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We Are Crew: Chapter 4: Helping Students Become Effective Learners through Crew

How can Crew support students to become effective learners?

Crew creates opportunities for students to practice and reflect on learning habits like perseverance, responsibility, and setting goals. It’s a chance for them to reflect on how their daily choices, mindsets, and actions impact their academic work and results. It’s also a time for students to support each other and to seek support from peers as they all scale the mountain of academic challenge together. The cycle of practice and reflection enables students to lead their own learning and to present evidence of their progress to families and the community.


“The power of Crew to support academic success is that it changes school from an individual sport to a team sport. Nobody wins unless we all win.” –page 107

Learning Target

  • I can explain how Crew supports students’ academic success.

Read: “Developing Awareness of Personal Learning Habits and Identities”

As students move through school, they develop academic identities that are deeply tied to their personal and social identities. Developing a sense of belonging, purpose, and agency is crucial to academic success. Read the research on academic identities, pages 112-113 of Chapter 4, that supports this claim and consider the following questions:

  1. Why is it important for students to understand who they are as students?
  2. How would you describe your own dynamic learning profile?

Title: Watch Students Reflect on Their Learning Habits in “Crew Initiatives”

Team-building initiatives in Crew are both fun and purposeful. They are an opportunity for students to use and reflect on mindsets and skills they also use everyday in their academic work, such as responsibility, collaboration, and communication. As you watch, consider the following questions:

  1. What do you notice about student engagement during these initiatives?
  2. How do these Crew leaders support students to grapple with, reflect on, and give voice to their learning, rather than the lesson coming only from the teacher. 

Title: Watch Students Prepare for Student-Led Conferences in “Crew Support for Presentations of Learning”

We believe that the best assessment is the one students give themselves. Many EL Education network schools opt for authentic, student-centered assessments of learning habits. For example, based on regular and deep reflection on their habits, students present evidence of their growth to their families in student-led conferences. Watch this video of students preparing for presentations of learning. As you watch, consider the following questions:

  1. What Crew lessons and activities do you see in this video that help students to reflect honestly and powerfully?
  2. Which of these structures—student-led conferences, passage presentations, celebrations of learning—do you think would work best at your school? Why do you think so?

Dig Deeper

  • Initiatives for Crew  This document provides directions for leading dozens of initiatives that can strengthen students’ communication, problem-solving, persistence, trust, and creativity.
  • Effective Effort Rubric  This rubric from MindsetWorks helps students to assess how fixed or growth-oriented their mindset is for academic or nonacademic tasks. 
  • Station-Based Student-Led Conferences in Kindergarten  At Conway Elementary School, a public, district, EL Education school in Escondido, California, students and their families rotate through three stations in which Kindergarteners are leaders of their own learning.
  • Considerations for Remote Student-Led Conferences  This guidance document provides suggestions and questions to help Crew leaders prepare students for virtual student-led conferences, including reflection questions about the skill of remote learning.

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers…

  1. When do you make time for academic check-ins and reflection with your Crew? How can you make this practice a productive routine in your classroom?
  2. What tools can you use to strengthen your students’ reflection habits.
  3. How can you help students take ownership of and articulate how they learn?

For School Leaders…

  1. Do you have a set of schoolwide learning habits? How can you develop these collaboratively with your staff Crew?
  2. How can you support Crew leaders to make time for meaningful reflection on learning habits?
  3. How can you shift the way your school documents and communicates students’ learning habits so that this assessment is more authentic and student-centered?