My journey toward embracing CSLE+COVA began in the Fall of 2016. In reality, I had been interested in making some changes for years, but the timing wasn’t right to begin this process… until I was asked to be on the campus leadership team. The campus leadership team was a selected group of teachers who had demonstrated an interest in working to make a change in the culture or operations of the campus. As an English teacher, I have always been a part of curriculum writing, team leading, and lesson planning, but I had never worked toward any sort of impact on the whole campus. This opportunity was the first time that I had been given an invitation to work in this capacity. Being a part of this team allowed me to attend a conference where I saw Jared Colley give a presentation on gamification in the ELA classroom, which inspired me to think about using technology differently. I brought that idea back to my school and began attempting to create my own gamified unit, thus beginning my first real steps toward my eventual transformation.
My experience in the campus leadership team led me to conclude that I wanted to change the way learning happened on my campus. This process was similar to the innovation plan but without the incredible support of the DLL program. My teaching partner, Jason, and I came up with the idea to take an unused bank of lockers and have them removed in order to make room for a collaborative learning space. At the time, we were focused on finding strategies for collaboration, but our classrooms are not ideal for the increase in noise that happens during collaborative work. As we researched, I discovered references to COVA and followed the trail to Dr. Harapnuik and the DLL program at Lamar University.
Once I began the program I was excited to learn about CSLE, or creating significant learning experiences/environments, and COVA. COVA is an approach to learning based on the philosophies of educational theorists like Jerome Bruner, Jean Piaget, and John Dewey that focuses on student choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning experiences (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, & Cummings, 2018). This was the piece that pulled my work together and ignited my passion to change the way learning happens on my campus.
This program has already impacted my career. First, I was invited to continue my work from the Campus Leadership team. Typically, those types of groups are only allowed to exist for a single school year in my district, but I was granted a continuation because school administration is interested in supporting the work that I am doing. Then, I was named Department Chair for English Language Arts. I began working in that capacity at the end of the 2017-2018 school year and began immediately moving to put COVA front and center. I have established that building student agency is our number one goal, giving purpose to our literacy instruction and coursework. I have introduced COVA to our curriculum by adding choice components to the English I, English II, and English III classes. I am actively engaged in changing the way learning happens on my campus, which was the goal I set for myself when I began this program. While my innovation plan has changed and evolved, I have achieved many of the goals I set for myself and for my campus.
I am thankful that the CSLE+COVA concepts are paired with change agent training in the DLL program because I spend the majority of my time engaging as an agent of change, using those skills to convince people to change the process in their classrooms. Depending on the mindset of the teacher, sometimes that is a challenging task.
I have always believed that the program should work to fit the child and that we should not expect every child to fit or work with one standardized approach in the classroom. CSLE+COVA allows the learning to work for every child. The program adapts and changes to meet the needs and interests of the student. Not only is this possible in English classes, but it also creates a rich and diverse experience for all of the students. This program has only strengthened my beliefs and learning philosophy, resulting in an urgency for immediate action.
Harapnuik, D. (n.d.). CSLE + COVA. Retrieved from: http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=6988
Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux, T., and Cummings, C. (2018). Choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND.