Jane’s Northern Lights

What did I see……?

A comfortable, safe, secure environment where staff and students freely express their thoughts and ideas with the confidence that sits naturally with their enthusiasm.

A place where enquiry flourishes and the learning journey continues as innovation and creativity expand through PBL. The HTH community, students, teachers, Directors and parents are passionate about education and young people being able to flourish in a 21st century global economy.

The love of learning and the desire to want to continue learning is paramount and it is this ethos that underpins their curriculum.

At the heart of PBL is the proviso that students have a certain amount of autonomy which frees them to take creative risks; it generates a confidence to articulate ideas and encourages student leadership. This together with strong working relationships between students and students, teachers and teachers, teacher and students, built on trust and respect, makes for the success of the High Tech High story.

Answers to your specific questions to follow.


What did I learn on behalf of my colleagues ……..?

Q: How can you build in time for co-planning ( a group of teachers are working with a group of students on a project)
A: Time is structured into the school day, one hour each morning, the pairs meet and fine tune their work, paired teaching is across at lest two disciplines

Q: What is the learning environment like?
A: The physical environment is a mix of the individual ‘schools’ elementary , middle schools and high schools together with a HTC international, (details of these later)
All these schools form a type of campus, neatly laid out with a variety of open-plan spaces for the students to relax, play, study before and during fee time at school. The interiors of the schools have a lot of open spaces for multi- purpose usage, a lot of class walls, free flowing movement between classes, lots of displays everywhere, a variety of technology , used when needed or appropriate. Within this physical space students and teachers go about their learning with an enthusiasm and commitment, a lot of fun and no fear of getting it wrong, what doesn’t work is seen as a creative challenge. The progress of students work is ‘held to account’ by structures and processes that would take a few pages to detail so more of that later.

Q: How much film making in media?
A: Film making is very much related to end products that are captured and placed in students individual portfolios as evidence and information. The artefact in whatever form or genre has its own arena.

Q: How do they have time for individual students an links with home?
A: the day is structured in such a way that it provides good time slots. Teachers have fewer students, see them more regularly and in the structure of the day they see them for up to four hours. Teachers have a small group for a couple of years in vertical groups who they meet three times a week in what is called ‘Advisory’, teachers of this group make home visits.

Q: How do they build in teaching/ learning of basic skills?
A: Very much in the form of our ‘big lecture’ equipping the students with a basic platform from which to conduct their research and work on their projects.

Q: How do they assess/measure progress, and how do students manage this?
A: Basically through a structured and refined approach to critique. A systematised critiquing process underpins all project work in staged phases of the life of the project process. Teachers use critique to move the student towards work of a high standard.The mark of success is seen in the final exhibited work, this is ‘work that matters’ in that it must have validity in the real, adult world and must have an ‘authenticity’ in form and content. The concept design finds realisation in the choice of the final outcome. Students have more autonomy to construct, they are used to co-constructing their work in the middle school and work towards more complete autonomy through the critiquing process in high school. A methodological tool called ‘tuneing’ holds the creator (s) of the object to account.
This is a process that will need more clearly defining over the next weeks and months so I won’t go into more detail here.

Q: How can we train/ develop staff to understand/ recognise high quality curating?

A: The HTH approach to display first and foremost is unquestionably that it HAS to be done.All work must have an extensive audience from a variety of perspectives, in and around the school/ campus, in art galleries, in any most appropriate arena. These ‘knowledge products’ can be displayed in a variety of forms, a published book, films/ videos/ artworks, concept design etc.
All teachers are familiar with the process of exhibition and many are appointed with the ability to present creative displays. The ‘Where’ and ‘What’ of the work to be displayed seems to be determined through the ‘tuning’ & critiqueing processes. What is obvious in our discussions here is that all teachers think more deeply about design.

Q: How are days/weeks structured?
A: A little complex to fully explain here, and I am sure that this would be a question that many colleagues will want answered, so I will hold off until we meet Ross & Fran and give you a verbal overview next week, if that ‘s ok.

Q:Teachers as designer, how flexible can they be?
A: Other members of the group have commented on this aspect, check out Tracy’s comments. One thing that is evident is that there is a high level of peer accountability.


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