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.