Empowering students with Plan-Work-Reflect | Joan Barrett


Recently, I had the opportunity again to listen to our Head of School Elaine Kennedy address a roomful of prospective parents at our annual Student Museum and Open House. Every time I hear her speak about New Morning School to an audience, I get charged up. I always wish that we were creating a podcast so that it could be broadcast through the internet because I find the message of New Morning School so powerful.

New Morning School was created by Elaine and her husband in 1973. It was their vision that learning should be joyful and exciting. The school was set up as multi-age classrooms rather than individual classrooms in concert with the findings of Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist who indicated that children do not learn at the same pace and same speed. It was Elaine’s goal to create an environment that would grow each child’s strengths and abilities individually, rather than force every student to learn at the same developmental level.

PWR stands for Plan-Work-Reflect.

Since 1973, students at New Morning School have created their own individual plans daily.  It is a process we call Plan-Work-Reflect (PWR).  Each day, the students plan what they will accomplish. The children make choices from Long Range Plans they have developed with a teacher, from classes taught by specialized teachers and from small groups that the teachers have identified based on their academic level. These plans are scheduled in 15- to 30-minute intervals.  After the plan is approved, it becomes the roadmap that guides students through their days.

At the end of their work time, students circle back with teachers in one-on-one conferences to reflect on the events of the day, which helps the kids stay accountable for their work. It is not just a question of, “Did you do your work today?” but instead, “How did you do your work today?” 

Plan-Work-Reflect (PWR) is a powerful learning tool that instills ownership and self-discipline in our students.  This explains why every year we hear from high school teachers who remark that students from New Morning School always have a strong and steadfast good work ethic.

We think of PWR as not simply a skill that will help students excel in their coursework right now, but rather as a gift that will support them as lifelong learners inside and outside the classroom.

Joan Barrett is admissions director with New Morning School in Plymouth, MI. She may be reached at joan@newmorningschool.com.