Educational Research and Re-Envisioning Schools

I recently received Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time by Jane Pollock (My ASCD Book of the month). Last year at this time I received Classroom Instruction that Works as my Spring ASCD book. Both of these books have helped me become a better teacher by giving me data to support research based instructional practices. This new book goes even farther, by providing a framework for designing curriculum called, “The Teaching Schema for Master Learners.”

Pollock argues that a good curriculum is defined by having clear expectations (Goals), setting up good instructional models, assessing work, and providing feedback. I see this work as a management style for adults, or a classroom environment for students. I see this pattern: goals, instruction (conversation), assessment, feedback, in Management books such as Good to Great or Now Here are My Strenghts. It’s amazingly flexible and seems to be a process that is running through many different realms of my life.

So why am I writing? Because this data conflicts with a survey on David Warlick’s blog where he asks, “Thinking of those great teachers that you had who truly influenced who you are today. What percentage of what those teachers did do you think might be effectively measured by scientific research, and what percent do you think is not measurable?” and out of 169 respondents he has received the following results:

100% measurable – 0% not measurable:(4%)
75% measurable – 25% not measurable:(12%)
50% measurable – 50% not measurable:(27%)
25% measurable – 75% not measurable:(45%)
0% measurable – 100% not measurable:(13%)

I answered 75% measurable and 25% not measurable. I find survey results like the one above concerning, because 58% of the respondents say that less than 25% teaching skills of great teachers can be measured by scientific research. I just find this hard to believe when reading books like Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time and Classroom Instruction that Works. I believe that there is a type of person that will be a good teacher, but I also believe that these natural teachers can get much better when using current research.

I believe it when Warlick asys that we need to re-define literacy, and learn to use the immense resources on the Internet as part of our schooling. I believe it when Richardson says that we need to Re-Envision Schools due to the new Flat World.

But there are clear processes and techniques that are research based that seem to me to benefit learners in our classrooms. I believe that the best teachers will be looking to use these procedures of curriculum design as found in Improving Student Learning One Teacher to create wonderful learning environments for their students. The declarative knowledge (content) can varied from the most progressive to the most traditional.

I believe that goal of School 2.0 can be the same as President John Adams, “There are two types of education. One should teach us how to make a living, And the other how to live.” I believe we can get there in many different ways. I believe that you can use Pollock’s system to define varied schools.

So what do you think?

How does this apply to learning communities such that don’t have clear leadership such as open source projects?

What do you think, Will, David, Nancy, Fred, Laurie, Arvind and June?

So Much To Write About… 21st Century School Leaderhip

Boy has it been an intense few weeks. I have so much to write about and will soon. In the mean time, I have a thought.

Last week I had a conversation with a colleague about his head of school. My colleague said the following in reference to technology, education and our changing landscape, “Yeah, my head is young and great, but he doesn’t even get it.”

So Saturday morning, I got up and thought, what about a leadership academy for school heads, principles, and any other school leader that would help them see this new world, these new literacies, and the new frontier that we must adjust our educational system to work with, instead of against.

I Googled for sites that would cover 21st Century School Leadership issues and found some, but most of the links went back to Chris Lehmann at Science Leadership Academy.

Warlick, Richardson, Lehmann and others write about School 2.0, but to get there, I believe we need to have leaders who “get it.” So how do we get our leaders to “get it?” We train them, right? (I know it’s not quite that simple, but…)

Maybe this is the type of project that will help fund. What do you think, Dave? Or some national organization or international organization.

What do you think? Do you know of any leadership academy that does this type of work?

1:1 — Time to start the discussion again…

During the past few months, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about Information and Media Literacy — I believe that this is one of the most concrete reasons to implement a laptop or 1 to 1 program in a school. To be responsible citizens in the 21st Century, students need to be ethical, life-long learners. To do so, they need to be information and media literate. The need to be fluent in digital and print.

David Warlick was visiting a laptop school and hit the nail on the head in this post :

Bottom line? 1:1 does not provide all the answers. In fact, it provokes lots of new questions, which is the approach of the school’s chief administrator, Stuart McCathie. He believes in, promotes quite eloquently, and offers lots of examples for, facilitating more powerful learning by asking a different kind of question. What occurred to me, as he was talking, was that most of our questions ask for answers. McCathie is suggesting questions that ask for conversations. Engaged in conversation, students become responsible to a community for what they find and learn. Answering a question is merely between the student and the teacher.

I am ever more impressed by the almost overwhelming challenges of working in a 1:1 teaching/learning environment. It requires so many shifts, most of them subtle, but no less difficult for a teacher — even young teachers. Even a first year teacher has 12+ years of experience in traditional classrooms. The challenges are enormous — but we simply have no choice!

I left even more convinced that contemporary literacy can be a potent
angle to make these shifts from, that it isn’t about the new tools on
students desks, but the new access to information and the new abilities
to produce information. The answer, I believe, can be as simple as The Beacon School’s
approach of simply saying, “At this point, no student work will be
turned in on paper. Everything will be done digitally.” It’s a focus on
the nature of the information, not the shape of the pencil.

2 Cents Worth » Another Missed Opportunity

He’s right — we have no choice — and we need to focus on contemporary literacy. And what better way to teach our students to be 21st Century Learners than to model this type of learning ourselves in a 1 to 1 program. Cheers to David for putting this so well.

Blogged with Flock

The Learning Leader – Quote #1

From The Learning Leader page 91 under the heading Challenging Educational Mythology:

In a profession that prides itself on rationality, education is strongly awash in mythology. Often the mythology has a tinge of truth or whisper of research, lending suficient credibility for a sound bite, but not enough evidence to sustain scrutiny.

The stories we need to tell to support 21st century education need to give examples of research based education — they need to be short, sweet, and easy to understand. David Warlick describes them here.

I challenge all of my colleagues in the edublogosphere to tell new stories that are not myths, but based on rigorous research that supports learning.

A Whole New Mind — Thoughts

I just finished “A Whole New Mind” by Dan Pink. He suggests that in the Conceptual Age (what he thinks we are entering after the information age), we will need more Right Brain based skills: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. He describes how feeling professions such as nursing are growing at large rates in the US. That medical schools are adding classes to help doctors be better caregivers by sensing their patients feelings during diagnosis. He sites research that shows that being more empathetic for patients helps them heal faster. I would add to his arguments that teachers are another one of those ‘feeling’ professions, and must know their students so that they can guide their learning by finding the students’ passions and what motivates the student.

As a teacher and administrator, Pink’s suggested right brain based skills resonate with me: The sense of play in learning (see this post by Arvind Grover); telling the New Story; watching the symphony of a orchestrated lesson; using empathy in instruction and assessment; and providing a meaning for learning and teaching.

In the chapter on meaning, under the heading, “Taking Happiness Seriously” Pink quotes describes the work of

Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, the founder of the positive psychology movement, and the president of the American Psychological Association starting in 1998. Seligman describes three levels of happiness:

– The Pleasant Life — a life full of positive emotions about the past, present, and future.
– The Good Life — in which you use your “signature strengths” (what you’re great at) to achieve gratification in the main areas of your life … “A calling is the most satisying form of work because, as gratification, it is done for its own sake rather than for the material benefits it brings,” says Seligman, “Enjoying the resulting state of flow on the job will soon, I predict, overtake material reward as the principal reason for working.
– The Persuit of Meaning — knowing that your highest strenghts are and deploying them in the service of something larger than you are”

I hope that all teachers and students are working towards the persuit of meaning.

Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning are critical parts of my professional and personal life, and I look forward to exploring them more deeply through the exercises at the end of each of Pink’s chapters. Thanks, Dan, for a book that from which I am actively learning.

The New Story — Attempt #1

So I’m home on paternity leave with my four month old daughter for three weeks. We’re having a good time playing, eating and napping. One of my addictions (other than coffee) is listening to WNYC. As I listen, I have been thinking a lot about David Warlick concept of the new story and the discussion that has surrounded his idea. On WNYC, I have heard a few stories over the past few days that given me ideas about this new story.

I have listened to David’s podcast of Reactions to Podcast 40: Redefining & Telling the New Story a couple of times and although the following ideas don’t meet all of his criteria, they are a start.

Here goes:

Did you know that: The polar ice caps are melting and the North Pole will no longer exist during summers by the end of this century; By 2050 all weather will be caused by human created greenhouse gasses; Increased CO2 allows more water vapor to be carried in the air, causing more humidity, which is the fuel for large storms. (Data from Weather Makers by Tim Flannery – NPR interviews here and here).

These points are very scary for a young parent or anyone around the world who cares about the future.
So what are we going to do about it?

We are in a race for the future of man kind. The best scientists and creative minds of the world must unite to work on this. Never before in the history of man is it easier to bring people together to collaborate to solve these problems. We need to be empathetic and put ourselves in the situations that people face around the world each day.

We need to speak foreign languages, be historians, be scientists and mathematicians while writing and publishing about all of our experiences. We can’t be compartmentalized into a department, but must use all of our disciplines to create conversations about these problems.

You can swap almost any big picture problem for the above Did you know that… question. All of them are critical big picture problems that will effect the world and our children. The next generation will not have the same opportunities and comfort we have unless we work to find solutions for these problems as a world.

One part of this fight is to meld our educational system to shape students into empathetic and creative life-long learners. Does high stakes testing do this? No. We need to produce students who can solve the big problems of our world, for the sake of humanity. (See this keynote by Dr. Janet Swenson for educational examples)

David wrote that, “I continue to maintain that when we can not clearly predict our children’s future, it becomes much less important what they are learning, and much more important how they are learning it, and what they are doing with it.”

Skills are much more important than content. The big picture is about moral, life-long learners. Those are the folks I want on my team. The team to save the world.

What’s your story?