“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”
~John Dewey, 1915
Fascination lies in the fact that the greatest challenge of practice we face in education today was so eloquently stated 100 years ago. In this progressive age of “21st Century Education”, I find myself deeply reflecting on the the future of schooling, the nature of educational leadership and the evolving culture of learning in our current education system. All are evolving, but at a rate that does not necessarily reflect the pace of societal change. We seem trapped in a tunnel and the fear of not knowing what is in the light at the end of that tunnel deters the transformation of a system and stunts the growth of the learners within it. Facing an ever increasing pace of societal change, it is imperative that we focus and refine our efforts to construct meaningful, relevant and engaging modern learning experiences for all students. Environments that are optimized, individualized and reflect the shift from a passive process to a participatory experience are critical to ensuring learners are prepared to participate and contribute to a newly emerging future. Dewey’s insight provides a compass to guide the pedagogical choices we make ensuring they are grounded in the needs of the learners before us and they are not overshadowed by our past experiences or comfort with what we did yesterday.
Globalization and the ubiquitous access to information has changed the landscape of the learning experience and the walls of the “traditional” classroom are falling. More than ever before, students are guiding their own learning, defining their own curriculum and accessing knowledge on demand. Unaware of constructed boundaries, children don’t know where to stop learning and what they are not capable of. They can learn amazing things anytime, anywhere and from anyone. It is an experiential process that is individualized to respect and reflect the learner. It should not be a competitive journey in which the individual feels discouraged from trying for fear of being wrong. The environment must support a person’s innate desire to learn and provide them with opportunities to learn what, when and how they want to. The fundamental goal of education must be to teach learners how to learn. It is so much more than just the regurgitation of the information that has been deemed relevant and important. We must teach students to connect the dots, not just collect the dots, so they can succeed and adapt to changing needs in a dynamic and demanding world.
How, when, where and who we learn from is beginning a metamorphosis. The needs, scope and scale of the so called “21st Century Classroom” must evolve to reflect a new global and digital reality that is challenging to define due to the rapid pace of its own evolution. Information communication technologies are redefining, accelerating and deepening the learning experience connecting everything to everyone, everywhere. Everyone has become the teacher of everyone else and the role of the “traditional” teacher is being redefined. To ignore the collaborative potential of the collective marginalizes the goals of education and the development of true life-long learners.
Strong educators that collaboratively engage in and model the learning process are the keys to unlocking the greatness in kids. Strong teachers recognize that learning reaches far beyond the curriculum, recognize the unique context and experience of each child and cultivate a sense of wonder in students that is fuelled by their own passion. Strong teachers are not defined by the tools they use but instead by the relationships they build, the imaginations they ignite and the community they bring together.
The most effective leaders in education, those with the vision to innovate and the capacity to empower, are they themselves the most active and engaged learners. Educational leadership is not about finding the single best way to do things; leadership demands having a vision to enable all learners to maximize their unique potential and find their opportunity to lead. An effective leader engages in the process of growth to facilitate and support the growth of those they influence. Overcoming the notion that the only leaders in education are those that sit highest in the hierarchy of the system is critical to the successful transformation of the paradigm of education. As teachers and lead learners, we must all develop, explore and engage in effective pedagogies to collaborate, communicate, create and curate the ideas, experiences and insights of all our leaders past, present and future. Strong educators lead this evolutionary change to build a system that can support an undefined future that is demanding a redefined paradigm.
The potency of modern education can not be realized if we remain solely anchored in repeating the successes of the past. Soren Kierkegaard reminds us that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” We must be fully cognizant of and responsive to the evolving culture of learning in our education system. We must embrace the challenge to apply design thinking principles to truly re-imagine the educational experience. It is imperative for this and future generations that we accelerate the growth of the current pockets of experimentation into a culture of innovation. It is not enough to merely focus on doing old things in new ways, we must innovate and envision doing new things in ways that we never imagined!
I am never one to sit still too long. It seems that to keep myself energized and engaged as a learner/leader, I need to shake things up and look for new opportunities and challenges. That being said, I have changed roles this year from that of being a regional edtech coach in our District of 10,000 teachers to one of being an instructional coach for new teachers. I know it will challenge me to continue my own learning and give me the opportunity to contribute to shifting the culture of learning and teaching in our Board.
In applying for the position, I had to reflect on a quote that speaks to my beliefs about teaching and learning, explain why I chose this quote and how it is reflected in my current practice. In my effort to start “learning out loud” more often I thought I would share my thoughts here and see what comes about.
“Strong teachers don’t teach content; Google has content. Strong teaching connects learning in ways that inspire kids to learn more and strive for greatness.” Eric Jensen in Education Week Teacher
In this progressive age of “21st Century Education”, I find myself deeply reflecting on the the future of schooling, the nature of leadership and the evolving culture of learning in our current education system. All are evolving, but at a pace that does not necessarily reflect the pace of societal change. We seem trapped in a tunnel and the fear of not knowing what is in the light at the end of that tunnel deters the transformation of a system and stunts the growth of the learners within it. This quote reinforces my core belief that regardless of the paradigm of education or the current pedagogical emphasis, the learning experience is brought to life by teachers. Teachers nurture the inspirational environments that open the doors and let the learner loose to explore and experience their own ascent to greatness.
Classroom leadership is not about finding the single best way to do things; leadership demands having a vision as to how enable all learners to maximize their unique potential and find their opportunity to lead. An effective leader must be a true learner her/himself that engages in the process of growth to facilitate and support the growth of those they influence. Breaking down the notion that the only leaders in education are those that sit highest in the hierarchy of the system is critical to the successful transformation of the paradigm of education. As teachers and lead learners, we must develop and explore and engage in effective pedagogies to collaborate, communicate, create and curate the ideas, experiences and insights of all our leaders past, present and future. Strong teachers lead this evolutionary change to build a system that can support an undefined future that is demanding a redefined paradigm.
Learning is innate. Unaware of constructed boundaries, children don’t know where to stop and what they are not capable of. They will learn anywhere and everywhere. They can learn amazing things anywhere, anytime and from anyone. How do we build a learning environment that allows students to learn what, when and how they want to? How do we also ensure that their developmental needs are supported and relevant, contextual intellectual stimulation are reflected. Learning is an experiential process that is individualized and must respect and reflect the learner. Learning and creativity should not be a threatening experience. It should not be a competitive journey in which the individual is discouraged from trying for fear of being wrong. The fundamental goal of education must be to teach learners how to learn. It is so much more than just the regurgitation of the information that is deemed relevant and important. We must teach students to connect the dots, not just collect the dots, so they can succeed and adapt to changing needs in a dynamic and demanding world.
How, when, where and who we learn from is beginning a metamorphosis. The needs, scope and scale of the so called “21st Century Classroom” must evolve to reflect a new global reality that is challenging to define due to the rapid pace of its own evolution. Information communication technologies are redefining the learning experience connecting everything to everyone, everywhere. Everyone has become the teacher of everyone else and the role of the “traditional” teacher has been redefined. To ignore the collaborative potential of the collective marginalizes the goals of education and the development of true life-long learners.
Strong teachers that collaboratively engage in and model the learning process are the keys to unlocking the greatness in kids. Strong teachers recognize that learning reaches far beyond the curriculum, recognize the unique context and experience of each child and cultivate a sense of wonder in students that is fuelled by their own passion. Strong teachers are not defined by the tools they use but instead by the relationships they build, the imaginations they ignite and community they bring together.
Jim Jamieson, OCT
Three Working Models to Integrate Technology in Your Teaching ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
May 6, 2014
Technology is obviously an essential element in our instructional toolkit. Knowing how and when and for what purposes to use this technology is much more important than the technology itself. Technology integration in instruction requires much more than just digital literacy and technical knowledge, it requires foresight, clear intentions, and well planned goals. The purpose is to meet students learning needs and as such technology is only a means to an end and not the end itself.
An important step in the process of effective integration of technology in education is having a pedagogical approach supported by a theoretical framework to ground your technology practices inside the classroom. Of course there are several frameworks to help you teach using technology but three approaches in particular stand out from the rest. These are SAMR model, TPACK model, and Marslow model.
1- SAMR model
SAMR is a framework through which you can assess and evaluate the technology you use in your classroom. This framework is made up of 4 levels:
In a substitution level, teachers or students are only using new technology tools to replace old ones, for instance, using Google Docs to replace Microsoft Word. the task ( writing) is the same but the tools are different.
Though it is a different level, but we are still in the substitution mentality but this time with added functionalities. Again using the example of Google docs, instead of only writing a document and having to manually save it and share it with others, Google Docs provides extra services like auto saving, auto syncing, and auto sharing in the cloud.
This is the level where technology is being used more effectively not to do the same task using different tools but to redesign new parts of the task and transform students learning. An example of this is using the commenting service in Google Docs, for instance, to collaborate and share feedback on a given task task.
If you are to place this level in Blooms revised taxonomy pyramid, it would probably correspond to synthesis and evaluation as being the highest order thinking skills. Redefinition means that students use technology to create imperceptibly new tasks. An example of redefinition is when students connect to a classroom across the world where they would each write a narrative of the same historical event using the chat and comment section to discuss the differences, and they use the voice comments to discuss the differences they noticed and then embed this in the class website.
by Terry Heick
Innovation is not something that just happens.
Or, rather it does given the right chemistry.
Oftentimes this chemistry is referred to locally in schools as “climate,” but climate is only a small part of the formula. Where innovation comes from is an increasingly popular topic recently as new projects are increasingly visible, and due to digital reach, impactful across fields and industries. Right now, let’s stick to innovation in public education.
In K-12 education, there is a lot that can slow down innovation, and below are 12 guesses at some of those suspects.
Note, this doesn’t necessarily make any of the following “bad” anymore than a needle point, hot stove, or venomous snake should be thought of as “bad.” They just are what they are. It very well could be that innovation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and we can thank our lucky stars that we have these 12 natural decelerators of change.
12 Barriers To Innovation In Education
12. Busy Parents
Busy parents—an unfortunate reality in homes from single-parent to dual-income and everything in between—rarely can begin to have enough time to support the innovative learning that does manage to occur.
Most parents are accustomed to one way of being educated—the way things were when they were in school. New learning forms confuses busy parents, making it difficult for them to support it, and worse, a harder sell with “fringe” students for whom current formal learning models barely work to begin with. If mom and dad don’t buy in, the children might refuse to as well. This can be corrected a variety of ways, but if the parents and teachers are too busy to consistently talk, it’s difficult for such a correction to take place.
The site-based decision making councils that mange most schools have their heart in the right place, as do local school councils. They are made up of teacher and parent reps who vote on school “policies,” curriculum adoption, hiring of new teachers, and so on. Important stuff.
But the meetings can be poorly attended. There is (necessarily) limited representation of all stakeholders, and due to the time and energy necessary to serve, the most innovative educators are too busy innovating to serve on such councils. Or think they are anyway. The point is simple—if parts of the school or district are pulling one way, and other parts pulling another, innovation can be slow or non-existent. Small meetings in the evenings of a handful of tangent “players” in a school is not an ideal circumstance for innovation.
10. Teacher Turnover
This one’s simple. Few things hurt learning/learning management more than teacher turnover. While replacing teachers that aren’t likely to innovate with those that are sounds good in theory, innovation isn’t the only thing. Innovation itself requires conditions to get off the ground—clout, trust, organization, communication, and so on. Constantly replacing teachers is a recipe for not only wasted resources, but stagnant thinking conditioned by systems, tradition, policies, and protocol.
9. Drive-by Professional Development
Experts in education are a boon to innovation. Thought leadership, expertise in niche areas, and general rallying of the troops through conferences, social media, and blogging is great.
When one of these experts/thinkers/doers gets an administrators ear, their ideas are usually “brought in” somehow–books, programs, DVDs, etc. In fact, they may even be invited to share their thinking with staff in person by sitting in on PLCs, addressing staff meetings, and observing classrooms. They may even come in several times throughout the year—and hades has no panic like the day before said expert returns to the school and staff are expected to bring back “artifacts” from implementing said great idea in the classroom.
The issue here is that innovation is usually not their gift to staff, but rather tips and strategies. The best of these tips and strategies are undoubtedly helpful and necessary, and offer opportunities for the kind of incremental improvement that shows up on test scores and Annual Yearly Progress.
But this top-down “improvement” doesn’t create the conditions necessary for bottom-up innovation. If that expert was to instead use a kind of cognitive apprenticeship or coaching model to help guide educators through a thinking process that yielded the innovations that have made them successful, we’d have both innovation and, more critically, improved teacher capacity.
8. School and Community Climate
Many K-12 schools give lip-service to the concept of innovation in mission statements, on websites, in PDs, and during committee, council, and board meetings, but lose their nerve when it’s time to make it happen. Supporting something seen as secondary (innovation) in the face of pressure, far-reaching programs, external standards ranging from Common Core to Literacy, Technology, and Career Readiness becomes a matter of priority–and job security.
While education begs for innovation, arguments against it often turn to tempting, straw man attacks.
The Tempting Position: In the company of innovation, how can we be sure standards are being taught and children are learning?
Different forms of learning require unique data and monitoring infrastructure that could be missing.
The Tempting Position:How can we be sure what’s happening in each school and classroom?
Homogenizing instruction across classrooms, schools, districts and now even states offers up a uniform look provides an illusory comfort. And dampens innovation everywhere it seeks to spring up.
The Tempting Position: How can we encourage teachers to share, collaborate, and work together if “everyone’s off doing their own thing”?
This is the ultimate straw man, comparing innovation to a kind of chaos that gives policymakers ulcers.
So, out of fear of breaking the system through disruption, compliance with “research-based” strategies and “district expectation” and policy is valued above all else. Here, innovation is rare—usually the result of a bright, charismatic teacher or hard-working administrator that realizes that somehow, no matter the cost, something has to change.
Policy is a natural consequence of attempting to manage something unmanageable. The stuff of governments, large businesses, and organizations that can’t personalize decision-making with the attention that it deserves—the careful thinking needed to solve important problems. So policies are adopted to police departments, curriculum, conferences, professional development, etc.–all to help ensure that “everyone is on the same page.”
The immediate reaction might be, “Yeah, ‘carefully thinking’ about 800 pre-adolescents a day is impossible” to which a rational person might respond, “Exactly the point.”
Policies—at least how they are used today–are necessary only as a result of a system that’s either too large or too industrialized for the personalization that it’d ideally benefit from. This might be fine levying taxes, manufacturing cars, or enforcing laws, but when nurturing the minds of children—and the adults charged with their “intellectual care”—it fails miserably. And worse, we tend to react by “improving the policy” or creating new ones instead of re-considering limits, scale, and even notions of collaboration. We form policies to police the policies.
And innovation? Policies hate innovation, because they’re not built for that kind of fast-moving thinking, and put teachers at odds with other educators and personnel who dutifully follow said policies, making these kinds of educators seem like “non-team players.”
Meetings are undoubtedly necessary on some level, but with so many digital tools and social media platforms available, a huge percentage of the information exchanged at meetings could be distributed elsewhere—and in ways that could be curated for broader sharing, input, and reference later as well. The problem is that meetings are often required at a district level—so many hours per week or school year, the pleasing image of collaborative teachers sitting together in libraries or conference rooms making education better one meeting at a time.
The reality is that teachers collaborate, seek need-to-know information, and “get on the same page” in lieu of these meetings, not because of them. Innovation does not happen in the minds of passive teachers discussing the logistics of bus duty or computer lab access during testing. If digital and social media platforms could be used to reduce their duration and frequency, educators could have more time to relax their minds, read about education leisurely, and as a consequence, innovate.
5. Overly-Rigid Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
Though not a staple of universities, in the modern K-12 public school in the United States, PLCs are a trending instrument of school improvement.
In concept, a PLC is an embarrassingly obvious response to the workload of planning and differentiating high-level learning for so many unique minds. It simply asks teachers to agree on standards, share instructional strategies, and gather again to disaggregate the data. This kind of professional collaboration is par for the course across industries, and makes sense for education as well. The problem is that many PLCs unwittingly meld together teaching and instructional design styles across classrooms and teachers until they’re indistinguishable.
Teaching is an incredibly personal act—creating a climate where learning happens doesn’t come as the magic result of an industrialized formula, but the carefully planned interaction between teacher, learner, and content. In many schools and districts, this is what PLCs help realize. But in many others, where educators are uncertain of shifting roles, bring massively different technology or planning forms to the table, and may struggle to internalize the process that may include up 10-15 steps across several weeks, and you have a formula that, at best, may be failing to foster innovation.
4. District Programs
District programs make sense on a district level. If you’re in charge of a system of schools, and you discover a program or platform that you believe would support learners and teacher in those schools, as a leader of that district, you have to make that happen.
The challenge comes in application. These programs are necessarily comprehensive (or they’re not really programs). Whether they are for reading, testing, career readiness, or some other likely noble initiative, they can be far reaching in their integration. Learner rosters, teacher schedules, access to school resources, professional development required, “district expectations,” hardware and software technology, curriculum mapping and instructional sequencing, and other areas can all be impacted by well-intended programs.
At the district level it might be easy to say “Good! If everything’s impacted, that means it’s working!” Trouble is, there’s already more to do as an educator than there is time for. What makes a great teacher can often be not what they “put in,” but what they leave out—and how to hide that from those “holding them accountable.” Adding more programs that are tangled with everything else a teacher touches only guarantees that other things are going to fall by the wayside, including many of the same kinds of (often expensive) programs from the year before.
And worse, by their very nature these kinds of programs rarely support innovation at the classroom level.
3. Traditional Report Cards
Blaming report cards for a lack of innovation may like a bit much, but the traditional report card as we come to know it reduces the complex and messy process of learning and learning mastery. Which is not as good a deal as it sounds, as the end up as misleading letter grades that don’t give parents nearly enough information for them to begin to help, leading to questions such as “What’s going on in math?”, rather than “Where exactly in graphing coordinate planes are you getting stuck?”
Standards-based reporting would be a step in the right direction. A leap? Learning that is community-based, where families are embedded from the beginning, and accountability is shared across stakeholders far beyond the walls of a school, where a piece of paper every 9 weeks wouldn’t be required to communicate learning progress.
What this has to do with innovation is significant: the fundamental relationship between learner, family, and content is tied up in the iconic “report card.” Innovating learning requires that performance and local application be innovated as well. It will be difficult to design incredible 21st century learning environments, and then report “A/B/C” in “Math/Science/English.”
It all misses the point (something gamification can help with, incidentally).
2. Scripted Curricula
In the face of mounting pressure and countless initiatives that at times seems to pull teachers in different directions, some districts respond the best way they know how: buying a curriculum that’s scripted. This provides the pleasing image of all educators on the “same page,” and would seem to make tracking learning results simpler across classes. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way—and worse, it stifles innovation and ultimately reduces teacher capacity.
Curriculum has to be responsive and flexible. Curriculum maps that aren’t living, breathing documents can confound efforts to align learning experiences. Scripted curricula, such as SpringBoard by SAT’s College Board, are a placebo for schools and districts wishing to consistently offer high-level, progressive, and personalized learning experiences that result from well thought-out innovation.
1. Overworked Teachers
While an occupied mind signals engagement, one bursting at the seams with learning targets, meetings, fluency probes, IEPs, ECE, ESL, ELL, 504s, G/T, PDPs, RTI, ORQs, MAP, ACT, Explore, Common Core, scripted curricula, Stiggins/Wiggins/DuFour/Marzano, AYP, pre-assessment, differentiation based on assessment results, summative assessment, authenticity, PBL, CBL, and PBE does not. And this is not simply a matter of shorter days, fewer students, or longer summers, but rather a schedule and climate within formal learning environments like schools that support educators in developing truly lasting innovations where the rubber meets the road—the classroom.
Top-down change–programs from the district and state level, for example–can certainly support educators, but lasting innovation and change must come from a collaboration between learners, educators, and communities. In an era of “accountability,” teachers are tasked with “proving” everything. Nothing is trusted, and on the surface this makes sense: all professions have accountability standards to one degree or another. But the sheer quantity of “accountability tasks” your average K-12 teacher has to perform at best doesn’t guarantee the learning success they are intended to, and at worst, smother any opportunity for innovation at the classroom level.
No matter the school climate, PLC/Data Team format, or elements of instructional design, if the teacher is drowning in paperwork, meetings, and accountability tasks, true innovation–and subsequent consistent performance–will always be a challenge.
12 Silent Saboteurs Of Innovation In Education; this post was revised and republished from an earlier TeachThought article in August of 2012; image attribution flickr user vancouverfilmschool
Great Teachers Focus on Connections & Relationships – Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo – Education Week Teacher
This week’s question is:
Based on your research and what you’ve seen and experienced in the classroom, what are the five best practices teachers can do to help their students become better learners?
Though the question asks for five best practices, I’ve also given readers the option to share just one or two suggestions.
In addition to publishing three posts responding to the question, you can listen to a nine-minute BAM! Radio podcast where I interview two educators, Diana Laufenberg and Jeff Charbonneau, whose written responses appeared in Part One.
In addition to contributions by Diana and Jeff in Part One, Ted Appel and special guest John Hattie shared their thoughts.
Today, Eric Jensen, Jason Flom, and PJ Caposey respond to the question.
Response From Eric Jensen
Eric Jensen is the author several books, including Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain: Helping Underperforming Students Become Lifelong Learners (Jossey-Bass) and Engaging Students With Poverty In Mind: Practical Strategies For Raising Achievement (ASCD):
Boosting Student Learning
© Eric Jensen 2013
Three core attitudes are necessary. First, build the hope in their lives and teach the skills of optimism. Hope can come from many sources. They include having a teacher who is an advocate for their success not an adversary. Ask for their dreams and support them. “I love that you want to be a sports trainer. Let’s make a plan so you’ll know what to do next each year.”
Second, start building mindset for success. Teach students that when things aren’t working to change your effort, strategy or attitude. These are more important than just so-called “talent.” Affirm what you want most. Say, “I love how you cnaged strategies and ended up with reaching your goal.” Or, you might say, “Your positive attitude carried you through. It’s one of your best qualities; keep using it!”
Finally, build the attitude of personal responsibility. If something’s not working, don’t point fingers, change it. If you made a mistake, say so and fix it. If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize and move on. If you were late, don’t make excuses. Apologize and ask for how you can make up lost time.
Another core practice is to build their cognitive capacity. Most teachers notice HOW their kids are doing. So, they tell them what to do, based on their apparent “capacity.” But the best teachers are building capacity all the time. The biggest areas for leverage and getting quick academic results are in these five areas: working memory, study skills, self-regulation, auditory processing and analysis. Each of these are teachable. Many teachers assume that kids either have these or they don’t. That’s false; these are built consistently in the classrooms of high-performing classrooms. Few kids are taught basic study skills and these give kids a huge leg up on school success. Make a plan and start small. Keep adding cognitive skills over time and never, ever quit.
Third, foster grit and perseverance. Teach them what “grit” is and point it out in class when it’s used. Long-term effort is worth a lot! In the classroom, point out each time a student pushed through obstacles and worked extra hard to complete a task. “I love how you stuck with that until you completed it. Now that’s the grit I was talking about. That, my friend, will take you far in life!”
Build social skills. Teach kids basic “meet and greet” strategies as well as how to put yourself in another’s shoes. Teach basic politeness and teach kids behaviors that adults expect of them. Great social skills will go a long way in this world. These can be build in as short as ten seconds. Every single time you have social encounters, throw in the behaviors you want. “Before you head back to your seat, thank your partner.”
Finally, connect the learning to their lives. Strong teachers don’t teach content; Google has content. Strong teaching connects learning in ways that inspire kids to learn more and strive for greatness. For example, while kids are studying, learning or answering questions, “I love that contribution! That’s what will help you understand this better and help you reach your goal. Keep it up!”
Response From Jason Flom
Jason Flom is the Learning and Communications director at Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee, FL. He is an ASCD Emerging Leader, class of 2010, and the founding editor of Ecology of Education, a multi-author blog exploring issues and ideas in education. He is also a BAM Commentator. Give him a follow on Twitter at @JasonFlom:
1. Employ Metacognition
Copious research studies demonstrate time and again that helping students to understand themselves as learners increases motivation and achievement. Two resources to get you started:
- Teaching Metacognition presentation slides by Marsha C. Lovett of the Carnegie Mellon Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence
- Learner Sketch Tool by Q.E.D. Foundation provides students a look at themselves as learners while also providing them practical strategies for leveraging their strengths. (Bonus: teachers can see their entire class’s learning sketch!)
2. Instill a Growth Mindset
When students understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset they are able to better understand that they can grow as learners. This empowerment can help encourage them to take additional risks. The work by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck really fleshes this concept out.
3. Design for Authentic Engagement
Model-Eliciting Activities or MEAs provide a context for students to explore a data set or challenge with the goal of helping them develop the strategies / skills within the process of the problem.
You can learn more about MEAs at Pedagogy in Action’s Examples page for helping students “invent and test models” for solving problems. And at Purdue’s School of Engineering’s “Small Group Mathematical Problem Solving” page.
4. Provide Relevant Content
Novelty is the catalyst for growth. But lasting learning necessitates the learner connect with the novel content. A middle school or high school student hardly connects with Christopher Columbus and his sailing of the ocean blue in 1492. However, put the student adaptation of Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” in their hands and you’ll find them storming out of the classroom saying things like, “Columbus was a jerk.” Or, my favorite, “Wow. What a pig.”
When students emotionally connect to the content they are more likely to think and talk about it (read as, “analyze and process it”) long after they have left your classroom walls.
5. Leverage Student Voice
Students who find their voice is valued and empowered are more likely to take risks and exercise that voice. Doing so requires educators find connection points for students to authentically express themselves within activities.
One such example combining science and hip-hop is Science Genius, a pilot program that employs music as a catalyst and vehicle for connecting learners with scientific content. The design is fairly simple. As part of demonstrating their understanding and competency, students explain scientific concepts by writing and dropping rhymes over beats. See the winning example from this year’s competition here.
Response From PJ Caposey
PJ Caposey is Assistant Superintendent/High School Principal for Meridian CUSD 223 in Illinois. PJ has won many awards, become a sought after speaker on many topics, and has written two books in the past two years, including Teach Smart: 11 Learner-Centered Strategies That Ensure Student Success (which focuses on the instructional strategies he discusses in his response):
Communicate For Your Audience: The difference in communicating for your audience and communicating to your audience may seem slight, but it is what separates good teachers from great teachers. Great teachers work to reach their students, not simply convey the appropriate information in an understandable manner.
Question For Kids: Asking questions is something every teacher does. Asking questions that make kids think, causes true conversation, and may lead in a variety of directions is something that is far less common in classrooms. A good tip for teachers is to script questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy – and make sure to ask questions that cause kids to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information every single day. And yes – this is possible at every grade level.
Give the Work Back: The most successful teachers don’t ‘teach’ much in the traditional sense. When you think stand and deliver – I think average educator. When you think of a teacher that engages students so that they are active creating and solving their own problems – I think great educator. Simply put, most teachers ‘work’ too much in the classroom while great teachers find ways to give work back to the students.
Connection, Not Compliance: Great teachers focus not on compliance, but on connections and relationships. Focusing on connections and relationships is not mutually exclusive from a teacher running a tight ship, but great teachers have the goal of serving and connecting with students first – not creating a compliant culture. In fact, great teachers often use instances of misbehavior as a way to strengthen and further relationships whereas average teachers use their instances to refer students to administration. Classrooms that are defined by compliance are generally not fun places to be – and can actually be stressful and stressful environments generally produce low levels of learning.
Seek Feedback: Great teachers always want to improve. One of the best ways to improve is to continually seek feedback. The best teachers do this in three ways. First, be informed by the information provided to you in the day-to-day work of a classroom. Assessment must be continuous and ongoing – and for assessment to be meaningful – it must change teacher behavior. Second, welcome feedback. Invite colleagues and administration into your classroom. Reflection is powerful, but everyone has blind spots and a new set of eyes always helps. Lastly – ask for feedback directly through student and parent surveys.
Thanks to Eric, Jason and PJ for their contributions!
Please feel free to leave a comment your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post. I’ll be publishing comments from readers in a few days.
Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind. You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.
Anyone whose question is selected for weekly column can choose one free book from a number of education publishers. I’ll be highlighting one particular publisher every two months, and it’sRoutledge’s turn now.
Just a reminder — you can subscribe to blog for free via RSS Reader or email…. And,if you missed any of the highlights from the first two years of blog, you can see a categorized list of them here. You won’t see posts from school year in those compilations, but you can review those new ones by clicking in the monthly archives link on blog’s sidebar.
You can also see annual lists of my most popular posts.
Education Week has published a collection of posts from blog — along with new material — in an ebook form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.
Last, but not least, I’ve recently begun recording a weekly eight-minute BAM! Radio podcast with educators who provide guest responses to questions. You can listen and/or download them here.
I’ll be posting Part Three in a couple of days….