Posts Tagged ‘teaching’
As a preface to this post, my belief is that deep learning does not occur through sit and get. Deep learning occurs through experiential, authentic, interactive, collaborative instructional processes. If deep learning is desired for teacher professional development, then it should reflect best practices for teaching and learning.
Professional learning must focus on creating safe and productive spaces for teachers to begin planning and experimenting with the concepts that have been shared. Too often, facilitation centers on giving strategies to teachers rather than coaching them on how to deliver the strategies to students. As a result, teachers leave the session with a toolbox of ideas that are never implemented. Instead, more professional learning time should be spent helping teachers plan, develop materials, and practice delivering the strategies with colleague support. (http://inservice.ascd.org/personalized-professional-development-moving-from-sit-and-get-to-stand-and-deliver/)
When I design teacher PD-related workshops, I am guided by the following principles:
- Teachers need time to tinker, play, and experiment with instructional materials and resources especially with new forms of teaching/learning technologies.
- For skills development, such as using new technologies, scaffolding and increasing complexity should be a strong component of the PD process.
- Teachers need to be offered lots of instructional suggestions and resources so they can tailor their PD learning to their own teaching environments.
- Intentional and active reflection and goal setting should be included to increase the chances of transfer of learning.
Tinkering With Instructional Materials
Teachers and librarians, like their students, need hands-on experience with tools and with playing to learn as that helps them build creative confidence. (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/crafting-professional-development-maker-educators-colleen-graves)
Teachers, during PD, should be provided with time, resources, and materials with which to play. It sets the expectation that they will be active agents of their own learning. It gives them the message it is okay to play and experiment with the materials; that tinkering is often needed as a part of learning new skills.
Scaffolding and Introducing Complexity
As teachers, we have come to learn over the years that we should never expect our students to fully understand a new idea without some form of structured support framework, or scaffolding as the current buzzword defines it. The same, of course, should be the case in supporting learning for our fellow teachers. (http://mgleeson.edublogs.org/2012/03/10/when-it-comes-to-technology-teachers-need-as-much-scaffolding-as-students/)
Once teachers get familiar with instructional materials and resources through tinkering, they should be guided through a series of skills that are increasingly complex; that honor the process of scaffolding. As with tinkering, this should be a hands-on process where teachers can try out these skills with facilitator and colleague support and guidance. As confidence is built through success with basic skills and strategies, more complex skills and strategies will be more welcomed by teachers.
Lots of Instructional Strategies and Resources
Even with fairly homogeneous groups of teachers, their teaching and learning needs can be vastly different. They often teach different groups of students, different grades, different content areas. They often have different backgrounds, years of experience, and personal and professional interests. As such, they should be provided with lots of instructional strategies and resources to help them make direct connections to their own teaching environments. Given the plethora and free resources that can be found online, curated aggregates of resources can be provided to the teachers. Time should be allotted during the PD training for them to examine and discuss these resources with their colleagues.
Transfer of Learning Through Reflection and Goal Setting
Reflection is essential for learning. In order to “make meaning” of an experience, the learner must have an opportunity to reflect on or process the experience. To help ensure that program participants transfer learning and training experiences into real-world applications, we must be intentional about both engaging the learners and creating opportunity for meaningful reflection. (https://www.e-volunteerism.com/volume-xvi-issue-1-october-january-2016/training-designs/enhance_learning)
Facilitators of teacher professional development need to be more intentional to include specific strategies to help insure that learning is transferred in teachers’ educational environments. Reflection and goal setting, two powerful transfer of learning strategies, should be built into teacher professional development.
A Recent Example
Because of on my request, my district gifted education supervisor purchased 3 sets/3 dozen Spheros. As a follow-up, he asked me to facilitate a teacher professional development workshop on their use.
The schedule for this afternoon workshop was:
- Short Introductory video about Sphero in schools: Gain Attention and Provide a Context
- Orienting and Simple Driving the Sphero: Tinkering
- Using the Draw Program: Tinkering
- Video Tutorial and Practice of Simple Block Programming: Increasing Complexity
- Build a Project-Chariot or Tug Boat: Increasing Complexity and Instructional Resources
- Review Curricula for Use in the Classroom: Instructional Resources and Transfer of Learning
- Final Reflections – Sharing about one’s own processes and possible applications in one’s own classroom: Transfer of Learning Through Reflection and Goal Setting
- Email Exchange – for sharing how the use of Spheros are being implemented in the classroom: Transfer of Learning
The slide presentation used and shared with this group of teachers:
Workshop photos showing teacher engagement:
I had the opportunity the learn about Dr. Reuven Feuerstein through Dr. Yvette Jackson at a National Urban Alliance conference almost 20 years ago. The biggest thing I took from the conference, that remains with me today, is that student potential assumes there is a limit, cap, or ceiling as to what can be learned. If students are perceived as having a propensity for learning, there is no cap. The apropos cliche becomes the sky is the limit.
Feuerstein is known for his groundbreaking work in cognitive modifiability; rejecting the idea that intelligence is fixed, he established the principle that all children can learn how to learn. (http://brainworldmagazine.com/dr-reuven-feuerstein-on-why-intelligence-is-modifiable/#sthash.xJYtEpxo.dpuf)
Dr. Feuerstein’s beliefs can be summed up in the following quotes:
Human beings have the unique characteristic of being able to modify themselves no matter how they start out. Even in born barriers and traumas can be overcome with belief and the right mediation.
What if, instead of measuring a child’s acquired knowledge and intellectual skills, the ability to learn was evaluated first? And what if intelligence was not a fixed attributed, measurable once and for all? What if intelligence can be taught and was in fact the ability to learn?” (http://www.paperbackswap.com/Reuven-Feuerstein/author/)
Most school settings focus on students’ deficiencies. If educators take the perspective that their students have a propensity for learning, then their focus becomes identifying and working with their strengths and prior knowledge. It is through accessing prior knowledge and student strengths that deficiencies can be addressed.
I often mention that one of the roles of the educator is that of an ethnographer. Loosely defined, . . .
An ethnographer is a person who gathers and records data about human culture and societies. An ethnographer often needs to be able to find patterns in and understand issues faced by a wide sample of people with diverse backgrounds. The information ethnographers collect can be used not only for providing a better understanding of societies, but also for improving quality of life. (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-an-ethnographer-do.htm)
As teachers know, every class they teach is different, every student in each of these classes is different and unique. Good teaching entails seeing (really seeing) every student in the classroom, getting to know each of them as the individuals they really are and deserve to be. (Disclaimer: I know this is difficult, if not impossible, for educator who work with hundreds of students at any given time.)
The teacher as an ethnography gets to know individual students as individuals, being able to assess what the student needs when. Teaching as a human-humane process translates to knowing when to push, when to pull back, when to ignore, when to encourage, when to praise, when to critique, when to challenge, when to nurture, when to cheer, when to show love.
Monica took a teaching methods with me where the class project was to develop a curriculum unit. I believe and practice mastery learning. This means students can make revisions and resubmissions when their work does not meet project expectations and criteria. She worked on the changes I suggested. Upon a second review, it was still B work, but I knew how hard she worked. I basically said to myself, “She worked quite hard, to the best of her ability,” so I granted her an A for this winter intersession course. It was the beginning of Winter term. I was walking past the dorms. Monica came out into the second floor balcony with a paper, her grades, in hand. She exuberantly yelled to me, “Jackie, I got an A in class. It is the first A I have gotten in college.” The look of joy on her face was priceless.
Don’t get me wrong. It is not about giving students A’s to raise their self-esteem. Sometimes the human-humane process is to push a student to his or her limits.
Andrew, a 25 year-old, was a Teach for America student in the Master’s of Education program where I was teaching. He received a Bachelor’s degree from an Ivy league school, and came to New Mexico for the programs. For the curriculum class I was teaching, students were asked to create artifacts for their classroom – no paper nor tests. Andrew handed in his first project. It was sloppy and lacked a professional presentation. He received the equivalent to a C. He came up to me after class to talk about his grade. I provided additional feedback the problems with his work. He began to cry explaining that he always earned A’s for his work but also emphasized that his education, thus far, consisted of taking tests and writing papers. To this I responded that I understood, but that I would continue to push him to improve the quality of his projects. His work got better and at the end of the course he told me that as difficult as it was, he appreciated how I challenged him.
Being fair with students is not about providing all students with equal treatment at all times. This actually leads to unfair treatment of students as they are individuals and are not like widgets – equal in all respects. It also acknowledges and honors that individual students differ from day to day, sometimes minute to minute as they continue to learn, grasp concepts, change moods, change relationships, and to grow. This translates into continually assessing individual learner needs and offering them what you think they need to grow and learn at any given moment.
The result are those light bulb moments, when a learner “gets it” – understands something that s/he has struggled to understand, when his or her self-efficacy rises, when a learner realizes s/he is smarter than previously believed – it is these moments that are the most meaningful for me as an educator.