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The Power of Audience by Steven Levy

  • Date

  • Author

    Ben Smith

Introduction by Mark Conrad, Chief Schools Officer for EL

In this article, originally published in ASCD's Educational Leadership, Steven Levy demonstrates through stories, examples and anecdotes the powerful impact that an authentic audience has on student learning and engagement. Steven details several projects from EL Education schools in Portland, Maine; Rochester, New York and Dubuque, Iowa as he develops his readers’ understanding of the role products play in creating both an expeditionary curriculum and classroom cultures rooted in high expectations for quality, revision, perseverance and collaboration.

Steven’s own award-winning classroom served as an early model for EL and his 1996 book Starting from Scratch paints a compelling portrait of authentic learning in action. Retired as an EL Education school designer, Steven still consults with us and continues to write and speak widely about project-based learning, student-engaged assessment and whole school transformation.


The Power of Audience

Steven Levy

When student work culminates in a genuine product for an authentic audience, it makes a world of difference.

I was meeting with Laura, a first-year 6th grade Spanish teacher in an urban school. She slumped deep in her chair, exhausted after another frustrating day. Quite a contrast from her enthusiasm at our summer institute, where she had first encountered the idea of Expeditionary Learning Schools [note: we have changed our name to EL Education since this article was published].

Laura had been particularly excited about learning expeditions—academic investigations that teach standards-based content and skills in the context of meaningful projects. Although she had not had time to design an expedition during our summer work together, she had developed a few ideas that she thought would engage students. She had received encouraging feedback when she presented them to her colleagues.