Posts Tagged ‘social learning’
There is a huge disconnect between how people learn naturally and how students are taught in public education. Mark Twain once quipped, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
In school, students are expected to . . .
- Sit in uncomfortable desks and chairs, and expected to pay attention for long periods of time.
- Learn out of textbooks specifically designed for the institution of education – books that almost no one buys in real life.
- Be quiet, interacting with peers occurs only periodically and only with permission from the teacher.
- Learn and understand isolated content and topics often without a real world context and in a very linear manner.
- Learn with same aged peers.
- Not connect and learn with others outside of the classroom population.
The unintended consequences of these artificial and unnatural ways of learning include believing that learning is or should be difficult, painful, disciplined, and not fun. This, too often, results in learners believing that they cannot or do not want to learn new things especially in those areas where and when learning was painful. (How Do We Learn? How Should We Learn?)
In real life, learners learn through . . .
- Setting up environmental conditions for themselves – often in comfortable furniture sitting and laying in positions that work for them; eating and drinking when desired; going to the bathroom when needed and by not asking for permission.
- Moving around and engaging in distractions which can help in processing information.
- Asking others for information, ideas, and help on an as needed basis.
- Getting online to explore personalized inquiry about the content they are learning about.
- Interacting intimately with content related, real life objects.
- Learning in a context where that learning real world applications. Deep and meaningful learning occurs within a context.
- Watching and learning from those more experienced than them. Now with technology, this observation can come in the form of videos, social media, and live communication networks such as Skype and Google Hangouts.
I am continually baffled about the gap between what we know about how people learn and the learning practices used in school settings.
There’s a tension in education right now as educators reluctantly part ways with our old reliable teaching methods—an orderly, silent classroom with students organized alphabetically in rows and a teacher lecturing from behind a desk—and begin to accept novel, research-based approaches to learning, such as student-led inquiry; small group, peer-to peer teaching; and problem-based learning. (Educating an Original Thinker)
It wouldn’t take that much to change classrooms from places of compliance to places of learning. When I taught gifted elementary students, my classroom was set up with a long table with chairs around it, two sofas, coffee tables, rugs, lamps, bookcases with books and games. I did purchase a lot of these items out of pocket but most of them were bought from a local thrift store for minimal costs. The walls were filled with posters and artifacts created by the kids themselves. The kids would come in and put their shoes in a crate at the front door (this evolved due to their desire to do so). As I had each grade for one full day of the week, many would say, “I love coming to this classroom.” Other teachers who found their way to my classroom would note its homey appearance.
I rarely stood in front of the learners to lecture, only to explain the learning tasks or show them how to do something. We would start the day outside with a group challenge-team building activity. I would offer hands-on activities and choice menus throughout the day to study interdisciplinary topics. . . a mix of language arts, science, math, and arts. They could work anywhere in the rooms. Some stayed a the table. Some went to the sofa. Others worked on the rugs. The last hour of class was spent on choice time. I had computers, educational games, construction kits, art supplies. My only rule was that they had to be doing something “educational.” The energy in my classroom was joyful, happy, engaged, and focused. The only thing I would add to my mix, given I had the choice, was having mixed ages to reinforce proximity of learning and scaffolding.
Kids learn social skills best by interacting with other kids, and a wide age range (age four and up) allows older kids to “create ‘scaffolds’ for the younger ones, bringing them up to higher skill levels,” Gray notes. “In turn, the older kids gain a sense of maturity and learn to be nurturing. Explaining things also helps them consolidate and understand the information better.” (Harnessing Children’s Natural Ways of Learning)
I written about school being more like camp. I have a hunch that if these ideas were to become a reality, more kids would love going to school, love learning, and most of all develop attributes, attitudes, and skills for lifelong learning.
We are living in an age of advanced user-driven technologies, information abundance, and networked, participatory learning. It should logically follow, then, that education should take advantage of these amazing developments. As many of us in education know, it has not. This theme has permeated many of my blog posts:
The evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and now to Web 3.0 can be used a metaphor of how education should also be moving, developing, and evolving from Education 1.0 towards that of an Education 3.0. The Internet has become an integral thread of the tapestries of most societies throughout the globe. The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being; and people influence the development and content of the web. The Internet of today has become a huge picture window and portal into human perceptions, thinking, and behavior. Logically, then, we would expect that schools would follow suit in matching what is happening via the Internet to assist children and youth to function, learn, work, and play in a healthy, interactive, and pro-social manner in their societies-at-large. This, sadly, is more often than not the case. Many educators are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning and implementing Education 3.0
The notion of agency as contributing to cognitive processes involved in learning comes primarily from the Piagetian notion of constructivism where knowledge is seen as “constructed” through a process of taking actions in one’s environment and making adjustments to existing knowledge structures based on the outcome of those actions. The implication is that the most transformative learning experiences will be those that are directed by the learner’s own endeavors and curiosities. (Lindgren & McDaniel, 2012)
All of this is fresh in my mind as I just completed four weeks of summer camp teaching maker education and photo-video apps to 5 to 10 year olds. This teaching experience reinforced for me that educators can be tour guides of learning possibilities; showing learners the possibilities, then getting out of the way.
Facilitating the Process
The following section describes some of the conditions in the learning environment that support the educator as being the tour guide of learning possibilities and then handing over the responsibility for learning to the learners. Educators still take on a very active role in the learning environment, but learning is driven by the actions of the learners not those of the educator.
Expectations for Self-Directed Learning
In a learning environment that stresses self-directed learning, the educator conveys the attitude that learners are capable of being masters of their own learning.
In its broadest meaning, ’self-directed learning’ describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identify human and material resources for learning, choosing and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.” (Knowles, 1975, p. 18)
In line with showing learners the possibilities and getting out of the way, the educator needs to take a back seat role in the learning process. Learners may not, often will not, do things the way the educator might, but the educator respects and supports this process in a self-determined learning environment.
Educator as an Observer
If educators want to know how learners learn, then they need to observe them learning under their on terms, with tools and techniques they use naturally. Too often adults assume they know how children and young people learn, and too often they do not especially in this new age of learning. The educator in the role of tour guide of learning possibilities first, observes to discover each learner’s unique way of interacting with the world, and second, based on these observations, suggests or offers resources and strategies to further each learner’s self-directed learning process.
Educator as a Resource
The educator as a resource means that the educator becomes a coach or a mentor. Educators are the adult experts in the room. Learners will often go to the educator for assistance especially when stuck on a problem or to get feedback.
The best coaches encourage young people to work hard, keep going when it would be easier to stop, risk making potentially painful errors, try again when they stumble, and learn to love [their learning] (One to Grow On / Every Teacher a Coach).
The educator as a resource implies that the s/he has multiple skill sets: expertise in the process of learning and expertise in how to navigate online environments along with the ability to mentor learners using these skill sets.
Educator as a Demonstrator of Technologies
A subtitle of this section is It Really Is About the Technology . . . Sort of. In order for learner agency and self-directed learning to occur, educators need to keep abreast of current and emerging technologies. There is an assumption that young people are digitally savvy and know how to use emerging technology.
The widely-held assumption that all young people are digitally literate and able to navigate the internet meaningfully is inaccurate. This is something we urgently need to address if we are to support young people to cope with – and contribute to – a complex, global and digital society (New report challenges the assumption that all young people are digitally savvy).
“If educators are serious about preparing learners for their real lives – current and future, then it becomes an ethical imperative to bring relevant, current, and emerging technologies into the learning environment (It really is about the technology and . . .). This translates into showing learners the possibilities of technology and internet use for learning so the learners can then bring this knowledge into their own learning journeys.
Learning is Viewed as Natural, Fun, Playful, and Joyful
It has been said that learning is painful. I take issue with that phrase. When learning occurs in settings and with processes selected by the learner, it is natural, fun, playful, and joyful. Sure, there are struggles as new learning develops, but it becomes a natural, accepted part of the process.
The highest-level executive thinking, making connections, and “aha” moments of insight and creative innovation are more likely to occur in an atmosphere of what Alfie Kohn calls exuberant discovery, where students of all ages retain that kindergarten enthusiasm of embracing each day with the joy of learning. Joy and enthusiasm are absolutely essential for learning to happen — literally, scientifically, as a matter of fact and research (The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning).
Climate of Free Range and Constructivist Learning
The learning environment in a setting embracing self-directed learning takes on the characteristics of free range learning resulting in learners constructing their own meanings from their learning endeavors.
Free Range Learning is learning by living. It is learning by following our passions, exploring our world, living inquisitive lives and thinking freely. It is a lifestyle based on trust of a child’s natural desire to learn about the world around them. Every person’s learning journey will develop based upon their interests, experiences and choices (What is Free Range Learning?).
Free range learning is often associated with unschooling or homeschooling but it is intimately related to self-directed learning; and its tenets can be brought into in a more formal learning environment. The result is an honoring of contructivist learning “which holds that learners ultimately construct their own knowledge that then resides within them, so that each person’s knowledge is as unique as they are” (Learning Theories and Transfer of Learning).
Open to Emergent Learning and Learning Possibilities
Emergent learning is unpredictable but retrospectively coherent, we cannot determine in advance what will happen, but we can make sense of it after the event. It’s not disordered; the order is just not predictable (Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0).
Ambiguity is accepted. The educator lets go of what types of learning and products should result. By letting go of expectations “what should be”, there is an opening up to all kinds of emergent learning possibilities.
With an openness to emergent learning and learning possibilities, there is an acceptance that learning is messy:
Learning is often a messy business. “Messy” learning is part trial and error, part waiting and waiting for something to happen, part excitement in discovery, part trying things in a very controlled, very step by step fashion, part trying anything you can think of no matter how preposterous it might seem, part excruciating frustration and part the most fun you’ll ever have. Time can seem to stand still – or seem to go by in a flash. It is not unusual at all for messy learning to be …um …messy! But the best part of messy learning is that besides staining your clothes, or the carpet, or the classroom sink in ways that are very difficult to get out … it is also difficult to get out of your memory! (http://learningismessy.com/)
. . . and a trusting of the process and embracing the journey:
I have learned that if you give freedom and trust to students, they will find their own way to the learning that matters the most. Playing it safe is not going to yield the opportunities that will make a difference. Off-script is when you don’t quite know where you are going, but you have the courage to commit to the journey knowing that it is the process itself that will hold the worth (Speculative Design for Emergent Learning: Taking Risks).
Use of Open Technology and Resources
In this age of information and technology abundance, free online technologies and resources are just ripe for the picking. An advantage of open educational resources is “expanded access to learning. Students anywhere in the world can access OERs at any time, and they can access the material repeatedly” (Pros and Cons of Using OERs for Instruction). These resources leverage the playing field. They are available to all learners regardless of geographic location and SES level (although access to the Internet is required). This translates in the availability of high quality tools and resources outside of the more formal educational setting. Learners can access them in informal learning environments such as at home or local coffee shops and/or via their mobile devices in order to continue and extend their self-directed learning.
How the Learners’ Benefit
I often say that all learning activities should have multiple and layered benefits – addressing cross-curricular, cross-interdisciplinary areas as well as developing life skills. Here are some of the benefits along with example learner self-statements associated with those benefits that I have observed as a tour guide of learning possibilities:
- Technology Skills: I can use technology to help me learn.
- Creativity and Inventiveness: I can create new & worthwhile ideas & things.
- Risk-Taking: I am willing to try new things when I am learning.
- Academic Mindset: I am a good and powerful learner.
- Communication: I can communicate clearly both verbally & in writing.
- Curiosity and a Sense of Wonder: I wonder about the world around me.
- Connected Learning: I can network with others to help with my learning.
- Self-Directed Learning: I know how to learn new things on my own.
- Self-Motivation: I can motivate myself to learn new things.
Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.
July 26, 2015 at 12:52 pm
I am a huge proponent of using hands-on, interactive learning activities to explore ill-defined problems as a way of teaching for all age groups. Given the spontaneity and uncertainty of these types of active learning environments, I believe educators should observe, reflect on, and analyze how learners interact with the materials, the content, the educator, and the other learners. This practice is in line with the teacher as ethnographer.
In my role as a teacher as ethnographer, I made some initial observations during my first two weeks of teaching maker education for elementary age students. With half the kids under 7, I learned a bunch about young makers.
- Young makers are more capable than what people typically believe.
- Young makers need to be given more time, resources, strategies to learn how to solve more ambiguous and ill-defined problems (i.e., ones that don’t have THE correct answer). Too many don’t know how to approach such problems.
- If a project doesn’t “work” during the first trial, they way too often say “I can’t do this.” They have a low tolerance for frustration; for not getting the answer quickly.
- Young makers often celebrate loudly and with extreme joy when making something work.
- Young makers like to work together but lack skills or desire to peer tutor one another.
- Young makers usually like to stand while working.
Young makers are more capable than what people (adults) typically believe.
During our maker education summer camp, the young makers made LED projects, circuit crafts, and simple robotics. Looking at the instructions for similar activities, the recommended ages were usually 8 and above. Yet, my group of 14 kids contained half under that age. The kids of all ages struggled a bit – as is common with making type activities but all were successful to some degree with all of the activities.
I believe that children are way too often limited by our (adults’) expectations of what they can and cannot do rather than what they actually can understand and do.
I think we often talk down to children and we think they’re not capable of deeper understanding, and I think that’s false. So we treat them like they’re capable human beings and we use scientific terms and talk to them in a way that they can gain knowledge from those things (Young Learners STEAM Ahead).
If a project doesn’t “work” during the first trial, they way too often say “I can’t do this.” They have a low tolerance for frustration; for not getting the answer quickly.
The nature of maker education is that makers engage in activities that require experimentation, trial and error, and multiple attempts. This is not the norm for kids in mainstream education environments. The curricular activities, worksheets, and tests of our current education system most often include single attempts and then assessments on degree of correctness. Multiple attempts and mastery learning of individual learning activities are not the norm. Life is not filled with getting single correct answers yet we are giving kids an education that there are.
During our maker education weeks, if a project didn’t work on the first attempt, many of the young makers would exclaim, “I can’t do this.”
One young maker, a 3rd grader, was obviously intelligent and easily jumped into the maker activities. For each of the learning activities, he would try it and more often than not, that activity wouldn’t work correctly the first trial. He would then quickly find me and tell me that activity didn’t work. I asked him if he was used to things working the first time and he responded that they did work for him the first time. Instead of helping him solve the problem, I told him to go work it out for himself. He looked at me with a frustrating and somewhat angry look but each time he went back to that activity and would make that activity work.
The maker education activities help learners discover that perseverance pays off but the educator must let the learners struggle giving them the message that effort often produces positive results. This supports a growth mindset.
In the following video, Carol Dweck talks about making challenge the norm when working with our learners.
Young makers need to be given more time, resources, strategies to learn how to solve more ambiguous and ill-defined problems (i.e., ones that don’t have THE correct answer).
Related to the “I can’t do it”, many of the young makers struggled with the strategies needed to solve more ambiguous and ill-defined problems. For example when a circuit or a robotic component didn’t work, they looked to me to resolve the problem for them. Although, I was tempted to go solve it for them, I knew that wasn’t in their best interest. I would say things like, “Give it another try,” ” Try something different,” and “Ask another learner for help.”
Problem-solving is, and should be, a very real part of the curriculum. It presupposes that students can take on some of the responsibility for their own learning and can take personal action to solve problems, resolve conflicts, discuss alternatives, and focus on thinking as a vital element of the curriculum. It provides students with opportunities to use their newly acquired knowledge in meaningful, real-life activities and assists them in working at higher levels of thinking (Problem Solving).
Young makers often celebrate loudly and with extreme joy when making something work.
There is nothing in the world as magically as watching a young person’s face light up when s/he understands a new concept, gets something to work that hadn’t at first, or discovers something new and exciting. It is those light bulb moments. There were lots of exclaims of “I did it” during the maker activities. These exclamations were especially joyful given that they often struggled in making their projects work (as previously discussed). The joy in their voices and in their faces during those moments cannot be matched and maker education provides lots of opportunities for those moments.
Giving students time to figure things out for themselves without being instructed, is very powerful learning. They will remember it for the rest of their lives. Students need that kind of lightbulb learning – that Eureka! moment when they suddenly realize something new for the first time (Lightbulb Moments)
Young makers like to work together but lack skills or desire to naturally tutor one another.
As is characteristic of maker activities, some of the kids completed the activities faster than the other kids. One of my themes during the maker education weeks was that if you understood and finished your project quicker than those around you, that you should help them. They would happily help whenever I asked them to but it never came naturally. I had to continue to ask throughout the weeks. Then, at times, they would help for a minute or two and then stop.
I understand that part of the reason is the developmental nature of younger kids who tend to be more egocentric but I also believe that it is because they aren’t being given the message and opportunities to help fellow students in the more formal classroom.
Giving students the opportunity to practice prosocial behavior is one of the most effective ways to promote it. For example, when having them work in cooperative learning groups—an instructional technique that allows small groups of students to work together on a task—inform students that part of their responsibility as members of the group is to help one another. Scientists have found that students who engage more in cooperative learning are more likely to treat each other with kindness. (Four Ways to Encourage Kindness in Students)
Young makers often stand while working.
Throughout my weeks with the young makers, they always had a chair available to sit to work. Choosing to sit or stand while working was not an option that was overtly stated. Many, though, chose to stand.
The reason this is being mentioned as part of this post is that sitting quietly in one’s chair is the expectation of most schools. Why? It is often not learner’s first choice and sitting at a desk all day may be physically and mentally detrimental. The idea of standing in the classroom was recently addressed in several articles, Should Your Kids’ School Have Standing Desks? and How Standing Desks Can Help Students Focus in the Classroom.
Even though these weeks were considered a maker education summer camp, there was an expectation from the school and parents that the learning activities incorporated the expectations and rigors of a classroom environment. I could easily identify cross-curricular state and common core standards even though I never taught to THE standards. Never during the sessions were the young learners formally testing, asked to be quiet or sit still, or asked to finish quickly so we can move on. Yet, I believe each of the kids would say that they learned lots . . . . and had fun doing so.
Instead, the making learning activities were structured to honor natural ways of learning along with developmentally appropriate practices. Sadly, it appears that some of these natural ways of learning were “conditioned” out of the young learners through more formalized education as I identified in my observations. Incorporating making into a learning environment teaches lifelong learning skills such of perseverance, love of learning, working with others, and embracing challenges.
I used to teach a graduate course in professional ethics for the educator. One of the assignments I did is have these inservice educators develop a list of promises to their students. I asked them to make it poster size so they can post these promises in their classrooms. Here is an example: 10 Amazing Teacher Promises for the Beginning of School.
As I prepared to teach a summer school/camp on maker education (see http://www.makereducation.com/summer-camp-schedule.html), I decided compose a list of promises to my learners as a maker educator.
- I promise to make the making environment positive, joyful and physically and emotionally safe so you feel safe enough to take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, and test things out.
- I promise you to provide you with resources and materials to help you create, make, innovate.
- I promise that I will respect and support your own unique ways of thinking, learning, creating, and interacting with others.
- I promise to work with you to create learning experiences that are personally relevant to you.
- I promise to support and help you understand and navigate the ups and downs, the mistakes and failures, and the trials and errors associated with making.
- I promise to give you time and opportunities to collaborate and share with other makers (of all ages).
- I promise to provide you with positive feedback on things you can control—such as effort, strategies, and behaviors.
- I promise to encourage you to critically think, formulate questions of your own, and come up with your own conclusions.
- I promise you that I will not intervene with your learning process unless you ask me to do so.
- I promise to support you as you embrace the joy in creating, playing, innovating, and making.
A simple truth – kids will tend to do those things for which they are rewarded – both extrinsically and intrinsically . . . and another truth – schools reward individual achievement. Most schools award individual achievements. Kids mostly work on individual school assignments and get individual graded for those assignments. In essence, school is a culture that promotes the rise and success of the individual. Sure, group work and collaboration does occur but when it comes down to assessment and grading, it is most often on the individual level.
Another truth – giving to others, for most of us, is wired into our DNA. What I mean by this is that many of us receive extreme states of joy and satisfaction by giving or even viewing acts of kindness. I’ve tried to figure out the whys of this but have fail to identify the why. In thinking about personal need fulfillment and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I cannot figure out which human needs are being fulfilled. All I can say is that it just feels really, really good. Watch the following videos for some evidence of this:
The following video is what sparked this post. The reactions and joys of the givers are just as priceless as the receiver:
Sadly, some kids (some adults) just never have experienced the act of giving and kindness nor the rewards it brings. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, school environments and often society-at-large do not promote nor reward, in a significant way, acts of kindness. So for some kids, experiencing being part of a conspiracy of kindness may act as visceral, innately rewarding experience and become the impetus of future acts. One of the most powerful statements of the Michigan Middle School Football Team’s Life Changing Play came from one of the middle school kids:
I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.
I propose that educators and administrators introduce the idea of creating conspiracies of kindness initiated and carried out by the students themselves. These wouldn’t be for a school assignment or grade. They would just be promoted as a way to give back to their communities, that doing good for others . . . just feels good. The ultimate goal would be that the students become involved in and develop a culture that promotes conspiracies of kindness just for the innate and intrinsic rewards; and this would carry over into a lifetime of increased giving, of kindness.
Resources and Stories to Help Motivate Students to Create Conspiracies of Kindness:
- Thomas students spread kindness with sticky-notes
- Romona’s Kids: N. Royalton High School student’s random acts of kindness
- High School Football Captain Starts Kindness Campaign on Twitter to Combat Bullying
- High School Kindness
- Kindness Ideas
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thearches/4381959041/s
Due to the interest of my post The Other 21st Skills, I decided to individually discuss each of the skills or dispositions I proposed that are in addition to the seven survival skills as identified by Tony Wagner. This post focuses on hope and optimism.
People who have a sense of optimism tend to see things in a positive light, learn from negative situations, exert more continuous effort and persevere, assuming that the situation can be handled successfully in one way or another. Hope is closely related to optimism and is considered an ability to conceptualize goals, find pathways to these goals despite obstacles and have the motivation to use those pathways. We feel hope if we know what we want, can think of possible ways to get there and start and keep on going. Adapted from – Hope and Optimism – http://positivepsychology.org.uk/pp-theory/optimism/32-optimism-and-hope.html
Some of the characteristics or skills sets of hope and optimism include:
- Positive View About the Future
- Can Do Attitude
- Personal Agency
- Engage in Positive Self Talk
- Belief in Ability to Solve Problems
- Belief in One’s Ability to Impact Positively on One’s Situation.
- Maintaining Perspective
- Sense of Efficacy
The good news from researchers in the field of positive psychology is that an optimistic explanatory style is not just a personality trait; it is a skill which can taught and learned. Hope can also be learned; it is one of the pathways to wellbeing; it is related to our beliefs and goals for the future, it flows from one person to another and has a positive ripple effect on how we see the world and pursue our goals. Both hope and optimism are correlated with learning, achievement, positive relationships, health and satisfaction with life and wellbeing. (Teaching Hope & Optimism: Positive Psychology in Action)
Over the last 20 years, researchers have gained a clearer understanding of the relationships between hope and important aspects of students’ lives. Put simply, research demonstrates that more hopeful students do better in school and life than less hopeful students.
- Hope is positively associated with perceived competence and self-worth (Marques, Pais-Ribeiro, & Lopez, 2009) and negatively associated with symptoms of depression (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997).
- High-hope students typically are more optimistic (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997), develop many life goals, and perceive themselves as being capable of solving problems that may arise (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997).
- Accumulating evidence suggests that hope is related to life satisfaction and wellbeing (e.g., Gilman, Dooley, & Florell, 2006).
- Hope plays a role in student health in areas such as adherence to treatment among asthma children patients (Berg, Rapoff, Snyder, & Belmont, 2007).
- Hope is linked consistently to attendance and credits earned (Gallup, 2009a).
- Hopeful middle school students have better grades in core subjects (Marques, Pais-Ribeiro, & Lopez, 2011) and on achievement tests (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997).
- Hopeful high school students (Gallup, 2009b; Snyder et al., 1991) and beginning college students (Gallagher & Lopez, 2008; Snyder et al., 2002) have higher overall grade point averages.
- Hope predicts academic achievement, and the predictive power of hope remains significant even when controlling for intelligence (e.g., Snyder, Cheavens, & Sympson, 1997), prior grades (e.g., Gallagher & Lopez, 2008; Snyder et al., 1991; Snyder et al., 2002), self-esteem (Snyder et al., 2002), personality (Day, Hanson, Maltby, Proctor, & Wood, 2010), and college entrance examination scores such as high school GPA and ACT/SAT (Gallagher & Lopez, 2008; Snyder et al., 2002).
- Higher hope has been positively related to superior athletic (and academic) performances among student athletes (e.g., Curry, Maniar, Sondag, & Sandstedt, 1999), even after statistically controlling for variance related to their natural athletic abilities.
- Higher hope has been correlated positively with social competence (Barnum, Snyder, Rapoff, Mani, & Thompson, 1998), pleasure in getting to know others, enjoyment in frequent interpersonal interactions (Snyder, Hoza, et al., 1997), and interest in the goal pursuits of others (Snyder, Cheavens, & Sympson, 1997). (Research-Based Practice: Building Hope in Our Children)
Bringing Hope and Optimism into the Schools
Among global education models, it’s common for thinkers to include the idea that effective and powerful teaching and learning about the world should include an orientation toward the future and the development of personal agency (the belief that I can make a difference, either on my own or by working with others). When you put these two ideas together, you move toward the development of both individual and institutional optimism: the belief that we can make a better and more peaceful world (The Power of Optimism)
- Identify and prioritize their top goals, from macro to micro. Start by having students create a “big picture” list of what’s important to them—such as their academics, friends, family, sports, or career—and then have them reflect on which areas are most important to them and how satisfied they are with each.
- Breakdown the goals—especially long-term ones—into steps. Research has suggested that students with low hope frequently think goals have to be accomplished all-at-once, possibly because they haven’t had the parental guidance on how to achieve goals in steps. Teaching them how to see their goals as a series of steps will also give students reasons to celebrate their successes along the way—a great way to keep motivation high!
- Teach students that there’s more than one way to reach a goal. Studies show that one of the greatest challenges for students with low hope is their inability to move past obstacles. They often lack key problem-solving skills, causing them to abandon the quest for their goals.
- Tell stories of success. Scientists have found that hopeful students draw on memories of other successes when they face an obstacle; however, students with low hope often don’t have these kinds of memories. That’s why it’s vital for teachers to read books or share stories of other people—especially kids—who have overcome adversity to reach their goals.
- Keep it light and positive. It’s important to teach students to enjoy the process of attaining their goals, even to laugh at themselves when they face obstacles and make mistakes. Above all, no self-pity! Research has found that students who use positive self-talk, rather than beating themselves up for mistakes, are more likely to reach their goals.
Additional Ideas have been proposed in Research-Based Practice: Building Hope in Our Children: Research has demonstrated that hope can be cultivated to strengthen agency and pathways thinking that support goal achievement. Educational professionals are in a strategic position to make a difference in students’ hope and students’ lives. Help students develop pathways thinking. Strategies for helping students develop pathways thinking include the following.
- Support “keep-going thinking.” If one pathway does not work, try other routes.
- Help students learn not to attribute a blockage to a perceived lack of talent. Instead, help the student to search productively for another route that may work.
- Help students to recognize if they need a new skill and encourage them to learn it.
- Remind them that they can always ask for help.
- Help students enhance their agency thinking.
Keep in mind that goals that are built on internal, personal standards are more energizing than those based on external standards (e.g., imposed by peers, parents, or teachers).
- Help students to set “stretch” goals based on their previous performances.
- Help students to monitor their self-talk (e.g., via a notebook or audio tape recorder) and encourage them and talk in positive voices (e.g., I can do this; I will keep at it).
- Engage children in exciting activities that involve teamwork.
- Tell students stories and provide them books that portray how other students have succeeded or overcome adversity.
Last year, I developed a course for the Educational Technology Masters Program at Boise State University entitled the Social Networked Learner. Most of the students in this graduate course are classroom teachers. This course explored collaborative and emergent pedagogies, tools, and theory related to the use of social networks in learning environments. Participants gain hands-on experience with a variety social networking tools, create their own personal learning networks, and have an opportunity to develop a MOOC-inspired course for their learners. I described it in detail in Educators as Social Networked Learners.
This post describes some of their reactions and reflections of the course. As their final project, the students were asked to reflect on their course learning considering questions such as:
- Which types of social networks did you find most useful in your learning process? What were some of the strongest relationships you built and how were they built?
What was the most valuable aspect of the course? What made it valuable?
- How have your own teaching practices or thoughts about teaching been impacted by what you have learned or accomplished in this course?
How have your grown professionally?
(Sidebar: I have always built class and course reflections into my courses. During my face-to-face classes, students are asked to reflect on each class session. For both my face-to-face and online course, students are requested to write a final reflection on what they learned and how they plan to use the course materials. Not only does it provide a method for deeper integration of course concepts by the students, it provides me, as the instructor, with valuable, deep feedback. It is also in line with my belief that all educators can be action researchers).
The themes that emerged were:
- The students generally appreciated and found valuable using Facebook for Groups as our class page.
- Some students valued using Twitter for professional development.
- Tweet Chats and Backchanneling during webinars proved distracting, difficult for some students.
- Several students are making plans to incorporate social networking into their own classrooms.
The students generally appreciated and found valuable using Facebook our class page.
Facebook provided a way for me to build relationships and share with my peers in a quick and easy way. I liked being able to engage in Facebook for personal reasons and quickly check my professional connections at the same time. This enabled me to multitask which I appreciated. The more I replied or commented on posts, the greater impact in learning and building relationships occurred Hannah
I found Facebook to be the most useful as far as posting assignments and being able to make comments on my PLN’s projects, assignments, etc. Also, being able to tag assignments with classmate’s names was a nice feature with Facebook, Casey
The most useful social network in my learning process was Facebook because it was so easy to use. I like the opportunity to give and receive feedback through comments. Most of all it provided one place to link to other student work and discuss our projects on a personal platform. Ilene
Facebook was one of the main platforms that we worked with in this class and it was also the site that I found most useful. We were able to collaborate through Facebook chat easily and it is an efficient tool for posting projects and getting feedback. Annie
I actually really enjoy the class Facebook page. I felt like posting my assignment to this page and receive feedback was an excellent way for me to learn from my peers. I also really liked that I could see every classmate’s posts and read and understand their interpretation on an assignment on an easy to read platform. Jenni
Some students valued the use Twitter for professional development.
I had a strong dislike of Twitter before I took this class, and learning how to utilize Twitter for educational purposes really helped me to see the benefit behind Twitter and all in has to offer. I especially liked the Twitter chats, which I had no idea even existed. I will absolutely be using Twitter chats in the future. I have already gained some valuable resources from others through the Twitter chats and hope to continue this. Jenni
Twitter was the tool that I had not used very much prior to taking this course. It has always been very much a side dish in my social media meal. However, that tool has now become a main course for me. I find myself learning more from that tool than the others. I have grown professionally by becoming a consumer and contributor to Twitter. I think that I am building my professional brand by tweeting things that other users find valuable. Dennis
Well, I’d say that my thoughts were reinvigorated. I always knew Twitter was an amazing PD tool, but now I am re-reminded of that. I also knew that collaborative teaching is the best teaching, and now I am reminded of how to best collaborate across the globe. Cate
Using social media tools for professional development was a new and positive experience for me. I think it is amazing and motivating to find passionate educators engaged in discussion on a weekly basis in Twitter chats and live webinars. The accessibility of these tools and discussions makes them very useful and practical for professional development. I plan to continue my involvement in the chats and hopefully locate more live webinars that are applicable to my teaching setting and interests. In addition, I hope to share these tools with my fellow peers and introduce them the opportunities that are available for growth and knowledge sharing. Hanna
Tweet Chats and Backchanneling during webinars proved distracting, difficult for some students.
I was disappointed with the live twitter chats. Even though I took a typing class in high school, I still felt like I couldn’t keep up. It was hard to juggle answering questions, tweeting back to individuals and groups, and engaging in side conversations. Casey
The Tweetchats I found had no benefit for me. They were poorly managed and usually were of groups of people who already had established a relationship so they talked off subject and independent of the topic. Ilene
Several are making plans to incorporate social networking into their school environments.
I really want to use Twitter and Wikis in my classroom. This is a large impact on my teaching practices because I felt like there was absolutely no place for Twitter in the classroom before I took this class. However, I foresee myself using the Twitter chats and having students posts links to their work. Jenni
Before this class, I had a lot of concerns about using social networks in the elementary classroom. I was worried about all of the possible negative reactions and consequences. In fact, I was so nervous about using them that I did not even open my mind to it. I chose to take this class so that I could get some of these questions I had answered. From my experience in this class, I realized that there are many other options that I could use with my students that I could have complete control of. Annie
I plan on implementing the use of twitter chats in the school for teachers and students. There is so much real-time information available and I feel it is an excellent resource. Dana
I’m hoping to encourage my administration to allow teachers to complete PD via social media as long as we can each document that we did something valuable. I found the twitter live chats to be a valuable place to find resources. Scott
I fear I am going to be unpopular pushing the use of social media in my district, but, after taking this class, I see that it must start with those few of us that see the benefit and push for change. Ilene
I think Hannah provided the most significant comment I read:
I am continually being affirmed of the importance of the teacher to play the role of facilitator in education. Students need to be given more freedom to explore their interests and passions – – I see social media tools providing one way for students to do this.
As a closing piece, here are some of the graphs from the Likert Scale that introduced the survey. It provides some good overall information, but I find the qualitative, as shared above, to be much more beneficial in exploring the key learning of students in the course.