FAQ | Models of Excellence
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- What is Models of Excellence?
- What is the story behind Models of Excellence?
- Where does the work come from?
- As a teacher, how can I use Models of Excellence with students?
- How can I use Models of Excellence with educators?
- How would you suggest I use the site with others (teachers or students) if I have 5 minutes? 15 minutes? 50 minutes?
- I’m new to supporting students in creating high-quality work. Where should I begin?
- Can I access the teacher plans behind the work, or additional drafts of the student work?
- In my situation, test scores are the only thing that seem to matter. How can I get others in my community invested in supporting students to create work like I see here?
- Whom should I contact with questions about Models of Excellence?
Models of Excellence is a curated, open-source collection of exemplary high-quality PreK-12 student work, along with resources to support the use of student work models to inspire and elevate teaching and learning. The purpose of this site is to catalyze the use of models to help build student skills and dispositions for success in college, careers and life.
Models of Excellence was borne from a 25-year collaboration between Ron Berger of EL and Steve Seidel of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was originally known as The Center for Student Work. They and their colleagues have spent decades using student work in graduate education courses and in professional development for educators. They built the site as a growing, curated collection of exemplary student work and an open resource for educators and students. Models of Excellence is supported by EL, a non-profit organization, and HGSE; it was built with investment from The Hewlett Foundation, The Nellie Mae Foundation, The Barr Foundation, and a U.S. Department of Education Arts Integration grant.
The student work comes from a wide range of PreK-12 schools. Because of EL’s particular mission to work in low-income settings, the majority of student work comes from public schools serving low-income urban and rural communities in the U.S. Although many of these schools dedicate increased time and care to create work of excellence, the quality of work in The Center is not typically the result of special finances or selected students. The site demonstrates that students in every school are capable of this kind of quality. Do you have exemplary student work that you think we should share on our site? Please submit it! Our panel will review the work and get back to you with a response.
When students begin the creation of work in school, they are typically given verbal and written directions of what is expected, and perhaps a written assessment rubric. This does not usually create a vision of what high-quality work actually looks like—both in genre (e.g., scientific report, persuasive essay) and in a general sense (i.e., what can students my age do that is beautiful, sophisticated and compelling?). We suggest using models of work from Models of Excellence with students to promote discussion and analysis of what quality looks like, in general and in a genre; and to build specific criteria lists for what represents quality. When language describing quality work is co-constructed with students, when it contains students’ ideas and words, it is more clear, memorable and effective. Models of Excellence offers guidance in text and video for facilitating critique sessions in classrooms, and it also contains short inspiring videos that provide a window into the stories behind certain works.
Schools, districts, and schools of education can use the resources on Models of Excellence to support conversations about what we can learn from student work. For example, educators could use the Protocol for Using Student Work to Improve Teaching and Learning to examine a single piece of work, or use the longer Quality Work Protocol to analyze work across classrooms in relation to EL’s Attributes of High-Quality Work. In addition, groups or individuals could use resources to enhance effective instructional practice supporting the creation of high-quality work. For instance, they could read (and discuss) the chapter on effective use models, critique, and descriptive feedback from Leaders of Their Own Learning or watch (and discuss) the Inspiring Excellence Video Series (try part 3: Building Motivation and Skills through Independent Research.)
- Watch an inspiring video together—almost all are 5-minutes long. Austin’s Butterfly is a great start. Snakes are Born this Way and Small Acts of Courage from the Illuminating Standards Series or Part 4 of the Inspiring Excellence Series, Using Models and Critiques to Create Works of Quality, are also strong starting points.
- Watch a video and discuss it with students or teachers. Try Revitalizing Rochester or The Wolf That Would Forgive. Look at the corresponding work itself as well if time permits.
- Choose a particularly useful writing or project model for a short analysis and discussion. Consider The Dancing Prince (elementary) or Economics Illustrated (secondary).
- Have students or teachers browse the collections to provoke their own questions and ideas.
- Dive deeply into one (or a few) model(s) of work. This can be done by examining the work closely; analyzing and critiquing it; raising questions; or building criteria lists for quality. (One protocol for looking at work closely can be found here.) There are over 30 student work models that have related videos in the Illuminating Standards series; when the work itself is paired with the video, new questions and ideas emerge. Consider using the protocol specifically designed for watching the Illuminating Standards videos.
- Focus on the quality of the work or project, not the scale. Keep things small, but give your students time to do great work. Use models, critique and feedback. Have a public audience for the work. A beautifully written essay or beautifully drafted historical note card can change a student’s vision of what she can do. The video Austin’s Butterfly makes this clear. Many projects in the center are small in scale (Island Cards, Insect Bookmarks, Reflective Photo Essay).
- Use a proven project format based on a model from the site. For example, there are dozens of models of students interviewing local experts to create a booklet or book based on the wisdom of those experts—scientists, civil rights heroes, survivors of The Great Depression, recent immigrants. (Meet Local Scientists, Give Bees a Chance, A Little More than Just People) You can get a behind-the-scenes look at such a project in this video (Small Acts of Courage Video).
- Take on a significant issue in your community, find local experts, and work with your students to make a real contribution to improving things. You can see models of many projects of this scale in Models of Excellence, and videos about those projects here (The Eye of the Storm; Peacekeepers of Chicago; Revitalizing Rochester, Water Quality and the Future of Loon Pond)
Models of Excellence is a site that features student work, not the teacher work that surrounds and guides it. We believe the work itself is important to analyze as a model of what is possible. For reasons of focus and scale, we do not typically include the collection of planning documents, assignments and assessments that undergird the work, nor earlier drafts of the work (though selected pieces have this background). The Inspiring Excellence Video Series presents an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at a remarkable project, and the Illuminating Standards Video Series presents the backstory of dozens of additional projects.
This is true everywhere, and it’s important to move beyond being discouraged. Often, samples of beautiful, complex student work itself, shown on a screen or downloaded, printed and examined in hard copy, can be a great start to changing the conversation. If people have compelling work in their own hands, the conversation changes. Also, many of the videos in the CSW can also be effective starting places for building interest in this effort. An important message point in these discussions is that it is a false choice that we need to pick either test scores or beautiful work. The schools that are highlighted in this collection are almost entirely high-achieving schools that surpass the test results of comparable schools, often by wide margins. A strong video linking this type of work to traditional measures of success can be found here , where an urban school with great test scores and 100% college acceptance for every graduating class focuses deeply on beautiful and important student work.
Please contact Sara Aoyama at firstname.lastname@example.org.