My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Some ponderings from Maine

The philosophy of “It is not enough to get yourself to the top of the mountain, we must strive to get everyone in the crew there” should be a tenet central to any education institution. Communities of practice should be established for teachers, to have the opportunity to
1. Use time to meet the needs of student learning.
2. Plan specific activities for specific groups of students, This is not the same as setting
3. Utilize subject expertise in different subject areas.
4. Have a shared understanding of the individual students strengths, weaknesses and next steps.
5. Own the learning taking place, exerting some choice over the how and the what is learned.
The schools role is to establish the operational conditions to allow this.

Communities of practices should be established for students to have the opportunity to
1. Support one another.
2. Build aspiration.
3. Learning from each other.
4. Develop a sense of identity, community, and be part of something.
5. Share a direction or purpose.
6. Develop student literacy by placing the word rich and the word poor together.

These communities should be both academic and character building.
The teachers role is to establish the operational conditions to allow this to happen.

There should be opportunities to develop and maintain each community as well as develop the character and the skills of the individuals within. Time spent working on the community pays dividends in the long run, as this can normalise academic success, provides a supportive network of people all working towards the same goal.

To share goals effectively the use of rubrics and standards should be aligned with every activity and every task. Students must have multiple opportunities to be able to demonstrate learning. Assessment should be focussed on the most important aspects of a subject whether this is
1. A concept that will lead to further learning.
2. A concept that we know to be difficult.
3. A concept that is inherently interesting.
4. Separate Academic and Character Assessment, while be able to be used to show how Character affects the academic.

(A concept could be a fact, an understanding, or a subject/discipline  specific skill)

Students should be in the habit of collecting work as evidence of current understanding, so that they know where they are in concrete and manageable ways. Supporting materials and time should be available linked to all learning targets, in order that students can decide what they need to do next in a scaffolded and logical way. This should help develop independence in the individuals before any school remedial work is required.
Making key statements of learning intentions public will change the dialogue between teachers,parents and students to a much more concrete one. Traditional examinations could also provide long term assessment of learning (over performance) and also help develop individual exam technique. Progress within topics could be shown using  simple pre and post tests. This data could be used by students and teachers to reflect and determine next steps

To prevent this approach from reducing the curriculum to the assessed points. Learning should be presented connected to bigger questions or problems. This should sometimes be within subjects and sometimes go beyond it. Long term goals and short term goals should be used to show how knowledge and ideas fit together. Time spent placing knowledge into context also  helps with this and furthermore it may provide motivation, in the form of a reason, to learn.

The content of the curriculum should serve future public examinations, the development of  an understanding of how our world works and allow students to work out who they are and what they would like to do with their future selves, and ways of getting there.

The curriculum should sometimes aim to be broad and sometimes be allowed to go deeper into key topics. The deeper parts of the curriculum could allow students to make public their work and understanding to a wider and more expert audience.  This should happen at least twice in an academic year. This should be a celebration of student learning and success. This culminating event should demonstrate for all the competence achieved in all content areas, in the skills developed, the process of completing such important work and the implications that this work has beyond the classroom. These should be timed between year groups so that other students get to see the work of others,and consistently share the ethos of the institution.

A biannual opportunity to reflect on both positives and negatives should also be undertaken, and be focused on next steps and based upon the evidence at hand. The evidence and the process should help make the student well to teachers and what the students need to do for students and their families.

Teachers need to have professional development that ensures that the conversations we have with students and with peers are positive, solution focused and develops student independence and thinking. Teachers need to work in ways that allows us to become role models of learning and being a community member for our students. Teams of teachers should design and develop lessons, projects and activities that allow the students to develop successful work habits and perform handsomely academically. By getting better at sharing the how and the why  we increase the likelihood that students will follow  us on these journeys.