Whether it is wise to write a blog immediately after attending a fantastic Professional Development session; I don’t know. BUT… I am throwing caution to the wind (BEFORE I return to the classroom) to jot a few thoughts down about today’s (grossly under-populated) experience with Mark Church on MAKING THINKING VISIBLE. Mark is the co-author (with Ron Ritchhart & Karin Morrison) of a newly released book by the same name (some core resources from the research/book are available at www.pz.harvard.edu/vt)
I was particularly engaged with the challenge to investigate the “culture” of our classrooms. Mark drew the analogy that walking into a classroom (or indeed any SCHOOL) is like walking into a new country; we are immediately bombarded with new sensory experiences, we quickly ascertain what kind of learning and teaching is privileged, what activities and actions are rewarded or rebuked, how ‘mistakes’ are managed/dealt with. Like the sights and sounds of a new country – we quickly draw conclusions; many of which are long-standing and most acutely accurate!
- Do we develop group culture?
- How do we make THINKING (intrinsically “invisible”)… VISIBLE?
- What do we want the children we teach to be like when they are adults?
- Does our classroom culture reflect healthy social, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and functional dispositions?
- What is the “story” of our classrooms? Does it reflect the learning we enjoyed (or despised) in our OWN educational journey?
I’m sure that Mark would be horrified by my butchering of his content into a bite-sized, take home pack! Sorry Mark! The truth is after immersion in self-reflection on the values that we see communicated through our classrooms/schools – we were better positioned to answer the two cornerstone questions;
- What is learned here? AND
- What is learned ABOUT LEARNING here?
With the political mandates dictating the direction of our curriculum it is easy to see how many classrooms are a story of WORK rather than a story of LEARNING… as Mark put it; “Curriculum has become a mile wide and an inch deep”. I didn’t find the session a “preach” against these curriculum initiatives; in fact the focus was more directed to the fact that Testing, Curriculum and Syllabus are all delivered WITHIN the context of the CULTURES we DO control (e.g. modelling, environment, expectations, behaviour, interactions, relationships, structures, opportunities, language and allocation of time).
The methods and routines suggested to make thinking visible are best packaged by the team themselves but I can highly recommend the book (complete with DVD) and the website (noted in my first paragraph) as a source for unpacking these strategies.
- Professional Learning Communities, STAR Teachers and the Road Ahead – Part 2 (theteacherlounge.wordpress.com)