Sunday, October 21, 2018

Meaningful Learning Begins and Ends with the Opportunities We Create

Learning hasn’t really changed, but the conditions that impact and influence it has. In Learning Transformed my co-author Tom Murray and I detailed eight keys backed by research and evidence that can facilitate a transformation of practice that will result in improved outcomes and better experiences for kids.  For change to occur, it is essential to continually evaluate where we are at in the process to eventually get to where we want to be, and our learners need us to be.  Ownership and empowerment result when meaningful opportunities are created for kids to explore, interact, design, and create in real-world contexts. How well are we developing critical competencies in our learners as depicted below?

Our beliefs, values, and experiences all work to shape our respective practice. When it comes to learning the emphasis has to be on what the kids do, not the adult. Therein lies the significant distinction between teaching and learning. It’s not that the former is bad per se, but ultimately kids should be actively engaged in the thinking and the work.  As we work to create powerful learning opportunities, it is important to reflect upon and update our belief system as needed. 

I recently shared what I believed in. Don Bartolo, in his book Closing the Teacher Gap, shares a list of beliefs that should be considered when creating learning opportunities for kids. I have merged his list (italicized), which I slightly tweaked, with some of mine, as there was overlap. Bartolo suggests engaging in the following exercise where you pick 3 of the items below that most resonate with you. 
  • Knowledge must be organized around key concepts and not learned in isolation as this promotes understanding. Relevant application to construct new knowledge matters.
  • Learners must receive feedback from more knowledgeable others as well as peers. It must be timely and specific.
  • Learners must be given the opportunity to connect current knowledge with new learning to build on what they know and can do.
  • Learners need to be working for a purpose and not ritual compliance. Real engagement means students are involved and invested in their work.
  • To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.
  • Young learners need to be immersed in all kinds of texts, fiction, and nonfiction.
  • Learners need time and opportunity to practice, use, and apply what they have learned. Mistakes and approximations are a part of learning.
  • Learner perceptions must be addressed directly. Understand what students are thinking, especially when beginning a new topic or unit.
  • Spaces and environments should be more reflective of the real world.
  • Just because it worked in the past doesn’t mean it still does.
  • Technology can be a game-changer with a solid pedagogical foundation.
  • All kids can learn.
  • Chase growth, no perfection.
So which of the above did you choose in your quest to transform learning? The key going forward is to reflect upon what you feel can help to create meaningful learning opportunities for students and decide what actions need to be taken on your part. It is important to note that we must also work to create powerful learning opportunities for ourselves. 

For more questions that can help guide you in the process of improving student and professional learning check out the free Learning Transformed Study Guide from ASCD. 

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