Life in the 21st century is evolving at a rapid and challenging pace, creating a renewed focus on the lack of fit between what education is and what it needs to be. In the United States, the most recent call for education reform is the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which highlight the importance of curriculum alignment and integration, a respect for multiple perspectives, and the provision of a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and career readiness.
In the past year, experts and practitioners in the field, whole child partners, and ASCD staff have shared their stories, ideas, and resources to help you ensure that each child, in each school, in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged and prepared for success in higher education, employment, and civic life. These are the top 10 posts you read in 2012.
When teachers and parents hear the term Common Core State Standards, many have a tendency to think of the new standards as a simple upgrade. In fact, the standards represent an entirely new operating system.
This is good news for the whole child movement. The Common Core standards focus on an inquiry approach to education. Inquiry can't be done through direct instruction alone; it requires student cooperation, engagement, and persistence—all attributes drawn from a pool of social and emotional resources. Without addressing this aspect of human performance, the standards will fail.
Project-based learning (PBL) can create engaging learning for all students, but that depth of learning requires careful, specific design. Part of this engagement is the element of critical thinking. Complex problem solving and higher-order thinking skills, coupled with other elements such as authenticity, voice, and choice, create an engaging context for learning.
One of the essential elements of a PBL project is the teaching and assessing of 21st century skills, including collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. The key takeaway here is teaching AND assessing. You cannot assess something you do not teach. How do we teach critical thinking? Through intentional instruction and intentional experiences. Therefore we need to make sure that the overall PBL journey is one that has both.
Here are some elements of a PBL project that you can double- and triple-check to make sure your students are critically thinking.
In this month's Educational Leadership magazine, McREL's Bryan Goodwin shares research that shows when students are engaged in learning and can connect it to real-world interests and goals—intrinsic and extrinsic motivation—both standardized curricula and child-development needs are being served. As teachers, we can personalize curriculum standards to student interests and tap into their need for autonomy.
Professional learning communities (PLCs) are the topic of many conversations within education: the culture that is imperative for success, the goals we choose to focus on, the protocols we should follow, the structure that must be in place, and the realities that we face. There is an abundance of research I have read to support how PLCs are necessary in improving students' learning. I myself belong to an amazing PLC (as well as many micro PLCs within my PLC). But my thoughts lately have been on how to take the characteristics of successful PLCs and apply them within the walls of the classroom for students.
Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Carole Hayward
Adora Svitak, ASCD's youngest member at 14 years old, became involved in classroom teaching when her first book was published when she was 7. As a current high school student, Svitak has a truly unique perspective on both sides of the classroom.
At a general session at ASCD's Fall Conference in October 2011, Svitak began by talking about her class schedule, which involves four online classes and two traditional classes taught at a brick-and-mortar school. She showed her tablet device that contains everything she needs for her online classes and her traditional binder, which is bulging with papers from her face-to-face classes.
Thomas Suarez is a 6th grade student at a middle school in the South Bay of Los Angeles who has been fascinated by computers and technology since before kindergarten. With the introduction of software development tools, he started building applications for the iPhone and iPad.
"A lot of kids these days want to play games, but now they want to make them. And it's difficult because not many kids know where to go to find out how to make a program," said Suarez on October 22 at the TEDxManhattanBeach Transforming Learning Conference. "For soccer you can go to a soccer team, for violin you could get lessons for violin. But what if you want to make an app? Their parents might have done a lot of those things when they were young, but not many parents have written apps."
Do you have habits? How about your students? I am sure you can think of a few habits you'd like to break. But are there a few you wish would develop? Although we can't make our students think, we can teach them how to be skillful, creative, and strategic in their thinking. We do this by helping them develop Habits of Mind (free webinar).