When rote learning education models closely mirrored early industrial production based economies, outputs in the classroom followed the teacher driven input- predetermined output style. Modern theories of education include a far greater degree of student involvement in their learning. Additionally, in an attempt to mirror rapidly changing political, environmental, and economic factors, problems presented to children often involve a necessity for self-directed inquiry where outcomes are far from preset. In such an environment, it is vital to provide an opportunity for children from an early age to interact with information inputs in the process stage of learning.
As such, developing ways for children to understand what process is includes opportunities to work mindfully in this space. Examples of process learning might include working with mathematical manipulatives, reading a recipe and making a cake, investigating the scientific method in a collaboration on a specific topic with a university professor/researcher while in high school, or identifying and investigating a social need and developing a product to meet that need. Processes already exist in many areas of education, but seldom are they identified as a specific learning goal in and of themselves. Design thinking, critical thinking, art appreciation and discussion, the scientific method, negotiation, and conflict resolution are just some of the topics which may fall under this category. Applying these techniques to multidisciplinary subject areas enhances students’ capacity to solve problems creatively.
Students need to delve into, and work through, process in order to grapple with the complexities and demands of modern society. Process inquiry meets the curiosity of students who are always asking why and how in their daily learning.
How much more engaging would our teaching of young people be if we paid careful attention to how we as humans process sensory inputs, delivered an understanding to our students of how our brains work, and had a healthy grasp of the connection between the brain, emotions, and feelings?
I was fascinated to read about the work of Antonio Damasio in the MIT Technology Review magazine (June 17, 2104) recently. We all realize the vital importance of grit, tenacity and dogged determination in learning. However, being able to connect our understanding of the fundamentals of brain mechanics and human perception with the curriculum is very compelling.
Click HERE for MIT Technology Review:
Click HERE for TED talk
Click HERE for AMAZON
Gone are the days in efficient and forward thinking independent schools when the marketing and development functions sat separately from the school mission, vision, and strategic goal setting process. In many markets, the cost of an independent school education needs to be offset by a clear definition of value to the child receiving the education, and the parents paying the bill. Forward-thinking institutions are in the far reaching process of evaluating everything from their curriculum offerings, teaching methodologies, teacher evaluation procedures, to cost efficiencies in their expenditures. Institutions from both for-profit and non-profit sectors are looking for metrics and data to tie outlay to results. Independent schools offer a wide array of opportunities and benefits to their students, both past and present. It is incumbent on the school’s marketing department to clearly define and articulate these tangibles and intangibles to both the current, and future, school community.
Schools should include all constituencies in this healthy review process. What are our competencies? How are we preparing our students for the future? How to do stand out from the competition both private and public? How are we planning for the future? What should we be doing that we are not currently doing? What are other schools doing? Can we do what we are doing better? Marketing schools where all constituencies are fully aware of, and involved in, the goals and undertakings of the school is very productive and useful.
Central to our success as humans is learning, both by ourselves, and from others. Inextricably tied to our learning is our capacity to do so, and the skillfulness with which we are able to transmit understanding. Hattie and Yates have expertly crafted and condensed copious amounts of research data and analysis into succinct and user-friendly chapters on topics of vital current interest to teachers and administrators. Their layout provides actionable summaries supported by clear units of study. They realize that teachers are not merely sterile conduits of information, nor are students generic recipients of information. Central to their argument is that a keen understanding of the process through which we teach is vital to content transmission, accessibility, understandability, and eventual student ownership. This includes building trusting relationships, giving cognitive load-appropriate lessons, and providing cogent feedback.
The authors additionally pay careful attention to the role and experience of the individual learner. Topics covered include the need for deliberate goal-oriented practice, understanding how to effectively engage memory for information storage and later retrieval, and giving credence to student learning styles.
I have recently served on a school committee revising the teacher evaluation program. In this frame of reference, a recent article published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching caught my eye. Both in reading this article and in my own discussions and work on the topic, it appears that the evaluation process in both private and public institutions can present itself as a daunting and stressful situation for teachers both novice, and experienced. This certainly need not be the case. If the school administration clearly outlines the evaluation process and procedure to their teachers, the teacher is given multiple opportunities to share their craft with supervisors, and timely feedback with an action plan is given to the teacher, then the process can be highly purposeful and constructive. After all, maintaining a highly competent and supported teacher body is essential to the success of any school. Emphatically outlining to teachers that the evaluative process is intended as a supportive drive to excellence can only enhance goodwill on all sides.
The article mentioned above has particularly useful suggestions with regard to the feedback domain of the evaluation process. Read the article HERE.
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching HERE