1. The world is not discipline specific, so how come school is? Ask a chemist what her daily work looks like and you’ll find economics, writing, health, politics, design, and math are all integral parts of the work her lab does. Chemistry and Conflict is a model of the professional quality work 10th graders can produce when they approach projects just as they would in life outside of traditional school, when they are invited to a learning experience that’s similar to real life.

    This video examines how student work illuminates—and is illuminated by—the following standard: CCSS ELA standard WHST.9-10.2.

    # vimeo.com/126826130 Uploaded
  2. A Little More Than Just People is a project created by the founding eighth-grade class at Four Rivers Charter School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. In this project, students publicly recognize the contributions made by members in their town. These individuals hold important roles in their area, both in official and volunteer capacities. Pairs of students interviewed “community cultivators” and, through an intensive editing process, created monologues from recorded transcripts. How can a project like A Little More Than Just People help students meet state-mandated content standards through the use of the storytelling medium? How can project-based learning provide opportunities for students to meet high standards and create beautiful, creative, collaborative work?

    This video examines how student work illuminates—and is illuminated by—the following standards: CCSS ELA standard W.8.4 and 8.5.

    # vimeo.com/126826131 Uploaded
  3. Tenth grade students in San Diego, CA created a professional-quality book explaining key terms and concepts in economics. Students defined economic terms in language that non-economists could understand; described current situations in which those concepts were present in our everyday lives; and created cut-block print illustrations. This film features interviews with the humanities teacher, art teacher, and former students. It raises questions about what understanding and memorable learning actually looks like. Illuminates CCSS ELA standard W.9-10.2.

    # vimeo.com/126826132 Uploaded
  4. According to education researcher, Camille Farrington (2013), a strong correlation exists between success in school and students having these four academic mindsets: 1) I belong in this academic community; 2) I can succeed at this; 3) My ability and competence grow with my effort; and 4) This work has value for me.

    Even before we work on Growth Mindset, students must feel that they belong. While the Common Core Standards don’t address social and emotional development, we can engage in meaningful, standards-based projects to build community and help students develop a sense of belonging. Second grade students at the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School created Six-Word Memoir Self-Portraits to share important moments from their lives. This film illuminates ways that students can use personal narrative, in written and artistic forms, to develop a sense of connection that facilitates learning throughout the school year.

    This video examines how student work illuminates—and is illuminated by—the following standards: CCSS ELA standard W.2.5 and W 2.8


    In the last two decades of the ‘standards movement’ in American public education, many educators have concluded that ‘teaching to the standards’ and project-based learning are incompatible. Ron Berger (Expeditionary Learning) and Steve Seidel (Harvard Graduate School of Education), co-directors of The Illuminating Standards Project, wondered if this conclusion is true. Indeed, they speculated that long-term, interdisciplinary, arts-infused, community-connected projects may well be one of the best ways to actually see what state standards look like when fully realized in the things students make in school—to make the standards visible.

    Three questions frame the work of The Illuminating Standards Project:

    What does it look like when state standards are met with integrity, depth, and imagination?
    How can we use standards to open up and enrich curriculum, rather than narrow and constrain it?
    How can we use student work to raise the level of our understanding of standards and our dialogue about them?


    Collaborating with Berger and Seidel on The Illuminating Standards Project, over 30 students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have explored these questions by choosing projects from the student work in Models of Excellence and considering the ways in which those projects did—and didn’t—meet specific state standards. Further, they examined how the student work illuminated the standards—and vice versa. Many of those students created short films and many of those films are presented here.

    We invite you to watch these films, and we encourage you to use them as the catalyst for discussions with your colleagues about the relationship between your commitment to meet demanding state standards and approaches to designing powerful learning experiences for our students.

    # vimeo.com/126826133 Uploaded
  5. High School seniors in San Diego, California designed and built curved wooden chairs, researching design and marketing, using CAD programs and shop tools. The project authentically incorporated high-level high school math. This film features an interview with the math teacher and the art teacher, and shows multiple drafting of the work. Illuminates Mathematical Practice Standard 1.

    # vimeo.com/126827331 Uploaded

The Illuminating Standards Project

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