Guest Blog: Back from Beijing!

Assessment Design Partner, Josette Neal-De-Stanton, was joined by previous ELPer, Abby Benedetto, in Beijing this past August to continue our collaboration with Moonshot Academy.

Learn more about ELP’s previous work with Moonshot in 2018 in their Partner Profile.

Josette chats with ELP colleague, Courtney Katen, about her experience in Beijing.


A Reflection from Abby

Josette and Abby with Chuck, a teacher from the 2018 training who is still at Moonshot.


The first and only other time I have been to Beijing was in 2018.  Things were different then – ELP was still celebrating the incredible win of joining forces with our brilliant team members from SCALE, the only notions of a world-wide pandemic were still relegated to blockbuster movies or our wildest imaginations, and Moonshot Academy had not yet welcomed its first class of students…. In fact, the school did not even have classrooms yet (they were still in initial stages of construction for their first location). It was an easy and exciting thing to say yes to such a novel opportunity to travel around the world to learn, witness, and share with educators in China.  And the days that Ruth and I spent with the founding team at Moonshot were remarkable in so many ways that pushed my thinking about how learners can lead their own learning journey, and revealed my biases and held stereotypes about education in a country that is not mine.  By the end of that trip, teachers had learned about Performance Assessment and Deeper Learning, and I left holding on to really lovely connections with many of the teachers, and excitement about the possibility of this visionary school and the humans who were building it.

Fast forward to last month when I got the call from ELP that we were headed back to Moonshot five years later, and there was a chance for me to participate in this trip.  It is fairly well known that teachers often don’t know of their impact on students until many years later if and when a student comes back to articulate how they were changed because of a moment in your class.  This feels doubly true as a consultant.  After a single workshop or even multi-year engagement, I sometimes wonder what happened with a client or system after I left… did I build enough capacity with the team there? Was there a change in leadership that brought in a new vision? Did anything stick? So to walk through the doors of Moonshot Academy in 2023 and see evidence of performance assessment and deep project-based learning on the walls of the hallways and in the planning documents of teachers and in the systems of the school itself was so inspiring!  Students in this innovative school in Beijing are doing portfolio defenses about their learning, and capstone projects that allow them to follow their interests, and are actively working on developing and practicing really important transferable skills such as empathy, self-direction, and social responsibility!

The team at Moonshot is really dedicated to reimagining education for young people in Beijing, and it was really inspiring to learn with and from the faculty and staff.  They are actively building a Deeper Learning community in China, and might host the first Deeper Learning Conference over there soon! It was a joy to be able to co-facilitate with Josette and watch the room respond to her magic and genius.  I am excited to think about where they might go next as a K-12 school, and the learning journey that their students will be able to experience.

– Abby Benedetto


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