there is something special happening here

By Will Eaton Mark wrote a post last month about Why We Need Startup School.  In it he said, It’s just the next great learning experience for our students, and it’s going to be awesome.”

In my new role of Director of Instructor Development at the Startup Institute Boston (SIB) I have witnessed firsthand that there is something very special happening here, even more special than “awesome”.

Students don’t go to “classes”, they go to experiences.

Part of my role at the Startup Institute is to help expert practitioners in the Boston community take their energy and knowledge about their industry and help them transform it into a daylong lesson for our students.  With the philosophy that SIB students #LearnToDo by doing, we purposefully brainstorm and craft a comprehensive plan that lays out a day of accelerated learning.

Over the past three weeks, over 30 practitioners have passed their knowledge and mindsets to our students through purposeful experiences, expert advice, roleplaying, intense challenges, and real time case studies.  These Bostonians are doing their part to make Startup Institute Boston an ecosystem of student-centered learning.

I have tried to document my observations to start to form some sort of Startup Institute Core Instructional Practices

People Come First, PowerPoint Comes Last

Mandy Mladenoff of Matter Communications did a great job with the SIB technical marketing track last Monday to make the focus the students, rather than the PowerPoint.  Through various scenarios she facilitated a day on Advanced PR.  After sharing her expertise, Mandy set up a situation and students were asked to create original content to respond.  This interactive style of teaching relied on her expertise, rather than a slide deck, which promoted an atmosphere where the instructor-student connection was made stronger and ultimately led to deeper student understanding and growth.

Get Up And Do Something

All our instructors are asking students to get up and do something.  I believe there are three benefits to this movement.  First, as John Medina discusses in his book, Brain Rules, physical movement has been shown to promote student learning.  Next, the movement in the context of meaningful learning experiences dramatically increases engagement, which is a positive snowball.  Finally, these situations give students the opportunity to take classroom leadership roles and to promote a greater sense of collaboration.

Reflection & Engaged Learning

Caren Cioffi and Steve Percoco of Brightcove ended a Sales & Business Development and Marketing cross track day by facilitating a circle where all students were engaged in both asking and answering great questions.  Reflection forces your brain to try to make sense of the block of learning that has just occurred.  Further, reflecting on personal progress, challenges, and next steps deepens the learning experience because emotions are forced to be brought into the mix.

I am excited to continue to work with these amazing practitioners to help them create innovative sessions intentionally designed for experiential and accelerated student learning.