Sunday, November 27, 2011

Creating an Environment for Self-Reflection

Wanted to share some thoughts from two formal observations I conducted this week.  Both observations embraced elements of a self-paced learner centric environment.  After conducting these observations I was moved to see a strong connection between the need to nurture self-paced classrooms and thoughts offered by Will Richardson.

In a post What Do We Absolutely Need to Teach?, Mr. Richardson says the following:

So I’m trying to push my own thinking here a bit, and I’d love some feedback. If I believe (and I do) that school should be more about letting my children find and solve their own problems with others, create and share meaningful works about the ideas they care about, and develop the dispositions they need to be powerful, patient and passionate learners, then what are the fundamental bits of knowledge or skills that they need to do that?  But if we are to redefine our value in schools, and if that redefinition moves us away from creating kids who are learned toward, instead, the development of learners, what does each child absolutely have to know and be able to do?

I am curious to hear what others have to think about how we best go about developing learners.


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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writing A Story

Next installment of my not so weekly podcast series.  How would you go about answering the following questions for your school?

  • If you were to compose a story based on the data, whose voices would be privileged?
  • Not heard?
  • Not sounded?
  • What is needed to change the narrative?


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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Taking a Page From Feuerstein

I spent all of last week as part of a district-wide training session.  A selection of K-12 educators convened to investigate Professor Reuven Feuerstein's research into cognitive modifiability.  The week-long session provided insight into Professor Feuerstein's work and introduced the cohort to portions of his Instrumental Enrichment Program.  The training session instigated conversations between educators across the K-12 spectrum.  Exchanges were not limited to specific building or grade level, but instead, gravitated towards examining issues from systematic perspective.  Inspired by the work of Professor Feuerstein, an open forum developed challenging traditional structures associated with public education.

I would like to think that I was active in reflecting on and questioning traditional structures.  To an extent, the training session was an initial step in introducing educators to dynamic assessment and mediation.  The cornerstone of Professor Feuerstein's research is that the human organism as open, adaptive and amenable for change.  Through an effective mediated learning experience, mentors can modify learners, emphasizing autonomous and self-regulated change.  Feuerstein started his work in the 1940s with children who were orphaned or separated from their parents as a result of the Holocaust.  His work continued to include those who were mentally and physically challenged.  The end result has been an intervention program designed to enhance the cognitive skills necessary for independent thinking and to sharpen critical thinking with the concepts, skills, strategies, operations, and attitudes necessary for independent learning.

As mentioned before, Feuerstein's work sparked exchanges about the redesign of schools.  First off, how well do we know our students?  Before assessing, from a content standpoint, what a student knows, it is imperative to develop a profile detailing the strengths and weaknesses of each learner.  Without this information it would be a challenge to assess academic struggles and to effectively mentor students.  Also, a system needs to be in place where information about a student can travel between teachers.  It almost appears that a student starts from scratch as they move between grade levels.  Outside of surface related information that can be accessed through a district-wide data system, there needs to be a portal where teachers can archive notes and observations.

I think another piece to help share information about students in ensuring that work is transparent.  The power of an e-portfolio cannot be minimized. Just consider at the high school having students maintain and contribute content towards a personal public space.  A student could offer reflections, publish finished product and generate feed back from a legion of followers. It would be interesting to examine an e-portfolio from the perspective of observing intellectual growth and what interests a student pursues during their high school tenure.

As much as school is about kids, do we really have a system where we can get to develop detailed and rich profiles of students.  This comment is not offered as a criticism of educators, but rather questioning both the expectations for communication, the manner in which information about a student is exchanged between educators and also, what data is deemed important.