“Humanity has made two promises to its children. The first is to prepare a world which accepts them and provides them with opportunities to live, grow and create in safety. The other is to help them develop their whole beings to the fullest in every respect. Education is the vehicle through which we try to keep these promises.” ~ Annemarie Roeper
Annemarie Roeper was an educator who promoted social justice; today is the fourth anniversary of her passing. She and her husband George founded The Roeper School outside Detroit, Michigan in 1941 after fleeing Nazi Germany. With guiding pillars of promoting self-actualization and awareness of our interdependence, the Roeper community grew from their vision for a more peaceful society. In addition, Annemarie consulted on the development of the popular children’s educational television program, Sesame Street. Importantly, Annemarie Roeper also developed a Qualitative Assessment that supports educators in better understanding the uniqueness and complexity of each individual student. SoulSpark continues to work to extend Annemarie’s vision. Even our name, SoulSpark, reflects our commitment to bridging each child’s unique inner hopes and dreams with opportunities for them to contribute to our world that needs them.
In celebration of Annemarie’s life, today we share one of our simple, formative evaluation practices that supports evolution in the direction peace and equity – the SoulSpark 3-2-1. It was developed nearly a decade ago after graduate studies at the Bueno Center for Multicultural Education at University of Colorado at Boulder. Here we were introduced to House’s concept of social justice evaluation. While I personally always felt responsibility to create spaces for the voices of systemically oppressed, reflection on House’s construct transformed my instructional and community-building practices. As a result of this experience, I began to integrate the “SoulSpark 3-2-1” in a conscious way.
Like House, we believe the purpose of evaluation is to promote equity – equitable growth opportunities and equitable resource distribution. A social justice approach helps determine where to invest time, expertise and money to align actions and choices with values and intentions. Congruence increases impact.
The SoulSpark 3-2-1 is simple and easy-to-implement independent of the assessment policies or practices of any given school. You can modify it to be administered in a variety of learning contexts. No matter who the audience, by asking variations of the three questions below, you will be empowered with data to continue to evolve practices in a manner responsive to diverse community strengths and needs.
1. What THREE things were most helpful to your learning/growth today?
(Identify what is working.)
2. What TWO ideas/concepts are you most interested to learn more about?
(Uncover potential future areas for exploration.)
3. If you could change ONE thing about today’s class, what would it be?
(Determine what needs to be altered to better serve.)
Research shows time and time again that engaging students’ emotions and intrinsic motivation accelerates learning. Just last week, the New York Times published another article speaking to this, To Help Students Learn, Engage the Emotions. These three questions collect critical data to inform meaningful instruction.
Asking the questions is only the first step. Listening is a highly undervalued component of communicative capacity. Deep listening, with one’s whole body, is requisite to transformation. The practice of sitting beside those who have been oppressed and/or injured to listen with open heart and mind, and integrating feedback, are the roots of changemaking. Fortunately, listening is a skill that can be practiced and learned.
The SoulSpark 3-2-1 emphasizes the positive and celebrates what IS working. In education, it is easy overlook the importance of cultivating a culture of gratitude and seeing learners through a strengths-based lens. The practice of reflecting on the elements of the learning environment and instruction that are transformative keeps us moving positively forward.
May we always support one another in bringing the dream of a more peaceful society to reality.