5 Steps to Overhaul Teaching

Once again, Columbia University professor, Christopher Emdin, puts forth a rapid fire and common sense proposal for rethinking urban — and really ANY — education to ensure it is student focused, relevant, and purposefully engaging.

The basis of this video: Reality pedagogy which is, “Teaching based on the reality of the student’s experience.”

5 C’s of Reality Pedagogy:

  1. The Cypher (or Co-genitive Dialogue)
  2. Co-Teaching
  3. Cosmopolitanism
  4. Context
  5. Content

(Notice that content is last. Students need to know that they come first if there is to be any meaningful delivery of content.)

This post is a part of our series based on our Transformative Learning Model. This piece relates to Student Investment, Context for Learning, Culture, Personalization, and Academic Access.

A Year at Mission Hill, Chapter 2: Beginning the Year

Chapter 2 of A Year at Mission Hill takes us to the start of the year, or as many educators see it, the laying of the foundation. While educators recognize the importance of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, many see the first days of school as tone setters. In this, the educators at Mission Hill work to build community amongst themselves as learners before the students ever arrive.

By the time the students populate the walls and rooms, teachers are ready to engage the whole child and to work, first and foremost, toward the well-being of each and every student. They talk about providing opportunities for students’ voice to be an authentic and vital piece of the learning experience. They aim for transparency with the kids as an intentional pathway toward helping the students construct understanding.

Take a look at the second chapter below and see how they invest in students early to capture and employ student ownership.

Image: ScreenShot on StartEmpathy’s page from Sam Chaltain’s Prezi

Breeding Civilty With Civility

2680397236_29306068f8_bA recent “Grey Matter” piece in the New York Times Sunday Review entitled “This Story Stinks” takes a look at the impact comments have on people’s perception of content (in this case, nanotechnology). The goal of the study being reported on was to better understand how civil and  uncivil comments on blogs, digital newspapers, or other Internet hosted domains shape readers’ reactions and opinions.

They split up their study subjects into two samples, both of which read the same article on nanotechnology and then different sets of comments to the piece. The authors, Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele write,

Half of our sample was exposed to civil reader comments and the other half to rude ones — though the actual content, length and intensity of the comments, which varied from being supportive of the new technology to being wary of the risks, were consistent across both groups. The only difference was that the rude ones contained epithets or curse words, as in: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” and “You’re stupid if you’re not thinking of the risks for the fish and other plants and animals in water tainted with silver.”

The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.

In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.

While the focus of this particular study was on Internet user comments, and on a very specific subject topic, it would not be hard to see how these micro trends might play out in schools and classrooms.

Do student comments influence how other students perceive an activity, information, or learning experience?

Can civil or incivil discussions supplement or distort students’ perceptions of knowledge, opinions, and even themselves?

Do words directed at others shape self concept, both negatively and positively?

To these questions, I would resoundingly answer, “YES!”

The language of schools and learning communities very much shape the culture, attitudes and norms of any particular institution or group. If our goal is the cultivation of life-long learners who are capable of collaboration, creativity, and effective communication toward solving problems, civility must not only be embraced by schools as a worthwhile theory, but actively taught, modeled and practiced.

As this study suggests, incivility breeds polarization. And as we have seen all too often in Washington D.C., polarization breeds paralysis. Before “achievement,” we must consider the intellectual, social, and emotional well-being of each and every student and stop at nothing to ensure students feel safe to listen, share, and learn.

Photo Credit: eric Hews via Compfight cc

“To This Day” Project (Amazing Video)

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 8.59.15 AMShane Koyczan — spoken word poet, writer, and performer — was the first Canadian to win the National Poetry Slam in 2000. That success portended the recent virality of “To This Day,” an emotional and passionate exploration of bullying, victimhood, and the ongoing struggle to heal wounds so as to not be defined by them.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.02.46 AMOne of the many beautiful things about the “To This Day Project” is that it is animated by a collection of artists who created 20-second segments to accompany the poem. The result is a mosaic of visually moving interpretations of Shane’s narration. Collectively, the artistic collaboration of poet and animators create an art form that is powerful, instructive, and deeply moving. And inspiring.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.10.11 AMAs a metaphor for education, it speaks to both the need to cultivate authentic opportunities for students to leverage their strengths and share their unique voices as well as the urgency of ensuring that each and every student is — and feels — safe and valued in our learning communities.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.03.47 AMWatch below. It will move and transform you.

Want to know more?

On the To This Day Project website they write,

To This Day Project is a project based on a spoken word poem written by Shane Koyczan called “To This Day”, to further explore the profound and lasting impact that bullying can have on an individual.

Schools and families are in desperate need of proper tools to confront this problem. We can give them a starting point… A message that will have a far reaching and long lasting effect in confronting bullying.

Animators and motion artists brought their unique styles to 20 second segments that will thread into one fluid voice.

This collaborative volunteer effort will demonstrate what a community of caring individuals are capable of when they come together.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.00.42 AM

Images: ScreenShots from the “To This Day” Video

 

Walking the (Learning) Walk, with Podcasts

12_21_12_WalkingClassroomMosaic-1The following guest post is by Laura Fenn, former teacher and current Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Walking Classroom

I miss fifth grade.  Standing on desks, writing on the underside of desks, running around desks—it was fun.  I did these things while teaching fifth grade because sitting behind the desk all day was a real drag, for me and for my students.

It’s no secret that you get back what you give.  Students are likely to respond to new information with the same level of enthusiasm with which it was given to them.  Tell the students about Michaelangelo’s process for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and they have one more fact added to their brain (hopefully).  Tape a sheet of paper to the underside of their desks and have them lay on the floor and draw a simple self-portrait, well, the depth of understanding might change a little bit.

Active learning can and should be just that—active.  But try as I might, it wasn’t always possible to differentiate the learning experience of my students and infuse some sort of activity into my lessons on the Pony Express or Manifest Destiny.  Truth be told, as the years went on, my students were getting less and less activity during the school day.  PE was cut to two days a week, recess was limited to the days when the students didn’t have PE, and many students were regularly held back from recess so they could receive additional remedial instruction—all in the hope of improved standardized test scores.

During my 10 years as an elementary school teacher, I witnessed an increase in the weight of the students at school and a decrease in the time allocated to physical activity.  Knowing how much I enjoyed going for a walk while listening to podcasts after school and on weekends, I thought that maybe my students might enjoy doing the same.  I scoured the Internet for educational podcasts that were *somewhat* related to our curriculum, and I loaded up a class set of mp3 players. My students would get some fresh air and exercise, but I could also convince my principal that we weren’t sacrificing any instructional time.

Away we went–walking, listening and learning.  My students went nuts for the walking program—they thought they were getting out of something, but in fact, they got so much more:  they returned to class in better moods, more focused, and more productive. The best surprise was how effective walking while learning was for my non-traditional learners.  I had several ADHD boys who struggled in class simply because they poured every ounce of energy they had into trying to stay out of trouble.  While we walked, they could jiggle and wiggle as much as their bodies needed to, so their minds were freed up to absorb the content they were listening to.   I also had autistic students and dyslexic students who, for the first time in their academic career, regularly started participating in class discussions after our walks.  Kinesthetic learning was a preferred style of learning for these children that they didn’t know about.

We can tell our students all about different learning styles until we’re blue in the face, but until a child experiences a style of learning in which s/he succeeds, the words are empty.  To witness a child enjoy feeling smart is like no other joy that a teacher can experience.  I decided to really develop the walking and learning program that I started, and today I am the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Walking Classroom Institute, an educational nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and education of America’s students.  I was worried that my experience might not translate to others that implemented the program, but we hear day after day from teachers around the country that have started walking, listening and learning with their students, and the message is the same:  they love it.

It’s nice to know that you can incorporate active learning into a lesson on the Pony Express without actually jumping on a horse.

Image: Jenn McNulty

Variability Matters

We design for variability we can see. But what about the variability we can’t?

By default, we tend to design learning environments for efficiency and the average student, but in doing so do we limit the potential inherent in the unseen variability of students’ brains? Are we, by default, failing to capitalize on one our nation’s most underutilized assets: diversity? Todd Rose thinks so.

Here is a short 10-minute lecture by Dr. Rose, whose biography at Harvard’s Mind, Brain and Education website reads:

Todd Rose is a research scientist with CAST and a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he teaches Educational Neuroscience. His work is organized around six themes: human variability; course design and pedagogy in higher education; adaptive learning analytics; interdisciplinary thinking; the synergistic relationship between neuroscience, technology, and design in education; and the application of dynamic systems models to the study of behavior, learning, and development.

He makes a strong case for re-thinking how we go about designing learning environments that “genuinely support the full range of the learners in our classrooms.” He argues for cultivating an ecosystem of “learning opportunities” through “understanding variability and understanding how to design for it” as a method for leveraging the diversity of our student body, and making schools/cyberlearning more relevant, meaningful, and valuable in the process. We could not agree more.

It is a concept whose time has come.

_

Want to know more about variability and designing for it in the classroom? Check out these resources:

Feel free to share other resources in the comments below.

This post is part of our Transformational Learning series and relates to Culture, Curriculum Goals, Academic Access, and Personalization.  

Photo Credit: ThreeHeadedMonkey via Compfight cc

A Year at Mission Hill Chapter 1

missionhillBelow is the first chapter of a remarkable video series: A Year at Mission Hill. The premise, as described on the project’s site, is simple:

Ten videos. One year. A public school trying to help children learn and grow. The national conversation we need to be having.

What goes into creating a powerful learning environment for children and adults? Meet the teachers, families and children of Mission Hill as they experience the highs and lows of a year of self-discovery, exploration, and frustration. And join us for a national conversation about the state of public education as it is – and as it ought to be.

Every couple of weeks until mid June, a new chapter will be released. The chapters are accompanied by additional resources and invite you to become a part of the story at Faces of Learning. It is our hope that through this sustained, in-depth look at what works in schools, we can have a sustained in-depth discussion, as a nation and as a people, about what we want for our schools, and more importantly, for our students.

Image: Year at Mission Hill and Education Revolution

 

The Power of Belief – Mindset and Success

Here is a great talk by Eduardo Briceno, described on the TEDxManhattanBeach website as “The CEO of Mindset Works, an organization he co-founded with Carol Dweck, Ph.D., Lisa Blackwell, Ph.D., and others to equip people with the core beliefs and learning strategies needed for success.”

Below is his talk from that event, which is both inspiring and informative. Transforming students’ experience begins with transforming educator frame of mind. (You can see a graphic explaining difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset here.)

_

Thanks for Crista Anderson and Angela Stockman for pointing this out to us.

This is a part of our Transformational Learning series and is related to Feedback, Assessment, Student Support, and Reporting. 

Social Emotional Learning Core Competencies

149415890_e4ab9acd38_b

Seeing the forest despite the trees.

Our nation’s educational focus continues to zero in on “achievement” as defined by test scores in specific academic areas and the resulting gaps therein. This hyper focus exacerbates our nearly systematic blind eye related to learning for living and cultivating life long learners. As a result, policies that increase the stakes of standardized assessments necessitate schools increase the amount of time spent on basic skills — reading and math, primarily — to the exclusion of a broad range of other skills, experiences, and competencies. In effect, we see a couple of trees, but miss the forest, or big picture ecology, of learning.

However, research suggests there are programs that have the dual benefits of both raising achievement and increasing student well being. It is in this realm where we learn to think about education in terms of the forest, despite our hyper focus on the trees.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is such an example. CASEL (Collaborative For Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) is the leading organization working to build demand and capacity for SEL. Their work ranges from network building to conducting research to policy advocacy. Below is a graphic (source here) illustrating what they define as the core competencies for SEL.

Core_Competencies_3_White_Back

Additionally, they published a meta-analysis of research titled, “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning” (download it here). The meta-analysis concluded:

The reviews indicate that SEL programs:

  • Are effective in both school and after-school settings and for students with and without behavioral and emotional problems.
  • Are effective for racially and ethnically diverse students from urban, rural, and suburban settings across the K-12 grade range.
  • Improve students’ social-emotional skills, attitudes about self and others, connection to school, and positive social behavior; and reduce conduct problems and emotional distress.
  • Improve students’ achievement test scores by 11 percentile points.

It all demonstrates that we must think more holistically about students, learning, and the ecology of education. Simply working to improve math and reading test achievement falls far short of ensuring that our students are healthy, safe, engaged, challenged, and supported in the ways that matter most to their long term personal “achievement.”

Special thanks to Jackie Gerstein, whose post “Video Games and Social Emotional Learning” first pointed us to this chart.

This is a part of an ongoing series exploring components of our Transformational Learning Model. This piece relates to Academic Access, Curriculum Frame, Curriculum Goals, and Student Support.

Photo Credit: Today is a good day via Compfight cc

10 Steps to Equity in Education

DiversityThe Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which works to “promote the policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world,” published a Policy Briefing titled, “Ten Steps to Equity in Education.” The briefing (which you can read in its entirety here) lays out some of the basic policies necessary for achieving equity in education, as well as some fundamental elements of equity.

For example, the briefing explains two dimensions essential to equity in education:

  1. Fairness — defined as making sure that personal and social circumstances – for example gender, socio-economic status or ethnic origin – should not be an obstacle to achieving educational potential

  2. Inclusion — defined as ensuring a basic minimum standard of education for all – for example that everyone should be able to read, write and do simple arithmetic.

OECD SES Related Math Disparities OECD Struggle in ReadingThe briefing goes on to provide two charts (on the left, click to view larger versions) outlining the state of equity as reflected in achievement in math and reading. The statistics are truly sobering. For example, in the US, a student from a low SES (socio economic status) background is nearly 4 times as likely to have low math achievement as a student from a high SES background. The eye opener is that such disparity is not consistent around the globe. For example, in Iceland, a student from a low SES background is “only” twice as like to have lower math achievement than a peer with a high SES background.

So why the difference?

Proponents for pursuing equity in education suggest such disparity is a matter of policy and practice aimed at achieving fairness and inclusion. (Perhaps the yawning gap between policies that achieve fairness and inclusiveness in practice and those that don’t is the “achievement gap” we should actually be talking about.)

Below are OECD’s “10 Steps to Equity in Education” that provide something of a roadmap for achieving equity. As you read the below list, you’ll notice recommendations that are in direct conflict with current ed policy practices and some that are altogether absent from our current edu-discourse. These 10 steps may provide a big picture litmus test for looking at policies being proposed, passed and implemented at both state and federal levels.

10 Steps to Equity in Education

Design

1. Limit early tracking and streaming and postpone academic selection.

2. Manage school choice so as to contain the risks to equity.

3. In upper secondary education, provide attractive alternatives, remove dead ends and prevent dropout.

4. Offer second chances to gain from education.

Practices

5. Identify and provide systematic help to those who fall behind at school and reduce year repetition.

6. Strengthen the links between school and home to help disadvantaged parents help their children to learn.

7. Respond to diversity and provide for the successful inclusion of migrants and minorities within mainstream education.

Resourcing

8. Provide strong education for all, giving priority to early childhood provision and basic schooling.

9. Direct resources to the students with the greatest needs.

10. Set concrete targets for more equity, particularly related to low school attainment and dropouts.

Image: monosodium via Morgue File
Graphs from OECD’s Policy Briefing — “10 Steps to Equity in Education” 

 

Close
loading...