When people call your organization for help, and when their requests align with your purpose, it’s a good sign that your messaging – about what you do – is growing in clarity and understanding. Our Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation (MVIFI) received three such calls in the past two weeks from various groups within the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (MVPS).
First, two Upper School faculty members who are spearheading a design-thinking project contacted the MVIFI team. Dr. Colley and Mr. Spiegel responded to a call for proposals last spring, and they were one team of several to receive one of MVIFI’s XLR8 summer grants for collaborative, interdisciplinary, project-based learning. Colley and Spiegel generated a design-thinking project to engage students in problem finding and solution seeking surrounding student-centered design for the modern language arts class. For several weeks, students have been working through the DEEPdt process and creating prototypes of their ideas. Colley and Spiegel called in several members of the MVIFI team who interviewed the teacher duo for a design brief and suggested that the MVIFI team could listen to the student groups pitch their ideas. This follow-up to the summer grant work resulted in some intensive feedback to the students, as well as continued collaboration around PBL and DT.
The second call came on Wednesday, September 30, for a meeting at 7:45 a.m. the next morning. When a school maintains an “internal consultancy,” such just-in-time notification can work! For quite some time, the Eighth Grade Team has been designing some exciting opportunities for middle school students to integrate service learning and design thinking. Getting the sense that they needed some collaborative support and feedback, Team 8 called in Team #MVIFI to co-create some additional meta-planning and next steps for the service-learning, design-thinking initiative. Four members of the MVIFI nucleus team joined Team 8 to listen to current progress and ideate on potential iterations of their plans. (MVIFI uses a dynamic team structure that radiates out to include additional members for various reasons, and the nomenclature for this teaming is “nucleus,” “cell,” and “organism.”) We employed tools from our own DEEPdt methodology to discover and experiment with new ways forward.
And the third call came weeks ago from the Upper School Leadership Team. Dr. Blair Peterson asked MVIFI team members, and two of four Innovation Diploma co-facilitators, Meghan Cureton and Bo Adams to share with the USLT the assessment strategy and processes we use in iDiploma. In its second year of existence, iDiploma uses interwoven combinations of self-peer-expert assessment with process-product-progress assessment. Building rubrics for feedback on the interplay of Innovator’s DNA and the Mount Vernon Mind, iDiploma facilitators employ standards-based grading and newly integrated features of the Haiku LMS (learning management system). Additionally, we call on Folio to capture and archive one-on-one meetings with our iDiploma advisees on a bimonthly basis. Catching wind of some of these pioneering approaches to assessment in iDiploma, the USLT expressed interest in learning more about what’s happening on the ground in this emerging program for Upper School students interested in even more real-world, human-centered problem solving.
Interestingly, MVIFI has been in existence since 2011. Only recently, though, MVIFI earned its own 501(c)3 status and began a next chapter in its development as a PK-12 research and design lab. Until these past few weeks, I don’t know of another example of MVPS leaders calling expressly on MVIFI as an explicit team of people to collaborate, co-create, explore, and innovate. On the MVIFI team, we talk enthusiastically about our primary (but not only) client being MVPS. The benefit of this MVPS and MVIFI symbiosis is deeply meaningfully and mutually helpful. Together we research and design stronger and stronger practices and implementations for not only our own students, but for learners worldwide.