SOLE Cleveland goes from strength to strength

A few weeks ago Jeff McClellan helped facilitate what he describes as a ‘monster SOLE’ – 260 people self-organising to answer the same question at the same time. In fact, this happened twice in one day when 520 adults from 27 branches of Cleveland Public Library came together to reflect on how to engage people in using the library in different ways. The energy and the enthusiasm of the people taking part that day were clearly inspiring.

This ‘monster SOLE’ is what McClellan talks about when asked for a highlight from his SOLE experiences, but it’s clear he’s struggling to choose just one memorable moment from the last 6 months. He could just as easily have described his delight at the fact that schools in the Cleveland Region had performed over 1,000 SOLEs by the end of May (a whole month earlier than they were aiming for).

Or he could have talked about what it’s like to experience a Friday afternoon at Oak Leadership Institute when every single student – from Kindergarten through to Grade 8 – takes part in a SOLE at the same time, with different questions for each class based around one central theme.

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Or his excitement about the number of collaborations he has been involved in, such as with Dr Gina Weisblat at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, who decided to incorporate SOLE into her teaching of community healthcare workers, health professions affinity community (HPAC) afterschool programs across the state of Ohio, in their AmeriCorps program. Or the fact that John Carroll University now uses SOLE as part of its Non-profit Master Degree Program by integrating it into the Masters Course in Quantitative Statistics and Non-profit skills for Cultural Competency.

Or the success of some training he ran at the end of a busy school week of testing, when he was asked to talk to a roomful of tired teachers about the non-cognitive factors influencing student success. He decided to run the session as a SOLE and was rewarded with a re-energised staff body: when they presented their findings at the end there were teachers rapping and doing skits – it’s hard to believe a formal lecture would have inspired such enthusiasm!

I could go on, but you get the point: the introduction of SOLE across the Cleveland Region has been pretty phenomenal both in terms of how many teachers have given SOLE a try and also in terms of how many members of the community have wanted to get involved.

The really incredible thing is that there is no requirement for teachers to try SOLE, it is not a top-down policy, McClellan simply introduced the concept and then waited for people to come and ask him about it. Which they did. Lots of them. He suggests that there are two reasons why it’s being so widely used: it’s so easy to implement and it’s incredibly engaging for students, and he speaks with evident pride about the way that he has seen regular SOLE use beginning to change the learning identity of students from passive consumers to learners who are actively creating their own opportunities.

The 1,000 SOLE mark was a key mile stone for Cleveland, but from here McClellan intends to look beyond how many SOLEs are happening to focus on supporting its implementation on a bigger scale. He is entirely approachable when it comes to offering advice or guidance on SOLE – encouraging anyone with questions to contact him – but he wants to move beyond that to empower others. He hopes the next step will be to create a support network where teachers and districts who are trying to support others in implementing SOLE have the resources to do so.

Given the success of SOLE Cleveland so far, it will surely only be a matter of time…

To learn more about Jeff’s work visit SOLE_CLE on Facebook and Twitter.