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Rethinking How Students Learn: Teach Less, Learn More

I know, this blog is turning into the “Rethinking How Students Learn” blog lately. My apologies, but I like reflecting on what I’m reading and I hope you’re enjoying reading the posts. By all means, don’t be passive; chime in with some comments if you please.

The country of Singapore has undertaken a massive initiative, with four key “visions,” that will help them take education to the next level – “21st century learning.” They are:

  1. Thinking Schools, Learning Nation.
  2. Teach Less, Learn More.
  3. Tight, Loose, Tight.
  4. Professional Learning Communities (as discussed in my last post)

“Thinking Schools, Learning Nation” is about fostering in students a core set of life skills (thinking, creating, problem solving, collaboration, wonderment, tolerance for ambiguity, and persistence). “Wonderment” and “tolerance for ambiguity” are two characteristics not often included in 21st century skills, but I find them intriguing – and may just have to revisit them in a future post!

The “Teach Less, Learn More” is closely related to the first vision and promotes “teaching in ways that help students learn without being taught.” It seems paradoxical at first glance; how will my students learn if I don’t teach them? The truth is, when we provide students an essential question and allow them to explore the potential answers, we are building in them skills that will make them lifelong learners. As stated in the book:

The change process is about evolutionary thinking, not revolutionary thinking, and it all begins with critical collaborative conversations. While their system has traditionally compartmentalized the curriculum by disciplines that honor quantity…they find that this structure can be deliberately shifted to…honor the quality of student outcomes.

“Tight Loose Tight,” is also very intriguing approach. According to the authors of this chapter, Robin Fogarty and Brian M. Pete:

The T-L-T formula combines an adherence to central design principles (tight) with expected accommodations to the needs, resources, constraints, and particularities that occur in any school or district (loose), when these don’t conflict with the theoretical framework (tight) and, ultimately, with the stated goals and desired results.

The best part of the T-L-T philosophy is the message that schools CAN evolve without sacrificing the educational philosophy and characteristics that have defined them in years past. As a school, we can still promote rigorous learning, quality leadership skills, and compassionate service to others. We just have to figure out how to do it in a 21st century context – for our students’ sakes.

That’s where the PLC (the fourth Singaporean vision) comes into play. If we (the teachers) work together as a team, through various scopes and methods, we can achieve success for our students, our school community, state, nation, and the world.

With our help, Heritage Hall students will continue to learn, to lead, and to serve…the world…in the 21st Century and beyond.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Richard & Rebecca DuFour

Professional Learning Communities…did your stomach churn when you read that phrase?

Like “21st Century Learning” (see my last post), PLC is one of those buzz words that has been used ad nauseum. And it implies that teachers sharing ideas with one another is a new thing…in fact, it is not a novel modern-day concept at all. Teachers have always depended on each other for support and new ideas. It’s how sharing occurs that is changing.

In Rethinking How Students LearnRichard and Rebecca DuFour explore the role of PLCs in the evolution to a 21st century learning environment. One of the early charges the PLC gurus and the Partnership for 21st Century make is for educators to share knowledge in three ways:

  1. Via face-to-face interaction.
  2. Through “virtual” communications.
  3. By “blended” communications.

In this blog post, I would like to discuss the second method, virtual communications, because I know teachers here on our campus and all over the world already collaborate via face-to-face interaction.

As referenced by the DuFours, Ken Blanchard (2007) writes:

There is no reason that time and distance should keep people from interacting as a team. With proper management and the help of technology, virtual teams can be every bit as productive and rewarding as face-to-face teams.

So, what would a virtual team look like? It could be done locally, but through technology; the Charger Ning is a great example of local virtual sharing. Or your team could be a global group; are you part of the virtual team of educators using the “Twitterverse” to share resources, news, and ideas?

I also love this passage written by the DuFours, which references the ideas of Malcolm Gladwell:

The tipping point is reached when a few key people in the organization who are highly regarded by and connected to others (the Law of the Few) present a compelling argument in a memorable way (the Stickiness Factor) that leads to subtle changes in the conditions of the organizations (the Power of Context).

This has me excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for this team of pioneers and our colleagues. And, I can’t wait to witness the resulting explosion of educational transformation on our campus when crest the “tipping point”.

In fact, I think that’s the tipping point I see now on the virtual horizon…