SCEWL is an education conference that actually models good teaching practice. Participants are the center of the conference just as students should be the center of the classroom! It is modeled after the highly successful Constructivist Conference run by the Institute for Learning Centered Education conducted annually at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. ILCE has been conducting the conference since the late 1990s while this is SCEWL’s first conference.
As an easterner the first thing to make note of is the environment. St. Lawrence University is in a beautiful part of the northeast and the SCEWL Conference is located on the campus of California State University at San Marcos in southern California between Los Angeles and San Diego. It is beautiful desert country contrasting considerably to New York. Daytime temperatures have been in the high 80s and low 90s since we’ve arrived. The chance of rain so far has been 0%. My wife tells me it has been rainy with nighttime temperatures in the 40s since I left Saranac Lake.
The conference itself is much smaller and intimate with nine teams totalling around 50 people compared to its companion conference which sometimes has over 40 teams with nearly 300 attendees. So much for the major differences, let’s talk about how they are similar for a moment. Teams of educators attend the conference with a task in mind. The conference provides facilitators and using constructivist principles called “conference elements” helps the team accomplish their task. The SCEWL Conference is just like the ILCE Conference in that if you walk in you will see teams of teachers working with their facilitator to clarify their task, create a rubric to assess their work, create a work plan and the myriad other tasks needing attention.
I thought we had a great first day. I’m working with a group of teachers from REACH Academy a charter school from Riverside, California. Their task is something like, “How will REACH Faculty collaboratively develop a weekly schedule that incorporates small and whole group instruction, that utilizes unit development with sample projects, and addresses the ‘Big Questions’ of our curriculum.” They want to address ELA content, provide examples of project-based learning, and address elements of school culture. What do you think? Can they do it in four days? It is quite a task.
Tomorrow they will further clarify their task, create a rubric to assess the quality of their products, and then get to work. I’ll try to offer observations about this conference with some comparison’s with the ILCE Conference each day this week.