Sunday, March 13, 2016

We still have along way to go but we are trying

Two years we sat down as a faculty and identified that school is for learning and yet we hadn't defined what this really meant. Here is a TED talk that raises questions about learning in modern schools and how it isn't aligned with the realities of modern students or their world. Below are the ISHCMC Learning Principles that we developed two years ago and keep referring back to in our classrooms.


·         All learners are capable of achieving their goals in a guided environment where there is an appropriate balance of standards, challenge and support.
It is expected that all students will make the effort to progress in their learning and achieve their goals. Clear learning goals and performance objectives will be set for and by students. These objectives and goals involve meaningful performance criteria and answer genuine questions that challenge students to make an effort to attain their goal.  A growth mindset will be purposefully developed by teachers in the classroom as they nurture curiosity and higher order thinking in their students. Students will be provided with exemplars, models and formative rubrics to support their learning. 

·         Learning builds on prior knowledge and experiences and is contextual, meaningful and social.
Students do not learn isolated facts and theories in an abstract state of being separated from the rest of their lives: they learn in relationship to what else they know, what they believe, their prejudices and their fears. Learning should be purposeful, age appropriate and personal to the students, drawing on and valuing their prior knowledge and experiences. The more students know, the more they can learn. Prior learning provides a context to new learning whilst at the same time providing a degree of ownership of the learning process.  It is expected that students use what they already know to construct new meanings. Teachers will model effective questioning routines for and with students to construct meaningful, trans-disciplinary learning experiences in order to guide the student to see the value of what they are learning in the wider world and ask students to demonstrate their understanding through “real world” applications that genuinely use the knowledge and skills that have been acquired in an authentic setting.

·         Learning is an active process that requires practice, making mistakes, reflection and self-adjustment
It is generally accepted that learning is not the passive accep­tance of knowledge which exists but that learning involves the learner engaging with the world through real world applications of their learning. For significant learning to take place it is important that students are given plenty of time and the opportunity for trial and error, practice, pondering, reflecting, drafting and redrafting their ideas. Reflection and metacognition will be required of all students. This should be guided by the teacher, be meaningful, natural and lead to progression of learning through continuous self-assessment and self-adjustment. Learning is seen as a continuous process that when effective produces life-long learners.

·         Motivation is a key factor in learning
Motivation is seen as essential for learning. Learners’ motivation to learn and sense-of-self affects what is learned, how much is learned, and how much effort will be put into the learning process. Three important components of motivation are: Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery. Hence, it is important that teachers explain clearly the learning objectives of each class, provide opportunities for students to learn independently and at their own pace, whilst providing students with the opportunity to display their learning in different ways. In order to maintain student motivation it is expected that teachers will provide authentic feedback that students can use to build their mastery of concepts and knowledge.

·         Learning is most effective when differentiated
It is important to recognize that learners have different strategies, approaches, patterns of abilities and learning styles. Hence, learning is most effective when it is differentiated. Learning activities and assessments should accommodate individual differences, drawing upon a rich repertoire of teaching and assessment strategies matched to learning goals. Teachers should develop innovative ways of teaching using: learning styles, multi-sensory approaches, experiential learning, providing student choice and engaging minds as well as hands.

·         Learning should take place in a safe engaging environment
Learning is a social activity that is most effective in a safe, scaffolded environment that encourages students to: feel able to take risks, collaborate, be creative and learn from each other. Social interactions exert an influence on learning. The teacher should create a socially, emotionally and physically welcoming and inspiring environment that encourages the well-being and flourishing of students through the use of positive language and expectations. The teacher will encourage learning by providing regular and timely formative feedback to students that drives continued engagement and growth.

·         Learning should encompass the personal, local and global, aiming to make for a better world
By relating learning to real world scenarios and asking students to use their understanding and skills to problem solve, students become more engaged in the learning process. This process is best achieved if one begins with the “”I and moves systematically to the “us” and the “we”. Through this experience students will develop a greater empathy and compassion for others as they develop their international mindedness. Teachers can facilitate this growth by using inquiry pedagogy; valuing student experiences; introducing global examples; inviting outside consultants to share their knowledge and connecting students to communities beyond the classroom.

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