Sunday, October 2, 2016

Learning 2.0: Establishing Positive Leaning Environments

Chapter 6 in The Innovators Mindset does use "traditional school"
(Couros, 2015, pg. 101)
While I would suggest this graphic read "Traditional School" and "Effective Learning," it is right on par with the shift we are making in both teaching and learning at Milan Middle School. Teaching and learning are on an instructional practices continuum that ranges from teacher-centered to student-centered. I would say that "school" has variations on that continuum and is not just one or the other. With the shifts in Common Core, 21st Century Skills, and Project/Inquiry-Based Learning, the first column in this  graphic doesn't give all of these shifts and the work educators are putting into their practice enough credit. 

We need to shift our practices to engage our youth. Some of the best ways to do that are through student-centered approaches that allow students to drive their learning, demonstrate their understanding, and help them prove mastery of content in meaningful ways to the the student. This type of instruction is active for the students; it has a feedback loop; and it involves collaborating with peers and the teacher (as facilitator). 

Student-Centered Instructional Practice: “beliefs, actions, processes, philosophies, ways of doing things, and ways of making sense of the purpose of education based on the belief that the outcome defining successful teaching is what the student learned. Subsets within the learner-centered instructional paradigm include such practices as collaborative learning and active learning” (King, 2000, p. 8).  

The "Learning" column in the first graphic is describing that student-centered instructional approach. Through my dissertation, many of Hubba and Freed's (2000) descriptors were supported as having an impact on changing teacher practice to be more student-centered. These included student feedback, treating students as sophisticated knowers, making learning intrapersonal and active, using the teacher as a coach or facilitator of learning, helping student understand what quality work is, making sure students understand application of that work, incorporating teaching and assessing, and using both general and subject-based skills. 

Created by Jaclyn Stevens
At MMS, teachers use "I can" statements, but many also make the objective the essential question. Even students create questions to answer. Students are not limited by exemplars; they can advocate ways to demonstrate their mastery of content. Using student interest is key to connecting learning. Many teachers use learning management systems, such as Schoology or Google Classroom and some are now even blending the learning, so learning can happen anywhere, any time, and at any pace. The learning is collaborative. The teachers take risks and demonstrate to students that they are learners too. We are using the SAMR model to help us and our students dig deeper into their understanding.  These are just a few shifts that we are making at MMS to establish a positive learning environment. A major building goal this year is to transform our practices. I am fortunate enough to have a great, risk-taking, innovative staff who truly wants what's best for our kids. #PowerUpMMS


  1. I'd be interested in knowing more about what this theory looks like at your school. (You are an administrator?) We have a lot of theorizing out here in the IMMOOC, which is fine for grounding the thinking in pedagogy, but as a teacher, I keep asking myself, What does that look like in the classroom? Any good examples you can share? (I know you mention the content management systems ... but those are structural, not instructional practices, in my mind ... I could be wrong)
    Thanks for sharing ...

    1. Good insight!

      The LMS allows for teachers to expand on their approaches.
      1) Student pace and level (which allows the teacher time to meet with student individually)
      2) Student choice and voice (especially about assessment and demonstration of mastery)
      3) Students are researchers of information (working with teacher and peers to solve problems and obtain knowledge)
      4) Students need to think about their thinking and apply it to real-world issues
      5) Teachers use more formative assessment
      6) Teachers guide and facilitate learning
      7) Teachers work cross curricular to make more meaningful connections

      We are just getting started, but it's about giving up control and taking risks.