Inquiry

Approaching learning with inquiry, choice, and student voice can increase the joy students experience in our classrooms. We can let

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curiosity drive learning no matter the subject, discipline, or standard. Rather than students playing a more passive role in their learning, inquiry welcomes active exploration and hands-on experimentation and discovery. It opens up opportunities for self-reflection and for more than one right answer to not only be accepted but celebrated. Mackin Learning works to help schools make minor shifts in instruction, assessment, curriculum, and environment that can lead to major impact on student engagement and achievement. We believe that inquiry is fundamental to exceptional instruction. Therefore, we model the inquiry process in each workshop and promote collaboration and application for each educator who participates.

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Social
Justice

Social justice means equal rights and fair access to resources across all social groups. It is the absence of structural inequality. When

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inequality is structural, it means that the likelihood of your ability to access to resources and rights is dictated by the social groups you belong to–your race/ethnicity, your sex, your sexual or gender identity, your socioeconomic status, your religion, the language you speak, and your physical or mental ability. Social justice in education means an equitable education for ALL students, no matter their background, identity, or ability. To ensure every child has equal access, specific attention must be paid to each marginalized social groups’ unique needs. Social justice education means teaching in a way that works to dismantle structural inequality. A social justice lens can be applied to any subject and informs instructional approach, classroom policies, and topics covered. A social justice education moves beyond simply valuing diversity and empowers educators to be fierce advocates for human and civil rights.

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English /
Language Arts

The high standards for English/Language Arts requires educators to shift how they integrate reading, writing, speaking, listening, and

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language to promote critical thinking. Engagement soars when ELA educators transform their definition of literacy from “learning to read and write” to “learning how to learn” and immerse classrooms with choice, multiple texts, inquiry, and collaboration. Stemming from Dr. Jen McCarty Plucker’s own transformation in her ELA classroom, and informed by collaboration with hundreds of other brilliant ELA educators, Mackin Learning partners with districts who are looking to enhance the joy and improve the outcomes for their learners.

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Maker
Education

Through making, students construct their own understanding of the world around them. Although there are many ways to describe

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Maker Education, Mackin Learning subscribes to the definition that includes anything a person creates that wasn’t there before. We believe that Maker Education’s power lies in the process, the experiences, and the lessons learned while making. As former educators we also know that relevant and practical ways to integrate this work into the fabulous things teachers are already doing with their students is imperative. This is the lens we use as we collaborate with schools and districts to cultivate the maker mindset.

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Literacy

Literacy is often narrowly defined as “the ability to read and write” when it could more accurately be defined as  “learning how to

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learn.”  When we broaden our definition of both literacy and text (any content be it visual, audio, tactile) we open up the methods, tools, and mindsets of all learners and educators. The broadened definition also promotes literacy across the learner’s day rather than confining it to an English/Language arts or reading class.  Informed by Dr. Jennifer McCarty Plucker’s research and extensive experience in literacy in K-12 schools and through an asset-based approach, Mackin Learning’s literacy workshops and consultation aim to maximize the gifts educators and students bring to the learning process.

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STEM /
STEAM

It is clear that technology is rapidly changing the way we all work. Although we do not yet know what jobs will be created due to new,

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improving technologies and the needs of our world, we can say with certainty that STEM/STEAM will play a prominent role. Therefore, rather than separate and isolate Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics, it is essential that we guide students in exploring the connections that inherently exist between them. Through this hands-on interdisciplinary approach, students learn important twenty-first century skills such as creativity, innovation, critical thinking, collaboration, and grit. This also allows students to discover real-world applications and better prepares them for the future. Mackin Learning partners with schools and organizations to support them in understanding the need for STEM/STEAM learning and what it might look like for them.

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Student
Engagement

Student engagement is a critical component of the learning process. Over the last several years, researchers, practitioners, and thought

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leaders have pushed us to consider the science behind motivation and to reconsider many of our instructional approaches. Carol Dweck, John T. Guthrie, Daniel Pink, Steven Layne, Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, and many more have asked us to rethink the use of carrots and sticks, consider student voice and choice, and examine the intersections between what motivates us as adults (autonomy, purpose, and mastery) and what motivates our students. Dr. Jennifer McCarty Plucker’s research has been centered on motivating and engaging adolescent learners in literacy and learning. Her practical case study insight has helped districts examine how they create conditions where striving learners can grow as readers, writers, thinkers, and scholars, actually enjoying the process along the way. The principles of student engagement are woven throughout all of Mackin Learning’s workshops and consultation services.

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Inclusive
Education

To build a truly inclusive school environment, we must understand the impact practices, policies, and norms have on all students, but

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especially marginalized ones. Educators who provide inclusive education create conditions where all students are full, accepted, and contributing members of their school community. Because inclusivity is a shared responsibility, Mackin Learning partners with educators to examine the current reality for all students and then equips them with the mindsets and tools to truly support and advocate for all young people. We believe inclusivity is critical for the professional learning provided for educators; therefore, Mackin Learning comes alongside leaders and educators in the difficult, yet rewarding, work of building truly inclusive conditions for all students.

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Striving
Readers

The phrase “striving readers” is an umbrella for many kinds of readers: those who are reading below grade level proficiency (which is hard to

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define), those who are disengaged from reading/learning, and those still working to communicate fluently and learn effectively in English, and more.  Formerly termed struggling readers, the reality is all readers struggle or strive at some point in their learning.  And while explicit literacy strategy instruction is an important component of any efforts to accelerate literacy growth, the research in the field suggests a focus first on student strengths, engagement, and motivation is necessary.  Informed by Dr. Jennifer McCarty Plucker’s practitioner research, educators who partner with Mackin Learning will see how engaging students in authentic reading, writing, and talking every day can result in not only more literate scholars, but also more joyful ones. 

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Culturally Responsive Teaching

CRT is a framework for rethinking our teaching to decenter the dominant culture’s instructional norms, build trust with students,

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and ultimately accelerate the achievement of all students. By applying the principles of CRT to every level of our instructional approach, we can make fundamental positive changes for our students that reverberate throughout the entire school community. CRT is not only about recognizing the cultural differences or social inequalities represented in our classrooms. While those are important parts of the process, the ultimate goal of CRT is to reimagine our classroom practices with the goal of building an environment in which all students can thrive. Mackin Learning draws on the work of CRT theorists to help educators see the transformative power of a culturally responsive approach and apply it to their teaching.

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Project Based
Learning

Project Based Learning (PBL) emphasizes inquiry, discovery, and student driven learning. It involves research, critical thinking,

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collaboration, creativity, and communication with authentic audiences. When teachers facilitate and guide students through PBL, engagement increases and learning becomes memorable. Mackin Learning’s PBL work draws from Lindsay Simmons’ experiences in the worlds of Art History and Museum Education, Maker Education, STEM/STEAM, as well as Dr. Jen McCarty Plucker’s research in motivating students in literacy and learning. Integrating PBL often leads to opportunities for braided standard instruction, inquiry driven learning, and authentic experiences. The synergy PBL creates benefits student and teacher teams alike. We partner with schools to assist in integrating PBL using flexible and practical strategies for engaging students.

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Art
Integration

Art is deeply important to culture. It helps us make sense of and better understand the many perspectives that exist in our world.

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It can even connect emotion to subject matter and allows students to be creative in ways that other methods cannot achieve, which can make learning more memorable. Using Lindsay Simmons’ background in Art History, Museum Studies, and Education to inform practices, Mackin Learning partners with schools to explore the research behind the value of integrating more of the arts into content area instruction as well as uncovering practical ways to make them a more regular form of classroom learning.

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