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John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy, Ed.S.

Follow on Twitter: @JMcCarthyEdS

An education consultant with extensive teaching experience, John McCarthy supports instructional practices around Differentiation, Student Voice, Authentic Learning Experiences, Project-Based Learning, Instructional Technology, Writing, and Assessment.

His website, OpeningPaths.org, offers rich resources in many instructional areas, publications, and support areas.

He currently travels across the United States to work with schools and also coaches internationally. He teaches online graduate courses for Madonna University and online educator courses for Dell. See his LinkedIn profile for more details.

John responds to comments on the blog and via social media such as Twitter @JMcCarthyEdS.


Posted by on in Student Engagement



An important need and big challenge is making curriculum relevant to students so that they “want” to do the work because the content makes sense to them, and has meaning through their usage beyond the classroom walls. The value of such experiences cements learning as students have a real-world reference to recall the content when needed.

For example, students are more likely to remember their work on a fund raising campaign that raised awareness about cancer while soliciting donations that are given to cancer research. Such an experience is more powerful and lasting than approaching the same curriculum in the traditional format: memorizing the functions and structures of different cells, practicing research skills as an isolated skill for English, and completing a list of math functions without a real-world context. In the case of the fighting cancer campaign, the students developed understanding and application of all of those skills and content areas, while having a positive impact on their community.

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Posted by on in Differentiated Instruction


While visiting a high school in Michigan, I talked to students about their learning experiences. Understanding what they saw as valuable could have an important impact on how the teachers may strive to further elevate student voice in the school. One senior shared a perspective that I repeatedly heard from others. “I want more times when I get to say how I make products for projects. Not just do papers. Maybe videos or some other way to do the work.” Students want opportunities to forge their way for learning. How can we as educators share the reigns of instructional learning experiences?


A common practice used to engage students is to give them choices for how they can create products to demonstrate their learning. This is a good practice as some learners struggle when not given options. From a management perspective, choices jumpstart students into the tasks at hand. Yet choices do not equate to student voice.


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