Middle Grades Conference: Efficacy and Equity

On Saturday, January 12, educators from across Vermont reconnected at the Middle Grades Collaborative’s 12th annual conference held at the University of Vermont’s Davis Center.

This year’s conference, titled Personal Efficacy in the Middle, featured presentations covering a range of action research projects being implemented in classrooms throughout the state. The majority of presentations were the continuation or culmination of work started at the Middle Grades Institute in June of 2018. The conference provides a venue for Institute participants to demonstrate, reflect, and share the learning gained from their professional development.

Engagement, student voice and choice, the release of responsibility to students and the redesign of personal learning plans were but a few of the topics under discussion. Readers interested in the range of topics can peruse abstracts of the different presentations here. Listening to educators relate and reflect on their professional growth is incredibly powerful and inspiring. For many of us, the conference provides the opportunity to refresh, consider new ideas and to renew professional relationships that support positive outcomes for educators and students.

After two rounds of presentation and lunch, conference participants were invited to engage in a microlab protocol. Adapted from Julian Weissglass’s work for the National Coalition for Equity in Education based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, microlabs are structured, small-group discussions with guiding questions. At the conference, the microlab questions were based on a definition of educational equity from the National Equity Project. After the initial rounds of small group discussions, larger groups discussed themes and important ideas that were discussed. These issues, around equity in Vermont schools, will be a focus of the 2019 Middle Grades Institute.

The Middle Grades Conference is a wonderful mid-winter reminder of the great work that is happening around the state. By connecting summer professional development with new learning and through re-engagement with Institute participants, teachers have the opportunity to reflect on their mid-year growth and to implement new ideas for the remainder of the school year. It is a powerful, fun, and transformative event. If you would like to be a part of this learning community, please register for the 2019 Middle Grades Institute here.