possible. There is only one you And you will pass this way only once.

Do it right.


Appendix D





What happens when students & teachers design a PROJECT together?
What happens when
students & teachers
design a PROJECT


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Appendix E

Project Tuning with Students Protocol

Project Tuning Steps


Overview of Project Idea (10 minutes)

Teacher will go over the idea for our project. Students can follow along on

their handout.


Student Questions (8 minutes)

Is there something that is unclear? Do you want to know more about a detail? Students can ask teacher any questions to clarify the idea for the project.


Students Journal (10 mins) Before beginning our discussion, students take

some time to think and journal. They will use these ideas in the discussion.


Student Discussion (15 minutes)

Students will discuss the project idea in a circle (much like literacy lounge or Ms. Wong’s class meeting). Students can talk about the ideas they like or the things they’d like to change.


Teacher Response (5 minutes)

While the students are talking, the teacher will take notes on the ideas they

offer. Now, the teacher will share those notes and their thoughts.

Project Tuning Roles Conversation Captain – Facilitates the conversation, calling on students who are raising their hand to join the conversation.

Question Collector – Writes down questions that emerge during the student discussion. The questions should be written on a poster or whiteboard that is visible to everyone in the discussion.

Time Keeper – Keeps track of time for each step of the protocol. Notifies students and teacher at the one-minute mark.


Appendix F

Appendix F 151




Appendix G

Appendix G 153




Appendix H


When I invited students to become co-collaborators of our learning experience and create a more democratic culture within my class, I was on the lookout for specific qualities in my students:

1. A sense of engagement

2. Curiosity

3. Ownership

4. Confidence

5. A shift in attitude towards learning and collaboration as we designed a semester

project together. I utilized a variety of methods for collecting and analyzing data. It was important to consider my students’ experiences, thoughts, questions, feelings, my own perceptions and the work students produced. I used the following as methods for data collection:


Journals (Teacher & student)


Student Work Samples


Data Collection & Analysis Surveys

Since I was looking at how a democratic approach affected the sense of ownership of students, confidence and sense of curiosity, I wanted to gauge any change in their attitudes throughout the process. I used a survey (three times) to formally check in with students at the beginning, middle and conclusion of the study. At the onset of my research I administered the survey to my class (56 students) that included a mix of open-ended, multiple choice and rating/ranking questions. Data from the survey was collected and compiled in a spreadsheet and then used to create charts and graphs that visually interpreted the information and informed my findings.


Very often, 6 th graders produce writing that lacks insight or rich detail on the first pass. When pressed about their lack of adequate detail, they simply explain, “I know what I wanted to say, but couldn’t get it all out in writing. I can tell you right now, though.” Realizing this tendency for many students, it was important to use spoken interviews as a means of delving deep into the minds of my students. In lieu of selecting a focus group, I chose to check in with a variety of students throughout our collaboratively-designed project. When I saw a moment I wanted to capture in my


research, I often interviewed the student to gain further insight into their thinking and experience.

I designed a series of open-ended questions (see Appendix B) that revealed

students’ attitudes, feelings and experiences about learning in a co-designed project. The interviews were transcribed and mined for significant information. Throughout the project, I met with a rotating self-selecting group of students whom I refer to as the “lunch bunch” in my findings. I used the questions from Appendix B as a starting point,

but often improvised as the conversation took different directions. These interviews provided a valuable dimension of evidence for my findings throughout the research. Many portions of my findings are laced with their conversations, which construct a student-centered narrative. As I analyzed theses interviews, I was on the lookout for overarching themes and changes in the students’ narratives.


I used two types of journals throughout my action research:

1. Student Reflection & Inquiry Journal

A central part of my action research was to encourage students to become

“meaning makers” and active participants in their learning. Reflecting on the learning (understanding) and asking questions to drive their learning deeper (sense of inquiry) were key components to these ideas. Reflection and inquiry journals allowed me to access their ongoing mental and emotional process. The journals also doubled as tools for developing deeper levels of student thought and inquiry in the projects. The journals allowed me to gauge what and how students were learning, and offered significant quotes that revealed the effects of collaborative design on their learning.

2. Teacher Observation & Reflection Journal

I used an observation journal to capture significant moments throughout my

research. Observations were primarily written, but often accompanied by photos, video or audio segments. It was important to capture conversations

around learning in the classroom in order to better understand student attitudes and the depth of learning that was taking place. Furthermore, descriptions of student behavior and body language during projects helped me understand how democratic processes affected student engagement. My journal provided questions and topics for discussion in my conversations with students.

It also helped me to chronicle the unexpected. My journal captured snapshots of

my experience, and I was able to use it to better understand how the process affected my outlook. By reviewing my journal entries regularly, I was able to note my changing perspective.



Ansel Adams once said, “A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into.” Throughout my action research I took hundreds of photos. There were moments when something was happening that couldn’t be described in a journal (or I didn’t have the time to jot it down). At these times, I pulled out the camera and snapped a flurry of shots. I knew that certain details (fleeting in the moment) might reveal themselves upon further examination. The photographs I took each day helped me to put many of my notes (sometimes just scribbles in a journal) in order. The photos helped me keep track of which students were involved in certain activities or committees. As I wrote my findings, I compared the photos with my journal notes and searched for subtle dimensions of learning – body language, expression, student interactions. I have inserted many of these photos throughout my findings.

Student Work Samples

Throughout our semester project, students maintained a portfolio of work. This portfolio captured their growth of ideas, questions, writing and artwork. The development and quality of work allowed me to assess multiple dimensions of learning. Assessing their portfolio work led to the demonstration of qualities discussed in my findings: mastery of content and quality of collaboration. I was able to chart the development of each group’s project (from the first day’s questions to the final draft of their article). Two final articles are featured in Appendix F.

Painting A Portrait of the Student’s Experience

Throughout my action research, I built a well-rounded portrait of my students’ experiences with co-design. Through surveys, interviews, photographs, journals and an examination of student work, I wove a story explaining “what happened when I collaboratively designed a project with students.”


For more information on the project described in this book go to 158

For more information on the project described in this book go to