Friday, September 16, 2011

Developing Learners

My classroom focus this year is to develop learners.

Developing learners takes time.

Standardized tests demand that children are proficient in a large number of skills and knowledge points.  That tempts me to jump right into the mode of pouring information, concepts and skills into their heads.

Teachers everywhere know that's superficial teaching--it doesn't stick.  True teaching demands that educators develop learners--making the time to strengthen students' intellectual habits and practices.  By doing this, we are developing life-long learners--people who will know how to access, create, communicate and think deeply about knowledge independently and collaboratively.

What happens in a classroom devoted to developing learners?  I'm reading a lot about this, and here's what I understand so far.
  1. Children have a voice, and that voice is respected.  Children, parents and educators work as a team. Children have active decision making, leadership and facilitation roles in the classroom.
  2. Children are prompted to think about and learn about their individual learning style*, interests, strengths and challenges.
  3. Children are introduced to cognitive research in a developmentally appropriate way--learning how the brain works, and how they use that knowledge to learn in more meaningful ways.
  4. Children have access to many teaching tools and methods.  They learn how those tools and methods work, and they are given the opportunity to choose tools and methods that best support their individual learning.
  5. Essential skills, knowledge and concepts are identified.  Mastery of skill, concept and knowledge is the goal, and children are part of the decision making when it comes to goal setting, evaluation and content.
  6. Children's passions and interests are embedded into the curriculum program in meaningful ways.
  7. Educators work collaboratively to best facilitate student learning. Educators serve as facilitators, coaches, consultants, guides and mentors to students.
The standards tempt us to rush into the curriculum; teaching so that most children access knowledge points with mastery. However, we know that children who develop as life-long learners will be more successful and happy in life.  While standards don't prompt facilitation of life-long learning skills, habits and investment, they do provide a strong foundation for future learning.   Therefore, we need to teach the standards and facilitate life long learning--a mighty, but important task.

I write this to keep my focus directed.  I look forward to your comments and thoughts related to developing learners.  The science of learning is ever changing and growing which is encouraging and positive--the more we understand how people learn, the better we'll be able to develop learners in successful, meaningful and life-enhancing ways.

Note: I just read this article which examines teaching focus with greater depth.  It's a thought-provoking read.

*I realize that recent articles have challenged learning style research, yet as educators we know students  choose different kinds of learning actions, methods and content--it's clear from the very first day of school.  It's important that students understand cognitive research as it develops which may impact their future choices, but it's also important that they understand their current learning style, choices and interests.