Why is reporting so important when doing place-based education?
A commonly overlooked yet essential part of quality place-based education is the progress monitoring and reporting process.
The National Youth Leadership Council suggests that progress monitoring is one of eight key elements of a successful service learning project. They provide the following description and indicators of good progress monitoring practices:
Service-learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.
- Service-learning participants collect evidence of progress toward meeting specific service goals and learning outcomes from multiple sources throughout the service-learning experience.
- Participants collect evidence of the quality of service-learning implementation from multiple sources throughout the service-learning experience.
- Participants use evidence to improve service-learning experiences.
- Participants communicate evidence of progress toward goals and outcomes with the broader community, including policy-makers and education leaders, to deepen service-learning understanding and ensure that high-quality practices are sustained.
Because Place-based stewardship education and service learning are so closely linked, these are great reminders for quality practices!
There are two types of reporting processes that you may want to consider to improve the results and outcomes of your project: internal (self checks and team reports) and external (getting the word out and sharing your successes).
Holding students accountable for sharing the process, efforts, and results of your project may help with student engagement and student buy-in. As dry as that sounds, it really does help students articulate the purpose and meaning of their project beyond the day-to-day tasks or objectives. The added benefit of reporting their progress to an authentic audience (parents, teachers, community members, local organizations, etc...) is students will begin to understand that their project is important because people outside their school are learning about the work (and hopefully are responding or interacting with the students as a result).
Here are a few ideas to help get you started with project reports:
Internal reports: These are reports students might create to share out to the rest of your team. They are especially useful for projects with smaller teams working towards a larger outcome. Delivering internal reports can be a quick way to make sure your entire class feels engaged and knows what is happening throughout your project. A few simple questions can guide an internal reporting process:
- Who were you working with today?
- What was the goal of your work?
- How did you work towards accomplishing that goal?
- One challenge we encountered was...
- We tried to solve that challenge by...
This resource created by Learn and Serve Colorado is a student template and guiding questions you can adapt to use with your project.
External reports are created for a larger public audience to read. Useful platforms for external reporting are:
- School newsletters
- Weekly or monthly class e-mails to families (Are families more likely to read your updates, or those written by their own children?)
- Free WordPress blogs designed specifically for classrooms: Check it out here.
- Tumblr feeds: TeachThought suggests Tumblr (by a long shot) as the best platform for student blogging in this article.
- A school or classroom Facebook page: Here's how from the edublogger.
- Twitter: This resource gives you 50 tips for how to use twitter in a classroom (and many would apply to reporting about your project).
- A class website: Google Apps for education makes this easy.
- Writing press releases to local media: This is a guide for students.
- Presenting to a school board or committee: Remember the students should be the star of the show.
Remember, an effort to document and report your work with students is important! They will gain tremendously from the process and in the end, your work will be more visible by the community. This will help students feel more confident in their work and develop a greater sense of meaning to their community!