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Four Examples of Learning Cohorts That Work

Learning Cohort at Rippowam Cisqua School
Middle School, Preschool, Rippowam Cisqua School, Teaching Insights

Four Examples of Learning Cohorts That Work

By Emily Hyland, Lower Campus Curriculum Coordinator

In a previous blog, I wrote about Rippowam Cisqua School’s cohort model and how it drives our curricular reviews. I’ve received a lot of questions about exactly how we do it and so, I thought I’d share examples with our readers. 

Example #1: Revising the schedule

This year we formed a cohort made up of the Lower Campus Division Head, me as Curriculum Coordinator and classroom teachers to thoughtfully review the PreK through Grade 4 schedule to ensure that the curriculum was driving the schedule and not the reverse. Time can be the enemy of great learning and planning so we prioritized four main things:

  • Learning specialists access to all students
  • Blocked planning time for teachers across grade level
  • Two daily recesses that allow students breaks that ensure their availability for learning
  • Weekly meetings for head teachers with the curriculum coordinator

Example #2: Enhancing our reading programs for all learners (not just those with particular needs)

From the new Lower Campus schedule review came weekly meetings with the curriculum coordinator that allowed us to form grade level cohorts with the goal of focusing on how we are stretching and supporting all Ripp readers. Literacy Specialists Catie Bertoncin and Hilleary Coleman joined me to meet weekly with grade level teams to review day-to-day lessons to ensure the curriculum is working towards a common goal of skill mastery by the end of the year. 

We focused on the abundant research that supports that explicit phonics instruction which is critical to ongoing success for all readers, not just vulnerable readers. Through our research, which included recent studies on the brain out of Stamford, we focused on streamlining both instruction and assessments. We then found opportunities to share this learning with parents through events such as our Reading Coffee led by Division Head Erin Callaghan. Additionally, we made investments in research-based curricular materials that allow for data collection and a strategic approach to phonics instruction. We are already seeing the impact of these revisions and the administration’s support of this cohort model will pay off in spades for our learners as they continue their educational journey. 

Example #3: Off-campus learning 

Other examples of this cohort work take place off campus. Recently a group of teachers attended a day-long workshop on current trends in math teaching together at the School at Columbia University. While a single teacher attending a workshop is always valuable, nothing can replace doing this work as a group so that the downloading back on campus is that much richer and has a greater impact on students. 

Using this model, we can be proactive with regards to a long term vision for learning while also reacting to the daily needs of our students. We can consider the ultimate academic goals for a graduating RippKid while also ensuring that the educational unit for first grade in a given subject social is aligned with that end goal. 

Example #4: Feedback and critique

No traditional cohorts involve both the student and parent through feedback loops. Parent-teacher conferences, meetings with administrators, homework, testing, and 1:1 conversations with students in formal and informal settings are integral to our evaluation process. Understanding how your child is engaging with the work is how we know what’s successful.

Our small interactive also classes help us make detailed group and individualized assessments that give us the tools to identify patterns and trends that we can use to inform our practices going forward. We have the luxury of never teaching “to a test” while also regularly collecting data we know monitors growth and best practices.

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