More effective, time-saving student presentations.

POLAR+®

Based on decades of success with student teachers, POLAR+ is a way to help students improve their whole-group teaching skills by focusing attention on parts of the process that need improvement and reinforcing other parts of the process that are going well. Students who master POLAR+ find that presentations of any kind are more successful, whether or not they are teaching. And when students' presentations improve they discover that their confidence grows, too. To see the whole story in a nutshell and find out what the POLAR+ acronym means, see "Frameworks" below. To see how high school English teacher Jerri Davenport guided her students through the POLAR+ process, and to download her materials, scroll down to "Scaffolding." Assess student progress in teaching skills using one of the two rubrics that our Professional Partners helped us create.

Remember some things:

 

  1. POLAR+ is for everyone. It is used for all K-12 students, not only for those who are headed toward teaching careers. (We are currently developing materials for Pathway in Teaching for students whose interest in teaching is becoming strong and whose peer teaching effectiveness is beginning to grow. Materials will be ready in fall 2011. For a peek at our Pathway in Teaching, click on "YouthTeachUSA" in the menu at the left.)
  2. Teaching time grows with age. POLAR+ applies to opportunities you give students to share knowledge with the whole class through presentations and demonstrations. The time of these presentations generally increases with grade level, as follows: 15 seconds to a minute in grades K-3; 2-10 minutes in grades 4-8; 5-20 minutes (or more) in grades 9-12.
  3. POLAR+ is field tested. The rubrics and materials were shaped on our drafts by our Professional Partners. We continue to improve them, so please let us know your reactions and suggestions.
  4. Apply for a competitive cash award for a POLAR+ project. If you would like to carry out a classroom project based on POLAR+ (or another peer teaching project), apply for one of our classroom project awards. Up to five project proposals will be approved in August for $500 reporting awards on completion of the project. Click on "Project Awards" in our Resources section.
  5. Build better learning communities. When kids teach better, their peers learn better; and you, the professional educator, will have more help to build a community of learning in your classroom.

Frameworks

POLAR+ applies to the process all teachers use to get a lesson ready, teach it, evaluate student learning, and reflect on how it went. And, as a professional educator, you know that you use your reflections to improve the next lesson on that topic, even if there's only a five-minute passing period in between one class and the next on the same topic. You also know that POLAR+ multitasking goes on in your life throughout the school year. Here are some definitions of the acronyms in the POLAR+ idea, including how other school processes fit in.

POLAR+ in a nutshell stands for: Plan→Organize→Lead learners→Assess learning→Reflect for improvement. It's what you do in all your preparations, and your students can learn it easily for their presentations. For students (and for you) it allows for a self-evaluation that is targeted to the various parts of the process. Students learn quickly, for example, that good Planning and Organizing for teaching before the presentation builds confidence. They can also concentrate with your help on their Leading skills. Assessing learning is too often absent from presentation assignments; bringing it in to the process focuses students' attention on its main purpose: to help others learn the content. Reflection builds self-awareness, focuses attention on P-O-L-A, and accelerates improvement

Scaffolding

Getting content ready for teaching is the creative part of our work, requiring us to dig into the subject matter's structure for ideas on what the students should learn next. And as Joseph Joubert famously said, "To teach is to learn twice." Your students can have a taste of that experience and "learn twice" with POLAR+ opportunities you create for them, using your subject matter knowledge to structure the teaching assignments you give. Jerri Davenport, a tenth grade English teacher at The Principia Upper School in the St. Louis area, outlines her project and shares the materials she used to scaffold her students for teaching parts of speech. The same process works in other subject areas.

Rubrics

Individual students differ in how they manage the assignment to teach other students. The K-3 Polar Rubric helps early elementary grades teachers to see these individual differences and make judgments about next steps in helping students teach better with each POLAR+(tm) opportunity. The 4-12 Polar Rubric builds on the K-3 rubric. Although these rubrics can be shared with students, they are intended for professional use as a framework for improving kids' teaching and tracking their progress during their elementary and secondary school years.

Assessment

Building POLAR profiles®® provides a way to apply the POLAR+ framework to help peer teachers see where they can improve their teaching skills. Formative assessment is emphasized here, and the POLAR rubric for grades 4-12 is the basis for building a teaching profile for several kinds of peer teachers. Novice teachers are usually "on edge" when they finish teaching and it's a good teachable moment for professional educators. However, using the profile to coach individual students can help them understand what aspects of the experience went well and what needs improvement next. Often, changing one POLAR skill (planning or organizing especially) can usually lift the next experience and build the peer teacher's confidence in their control over the teaching situation.

The + factor

The "+" is for personality--creativity, synthesis, initiative, energy. Personality provides the creative energy that brings subject matter content to life. Although POLAR rubrics break out certain common processes in teaching, we don't have a rubric for the + factor and will not seek to build one. Students (and professional educators) synthesize POLAR components in ways unique to their personalities and we are learning that peer students can recall content by identifying it with the people who taught it, especially fellow students. Using their unique personalities, peer teachers shape learning experiences for others and lead them through these experiences. Prior attempts to link certain general personality types with student achievement have largely been unsuccessful; teachers and learners create too complex a social mix for us to predict how general personality types will affect learning. What professional educators can do is to help their students to have confidence in the productive parts of their teaching personalities and to help them find ways to compensate for non-productive personality features. This is a delicate process and everyone who mentors student teachers or probationary teachers deals with it all the time. We are now learning how to do this with K-12 students, whether or not they intend to teach professionally. Most will, however, have children, and parents are a child's first teachers. Our society will be better if future parents can learn to teach well.

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