15 May, 2009


By Lee Warren, Derek Bok Center

Sometimes things seem to explode in the classroom, and what do we do then? Knowing strategies for turning difficult encounters into learning opportunities enables us to address important, but hot, topics -- religion, politics, race, class, gender -- in our classroom discussions.

Hot moments occur when people's feelings -- often conflictual -- rise to a point that threatens teaching and learning. They can occur during the discussion of issues people feel deeply about, or as a result of classroom dynamics in any field.

For some instructors, hot moments are the very stuff of classroom life. They thrive on such moments, encourage them, and use them for pointed learning. Others abhor hot moments and do everything possible to prevent or stifle them. For them, conflict prevents learning.

Fortunately all of us can develop techniques to handle the unavoidable difficult moments. Using them can open doors to topics formerly avoided and classroom dynamics formerly neglected. Most importantly, exploring these tensions can lead to deep learning.

The challenges of dealing with hot moments are 1) to manage ourselves so as to make them useful and 2) to find the teaching opportunities to help students learn in and from the moment.

Strategies suggested here rest upon the assumption that it is the teacher's responsibility both to help students learn something from the moment and to care for and protect all the participants, perhaps particularly the student(s) who has generated the hot moment. This does not mean that discomfort can be avoided: sometimes learning about hot topics is difficult and uncomfortable. But no one should be scapegoated. Everyone should be protected so that learning can happen.

"We were ten weeks into Introduction to Afro-Am and were discussing Louis Farrakhan," a young instructor told me. "Near the end of section, a very smart Jewish woman said, 'Only uneducated black men would believe in Farrakhan.' Six black men in the class turned on her and attacked. "Class ended, and she ran out of the room, down the hall, in tears."

"I went after her and told her that if she was ever going to understand this stuff she had to go back the next time and listen very hard to what those guys, highly educated, say about why they might believe in Farrakhan.

"I then went back into the classroom. Luckily the men were still there, still talking about the incident. I told them that if they were ever going to get it, they had to listen very hard to why a Jewish woman might think that only the uneducated would believe in Farrakhan."

This young man was able to turn a hot moment into a profound learning opportunity for his students. He did it by keeping his head, not taking sides, and letting both groups know that they would gain immeasurably by understanding the arguments of the other side.


It's not easy to see the teaching opportunity when a student says she doesn't think the U.S. should have gone to war to prevent the Holocaust "because they weren't Christians" -- or when a male student makes a joke about irrational numbers being female -- or when one student heatedly says, "The trouble with you is you talk all the time and never listen!" -- or when the Jewish student says that only uneducated black men would believe Louis Farrakhan.

How we think about the moment

• The first route to making such unanticipated and difficult occurrences productive lies in how we think about the moment -- as instructors. If we can get out of our own emotional confusion, we can begin to see the heat as an opportunity to explore different views about the topic. In the case above, for example, it could be helpful to students to examine why someone might think that religious affiliation was a reason to go or not to go to war.

• We can also use the image of leaving the dance floor of the discussion and our emotions and going up to the balcony. From there we can look for a relevant meta-level issue that the hot moment raises. Often the difficult statement illustrates the complexity of questions being discussed, as in the instance of the Jewish student's remarks about Farrakhan. Such a comment presents an immediate example of Jewish/African-American political difficulties.

• It helps sometimes to think about listening for "the song beneath the words" of the student. What is the sub-text? What is the student really saying? Why is this coming up at all, and why at this time? Often students can't articulate clearly what they are thinking. After double-checking our impressions with the student, we can use this information to further the conversation.

• For example, the student in the holocaust story was African-American. Her sub-text might have been that we needed to deal with the United States' own race issues before taking on those of other nations. That idea is certainly a valid one for discussion in contemporary international politics. Had the instructor been able to bring this to the surface, rather than avoiding her remarks altogether, the class would have come away with enriched understanding.

Helping the students think about it

• To help students think productively about issues raised during hot moments, establish discussion norms early in the term, or at the moment if necessary. Don't permit personal attacks. Model norms that encourage an open discussion of difficult material -- by being open to multiple perspectives and by asking all students to argue their point responsibly.

• We can take the issue off the student who has made the offensive remark and put it on the table as a topic for general discussion. Say something like: "Many people think this way. Why do they hold such views? What are their reasons?" and then, "Why do those who disagree hold other views?" This protects the student while also encouraging others who disagree to understand a view they dislike and then to argue their position later.

• Another strategy is to require that all students seek to understand each other's perspectives, as a prerequisite to understanding the subject at all. Ask them to listen carefully to the other point of view, to ask questions, and then to be able to restate or argue for that position. This can work for the hottest of subjects.

• Ask students to write about the issue, either in class, as a reflective and hopefully calming exercise followed by discussion, or outside of class. You can ask them to do some research on the subject and write a more balanced essay. You might require them to argue the position they most disagreed with.

• Sometimes it is important to talk with students outside of class, particularly those who have been most embroiled in the hot moment. Help them to learn something substantive from the experience -- about themselves, about others, about possible positions, about the topic as a whole, and about how to voice their thoughts so that they can be heard, even by those who disagree. These conversations can save a student and keep them coming to class with an open and learning mind.

• If a student breaks down as a result of the original outburst, acknowledge it, and ask them if they would like to remain in the classroom or leave for a while. At the end of class, find the student and ask if you can be of any assistance. In extreme cases, urge them to see a counselor.

Getting the students to do the work

• Ask students, when things get hot, to step back and reflect upon what they might learn from this moment. This can move the discussion to a level that helps everyone see what issues have been at stake and what the clash itself might mean.

• I've seen this work in a class in which a white student and an African-American student were wrangling at length and without apparent movement toward any understanding. When the teacher asked all students to explore what they might learn from this, the discussion shifted gears quickly. They began to think about the difficulties in black-white communications when different belief systems were at work, the reasons for those difficulties, and possible ways to bridge the gaps.

• Another strategy is to ask students to think about how their reactions mirror the subject at hand and what they might learn from their own behavior. Often groups act out in their own discussion the topic under discussion. For example, when discussing how women's remarks are often ignored in business settings, the class or the instructor may be ignoring the remarks of women in the class. Seeing this and talking about it in the moment can enhance people's understanding of the issue.

Don't avoid the issue
• When hot moments occur because of inter-student dynamics, in ways not related to the subject matter, it can still be important to address the issue, even in a math or physics class.

For example, if a student complains about another's speaking behavior, it is tempting to go on as if the outburst hadn't occurred. However, a discussion about who speaks and who doesn't and why, and how to enable the quiet ones to make room for themselves and the talkative ones to listen, could help every student in the room and make room for a greater diversity of ideas in the class.

Or if a student makes a joke like the one about irrational numbers being female, it could be useful to stop to examine why and how men make such jokes and how they affect women's experience in math and science classes. It might be helpful to the men to understand why the women get upset by their good-humored jokes and to the women to understand how to counter them. A discussion of this sort could open the classroom to far greater collaboration the rest of the term.

• To ignore such remarks has its own consequences. Students learn that such behavior is OK and that they are not protected from it. They miss the opportunity to learn about their own behavior and its consequences. And they miss the opportunity to have a more open classroom in which a wider range of ideas can be explored.

• It is, of course, almost always useful to talk about the moment outside of class with the individuals involved, to give them support, and help them to learn from the experience.

Having a fallback position

If you are unable to find a workable position in the moment, defer. Tell students that this is an important issue and that you will take it up at a later time. You then have time to plan strategies. This approach lets all the students in the room know that you take such occurrences seriously.

We often forget that a primary task is to find ways to manage ourselves in the midst of confusion.

Hold Steady. If you can hold steady and not be visibly rattled by the hot moment, the students will be better able to steady themselves as well and even learn something from the moment. Your behavior provides a holding environment for the students. They can feel safe when you appear to be in control; this enables them to explore the issues. Your behavior also provides a model for the students.

Breathe deeply. Take a moment. Collect yourself. Take time if you need it. Silence is useful -- if you can show that you are comfortable with it. A pause will also permit students to reflect on the issues raised. Deep breathing is an ancient and highly effective technique for calming adrenaline rushes and restoring one's capacity to think.

Don't personalize remarks.
Don't take remarks personally, even when they come as personal attacks. Such attacks are most likely made against you in your role as teacher or authority figure. Remembering to separate self from role can enable you to see what a student is saying more clearly and to actually discuss the issue. It's not about you. It's about the student and his or her feelings and thoughts, though often articulated clumsily and from an as yet unthought through position.

Don't take remarks personally when they are about issues that you feel strongly about, or even about groups of which you are a part. Again, remember that both you and the group will be better served if you can keep some distance from the comments and find ways to use them to enhance people's understanding.

Don't let yourself get caught up in a personal reaction to the individual who has made some unpleasant remark. It's easy to want to tear into a student who is personally offensive to you. To do so is to fail to see what that student and his or her ideas represent in the classroom and in the larger world. If you take the remarks personally, chances are you will not be able to find what there is to learn from them.

Know yourself. Know your biases; know what will push your buttons and what will cause your mind to stop. Every one of us has areas in which we are vulnerable to strong feelings. Knowing what those areas are in advance can diminish the element of surprise. This self-knowledge can enable you to devise in advance strategies for managing yourself and the class when such a moment arises. You will have thought about what you need to do in order to enable your mind to work again.

Heifetz, R. (1994). Leadership without easy answers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (especially pp.250-276),

Fisher,R., Ury, W., & Patton, P. (1981, 1991). Getting to yes. New York: Penguin Books.

Frederick, P. (1995). "Walking on eggs: Mastering the dreaded diversity discussion." College Teaching, Vol. 43/No. 3, pp. 83-92.

Frederick, P.(2000). "Approaches to teaching diversity." NEA Advocate, 17, (4), pp. 5-8.
Schýn, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Videos. The Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University has made two videos that can help people process difficult moments and develop strategies for confronting them. Each comes with a Facilitator's Guide. See the Bok Center website for information on how to obtain these videos:
Race in the Classroom: The Multiplicty of Experience
Women in the Classroom

Source: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/html/icb.topic58474/hotmoments.html

10 May, 2009

Learning Domains and Delivery of Instruction

By Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

Learning domains, sometimes referred to as categories of learning outcomes, are critical to consider as you plan your lessons. By analyzing the type of learning domain or outcome that you want, you can determine which activities, assessments, and representational modes (face-to-face, video, online, multimedia) are optimal based on the learning outcome desired. With the access to learning technologies more available to faculty and with greater numbers of students having access at home and work, it is possible and desirable to use multiple representational modes to increase the probability that students will attain higher levels of learning.

The following is a brief overview of learning domains with examples of how you might represent content, provide activities, and assess mastery of that domain. These domains include cognitive, affective, psychomotor, and interpersonal.

Cognitive Domain

This domain focuses on intellectual skills and is familiar to educators. Bloom’s Taxonomy (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) is frequently used to describe the increasing complexity of cognitive skills as students move from beginner to more advance in their knowledge of content. The cognitive domain is the core learning domain. The other domains (affective, interpersonal, and psychomotor) require at least some cognitive component.
The cognitive domain is well suited to the online environment. Face-to-face courses benefit from using the web as a way to supplement classroom lectures that are cognitive in nature. This supplemental material may include the following:
Additional explanations of key concepts
• Graphics to show relationships between ideas
• Organized class notes
• Tables that provide summary information
• PowerPoint slides
• Additional examples
• Self-check quizzes
• A discussion board
• Case studies
• Drill and practice of content that must be memorized
• FLASH animations or simulations of challenging and key concepts
• Practice questions with answers and “expert” explanations
• Links to similar information presented in a different way

Courses that are hybrid (presented in both an online and face-to-face format), often present the cognitive portion of the course via the web and use classroom time for the more affective, psychomotor, and interpersonal learning outcomes.

As we move up the cognitive domain especially as we get to synthesis and evaluation, collaborative assignments requiring students to engage in problem-based or project-based activities serve as important ways to determine if students have reached that level of learning. These projects can be done online, but often lend themselves to at least some face-to-face interaction. If face-to-face interaction is not possible, synchronous mediated events such as web casting, interactive video, or conference calls facilitate project development. Also, higher cognitive skills provide opportunities for student to develop interpersonal domain learning. To the extent that we desire interpersonal learning outcomes, we should consider how to facilitate face-to-face interactions.

The Affective Domain

The affective domain is critical for learning but is often not specifically addressed. This is the domain that deals with attitudes, motivation, willingness to participate, valuing what is being learned, and ultimately incorporating the values of a discipline into a way of life. Stages in that domain are not as sequential as the cognitive domain, but have been described as the following:
• Receiving (willing to listen)
• Responding (willing to participate)
• Valuing (willing to be involved)
• Organizing (willing to be an advocate)
• Characterization (willing to change one’s behavior, lifestyle, or way of life)

We do not necessarily expect our math students to become math instructors or mathematicians, but we want them to be willing to “show up” for class, participate in class, and become involved with the content. We expect students to expend effort in their courses and sustain the effort throughout the duration of the course. We also would like our students to take the next higher course or another course in the curriculum because they value what they have learned.

The affective domain is not best handled with just text on a screen. Class meetings or an initial class meeting to support an online course might be used for affective development. Videos and audio clips are also excellent ways to engage the affective domain. These should be short and may include the following:
• Former students giving tips on how to be successful
• The instructor informing the students of the value of the course
• Professionals who are using the knowledge from the course in their lives
• An overview of the program with key support personnel and facilities visible to the student
• Streaming audio files throughout the course encouraging students and providing helpful tips
• Short video clips of the instructor explaining course content

Additionally, chunking information into small steps and designing opportunities for the students to be successful facilitate affective learning for students. Face-to-face courses can include affective online components by allowing students to have a place to post questions, get feedback, and hear encouraging messages from the instructor (with a text accompaniment). Encouraging students to set goals for themselves that are reasonable can also enhance affective learning. To the extent that students are challenged or are new to a content area, we would expect instructors to include more affective learning outcomes.

Psychomotor Domain

The psychomotor domain focuses on performing sequences of motor activities to a specified level of accuracy, smoothness, rapidity, or force. Underlying the motor activity is cognitive understanding. In the higher education environment, we see psychomotor learning in content including the following:
• Lab courses for science classes
• Vocational courses
• Physical education courses
• Training in using specified equipment such as computers, cameras, musical instruments etc.
• Performing arts

The stages of the psychomotor domain have been described as follows:
• Action (elementary movement)
• Coordination (synchronized movement)
• Formation (bodily movement)
• Production (combine verbal and nonverbal movement

The psychomotor domain is best assessed in a face-to-face situation. Since there is a cognitive component underlying motor skills, these can be effectively viewed in videos, demonstrations, online text descriptions, or with pictures of each step in the sequence. Simulations can be used to help people learn the steps or practice variations of a motor sequence; but ultimately, the student should perform the skill with an instructor or designee judging if the skill was performed to a set standard. Sometimes, simulations are used for learning without “hands on” opportunities, because the psychomotor activity is dangerous or equipment is not readily available.

Students who are new to a content area will generally benefit more from “hands-on” learning than from mediated learning within the psychomotor domain. As students become more expert, videos and pictures can be used to teach the skill.

Interpersonal Domain

The Interpersonal domain focuses on people interacting with others. As we redesign our courses using the 21st Century Learning Outcomes Project (http://socrates.fhda.edu/fh/staff/century/centurycomps.html) as a guide, the interpersonal domain takes on greater importance than perhaps in the past. The levels in this domain should not be considered hierarchical as in the cognitive domain, but more as a list of skills. These include the following:
• Seeking/giving information (asking for and offering information)
• Proposing (putting forward an idea)
• Building and supporting (helping another person’s idea move forward)
• Shutting out/bringing in (excluding or involving another)
• Disagreeing (appropriately offering a difference of opinion)
• Summarizing (Restating in a compact form a discussion or collection of ideas)

The above list is not exhaustive. Other skills to add to the list might include negotiating, compromising, facilitating, and leading.

Interpersonal skills are learned by seeing models, practicing the skills, and getting feedback in the form of coaching. While short videos, good explanations, and checklists can facilitate the conceptual learning of the skills, the actual acquisition of the interpersonal skill is best done with face-to-face contact and lots of instructor feedback. With the use of forums and classroom meetings online, we might be tempted to believe that face-to-face is no longer necessary and interpersonal skills can be taught in a virtual environment. While technical innovations allow us more collaboration than in the past, if our core learning outcome is interpersonal, some face-to-face interaction is desirable.

This table provides a summary of what has been described above.(Click on the table to enlarge)

Self-Directed Learning

By C. Radhakrishnan

“The only learning which significantly influences behaviour is self-discovered, self- appropriated learning.” Carl Rogers

Self-directed learning is often considered the ultimate goal of education. The human race needs self-directed learning for survival. This basic human potential, knowing how to learn, is a necessity for living today. Probably the most important skill for today’s fast changing workplace is skill in reflection. The highly motivated, self-directed learner with skills in self reflection can approach the workplace as a continual classroom from which to learn and succeed in all chosen profession. This article is devoted to illuminate these principles as they apply to schools and to life.

During childhood we are naturally inquisitive and self directed in learning. For instance children ask parents many questions and try to learn new things. But, what happens to this inquisitiveness after they join the school? Do we discourage/encourage self-directed learning? Do we train our teaching community for teaching children how to be a self-learner? Do our schools and education boards promote a curriculum that fosters this kind of learning? Whenever we talk about self directed learning these are some questions that crop up in our mind. However, for most of these questions we have to answer in the negative. One fact we all can agree, our schools should be more self-directing in learning. All educators must understand, what is important is not the age, but the learner’s situation. In fact, the learner’s “need to know” and self-directing capacity increases steadily during childhood and rapidly during adolescence. Schools can foster the development of learners’ skills of self-directed learning through enquiry-based learning. Encouraging self-direction does not mean giving learners total control and responsibility but rather providing incremental opportunities to facilitate independence for lifelong learning.

What is Self-Directed Learning?

In this, the individual takes the initiative and the responsibility for what occurs. Individuals select, manage, and assess their own learning activities, which can be pursued at any time, in any place, through any means, at any age. There are many different definitions of self-directed learning. Ideas such as personal responsibility, autonomy, independence, and lifelong learning are all part of self-directed learning. In self-directed learning, the focus is on the learner taking the initiative in the learning process. Ultimately, the learners decide what needs to be learned; sets the learning goals; determines what resources, both human and material, are required; applies pertinent learning strategies; and evaluates the final results. Through self-management (how learners manage the resources, their actions and the social context) and self-monitoring (the process of monitoring, regulating and evaluating learning strategies), learners become responsible for their own learning (Bolhuis, 1996; Garrison, 1997). Now it’s very clear that self-directed learning refers to the willingness or ability of the learners to take control, make choices, and take responsibility for their learning.

Why is it necessary to help students take responsibility and initiative for their learning?
Advances in technology and learning demands of the information age are changing the nature of learning. The 21st century is marked with an ever increasing need to learn new skills and develop new perspectives and understandings. In this age where change is constant, the teacher’s role cannot simply be to fill students with information. Although basic content knowledge is important, there also needs to be a focus on process. As knowledge and skills change from day to day, what is important is to teach students how to learn. By teaching students to reflect on how they learn and by developing their skills to pursue their learning goals, students will be empowered to change from passive recipients of information to active controllers of their learning.

What factors influence Self-directed learning?

1. Self-concept: The learners’ self-concept or belief about themselves as learners develops on a continuum with learners possessing various degrees of self-direction. Previous success in learning improves learners’ general self-concept and capacity for self-direction. Learners have a psychological need to be self-directing but may consciously choose to be more dependent in areas where they lack previous experience or knowledge.

2. Experience: Learners accumulate life experiences that are a rich foundation and resource for new learning for themselves and others. Experience must be valued as it is related to personal identity.

3. Readiness to learn:
Learners are ready to learn as they accept and learn to adapt to new roles, such as a team captain, school leader, class prefect, or wish to escape from present roles.

4. Orientation of learning: As learners mature, they prefer problem-centred learning that they can immediately apply to relevant situations to increase their competency and help them live more effectively.

5. Motivation: People are motivated to a greater extent by internal factors such as self-esteem, satisfaction in the work, and quality of life than by external motivators such as good jobs, promotions and higher salaries.

Ten Myths of Self-Directed Learning:
1. One is either self-directed or not.

2. Self-direction means learning alone.

3. Self-direction is a fashion.

4. Self-direction takes more time than it’s worth.

5. Self-directed learning mainly involves writing and reading.

6. The facilitator is passive.

7. Self-directed learning is aimed at those who voluntarily choose to learn.

8. Self-directed learning is aimed at middle class adults.

9. Self-directed learning will destroy traditional and institutional programs.

10. Self-directed learning is the best method only for adults.

How educators and institutions can best facilitate self-directed learning?
The following list summarises points made by several writers (Ash 1985; Bauer 1985; Brockett and Hiemstra 1985; Brookfield 1985; Cross 1978; Hiemstra 1982, 1985; and Reisser 1973) regarding how adult educators can best facilitate self-directed learning:

• Help the learner identify the starting point for a learning project and discern relevant modes of examination and reporting.
• Encourage adult learners to view knowledge and truth as contextual, to see value frameworks as cultural constructs, and to appreciate that they can act on their world individually or collectively to transform it.
• Create a partnership with the learner by negotiating a learning contract for goals, strategies, and evaluation criteria.
• Be a manager of the learning experience rather than an information provider.
• Help learners acquire the needs assessment techniques necessary to discover what objectives they should set.
• Encourage the setting of objectives that can be met in several ways and offer a variety of options for evidence of successful performance.
• Provide examples of previously acceptable work.
• Make sure that learners are aware of the objectives, learning strategies, resources, and evaluation criteria once they are decided upon.
• Teach inquiry skills, decision making, personal development, and self-evaluation of work.
• Act as advocates for educationally underserved populations to facilitate their access to resources.
• Help match resources to the needs of learners.
• Help learners locate resources.
• Help learners develop positive attitudes and feelings of independence relative to learning.
• Recognize learner personality types and learning styles.
• Use techniques such as field experience and problem solving that take advantage of adults' rich experience base.
• Develop high-quality learning guides, including programmed learning kits.
• Encourage critical thinking skills by incorporating such activities as seminars.
• Create an atmosphere of openness and trust to promote better performance.
• Help protect learners against manipulation by promoting a code of ethics.
• Behave ethically, which includes not recommending a self-directed learning approach if it is not congruent with the learners' needs.

For educational institutions and employers engaged in providing self-directed learning experiences, Hiemstra (1982, 1985) and Brockett and Hiemstra (1985) recommend the following:
• Have the faculty meet regularly with panels of experts who can suggest curricula and evaluation criteria.
• Conduct research on trends and learners' interests.
• Obtain the necessary tools to assess learners' current performance and to evaluate their expected performance.
• Provide opportunities for self-directed learners to reflect on what they are learning.
• Recognize and reward learners when they have met their learning objectives.
• Promote learning networks, study circles, and learning exchanges.
• Provide staff training on self-directed learning and broaden the opportunities for its implementation.

What can teachers do to encourage self-directed learning in schools?

1. In schools, teachers can work towards self-directed learning a stage at a time. Teaching must emphasis self-directed learning skills, processes, and systems rather than content coverage and tests. The teacher’s role, as facilitator, is to empower learners by promoting student involvement in learning, helping learners to develop skills that support learning throughout life, and helping learners to assume personal responsibility for learning. For the individual, self-directed learning involves initiating personal challenge activities and developing the personal qualities to pursue them successfully.

2. Self-direction exists on a continuum that increases with maturity, the learner’s motivation, and his/her ability to identify needs and access information. The learning environment determines if inquiry and self-initiative are encouraged and supported. Thus such an environment should be created by teachers in schools. Then the students use many strategies to achieve the learning outcomes, including seeking interaction and support from others yet maintaining primary responsibility for the learning.

3. Schools should cultivate a self-directed learning culture to inspire students. This involves many learning situations such as discussions, interviews, experiments, auditing, role-plays, field visits and a variety of social settings. The facilitator/teacher is very active, supporting the learner, negotiating meaning, promoting critical thinking, providing resources, and modelling meta-cognitive thinking in a nurturing learning environment. Although self-directed learning causes a shift in the teacher’s role as the “source of knowledge”, this change is also necessitated by the needs in an information society.

4. Teachers can encourage self-directed learning skills and learner responsibility through a collaborative learning environment. For that the teacher can assume an interactive role, to help learners participate in planning learning activities, locating resources, and assessing needs and progress in achieving goals, and generally guide them from dependence to better stages of learner control and independence. In order to provide opportunities for responsibility and self-direction in learners, the teacher must accept a change in educational role to facilitator, manager, resource supporter, motivator, and modeller of learning strategies. At the same time the teacher must make educational decisions regarding learner and curricular needs. In collaboration, learner and facilitator analyse issues to help gain new perspectives and understanding. Collaboration becomes a fine balance as the facilitator, while still ensuring the foundation knowledge is covered, and gives the learner more choices and control within the learning framework (Garrison, 1997; Morrow, Sharkey, & Firestone, 1993).

5. In converting facilitator-centred schools into learner-centred schools, motivation plays a key role in goal completion and is a determining factor in self-directed learning. Research indicates that the collaborating role of the teacher and learner control is a motivating factor that promotes positive attitudes in learners. Students are intrinsically motivated when they are able to choose their own topics of interest and are actively involved in sharing understanding. Through learner-centred activities, interaction, and choice, students can be empowered to develop self-directed learning skills and take more responsibility for learning.

6. A proper system of feedback also plays a significant role in self-directed learning. As interaction among students and between teacher and learner increases, closeness and understanding increases. For the success of teaching self-directed learning, teacher feedback must be prompt and frequent. External and internal feedback is necessary for the learner to self-monitor learning strategies as he/she accepts more responsibility for the learning. By encouraging students to reflect on the process of learning, including the trials and tribulations, they will begin to understand their own learning styles and thinking. By using meta-cognitive strategies, students learn how they learn and develop a range of thinking processes for problem-solving and lifelong learning. When teachers model learning strategies such as questioning, summarizing, predicting, and clarifying, students can transfer these strategies to other learning situations.

The teacher can empower students to accept responsibility for learning and facilitate self-direction skills. Students have varying degrees of self-direction, depending on the situation and subject matter, but this does not mean that the learner must make all decisions or learn alone, nor does it mean that the learners require no instructional support. Learners require library-search skills, data collection and analysing skills and information literacy skills in order to access vast resources including the Internet. The teacher’s task is to find a balance between the tendency to control the learning and the desire to provide the learner with autonomy. The reality is that the teacher needs to abandon traditional control in his/her shift to shared collaborative responsibility with the learner for learning activities. As teacher and student share control, the teacher is ready to provide instructional and motivational support while the student assumes more responsibility. Collaborative control facilitates motivation and responsibility and self-direction in learners. In order to persist in the learning goals, the learner needs to perceive value and anticipate success in the activity (Garrison, 1997). Therefore, the teacher must motivate the learner through encouragement and relevant meaningful activities.

Self-directed learning has existed throughout the ages as a means for people to meet life’s challenges and for survival. Scholars throughout Western civilization, such as Aristotle and Socrates, used the tools of self-directed learning. Ancient Indian ‘Gurukul’ system also emphasised the same principle of Self-directed learning. Gradually, our educational systems degenerated into a system that emphasises rote learning and memorisation. However, recently, many educationists, scholars and policy makers in different countries of the world started deliberating on ways to bring back self-learning culture into our educational systems. Surely, this positive trend will help us to restructure current educational practices that make learning a nightmare for many school goers.

1. Abdullah, M. H. (2001). Self-directed learning - Research Report from http://ericfacility.net/ericdigests/ed459458
2. Boettcher, J. (1996). Distance learning: Looking into the crystal ball from http://www.cren.net/~jboettch/jvb_cause.html
3. Barbara J. Klopfenstein. Empowering Learners: Strategies for Fostering Self-Directed Learning and Implications for online Learning [Electronic version] from www.quasar.ualberta.ca
4. Burge, E. J. (1988). Beyond andragogy: Some explorations for distance learning design. Journal of Distance Education [Electronic version] from http://cade.athabascau.ca/vol3.1/burge.html
5. http://www.selfdirectedlearning.com/
6. http://managementhelp.org/
7. http://www.ntlf.com
8. http://www.brefigroup.co.uk

07 May, 2009

Ideas to Improve Personal & Professional Learning

No matter how successful you have been as a professional learning leader (and there is no doubt you will have had many successes), there is always scope for improvement. These ideas may help:

1. Devote some time to devising a definition of learning for your school, if it does not yet have one. A school's reason for being is directly linked to learning; in fact, that is all it is about. This means it is essential for all the staff at your school to share a definition of learning, so that you are united in your work as a learning institution. Remember, the definition must incorporate all members of your school's community: pupils, parents, staff and governors should all be involved in learning processes. In particular, all staff should be utterly focused on their commitment to learn and develop from every situation they find themselves in.

2. Take a moment to go through the evaluations of professional learning that you have received. In particular, look out for negative responses. It seems that a lack of enthusiasm towards professional learning opportunities can be linked to perceptions of an increased workload. If there is a risk that learning is resisted for this reason, it will be important to refocus on it so that full benefit can be gained. It is always worth being suspicious when professional and personal learning is rejected. Dig around for the true reason.

3. Explore what factors might be preventing a curiosity about furthering professional and personal learning from flourishing at your school. It is natural for staff to be curious about opportunities for professional learning. If this does not seem to be the case in your school, or if it is but not consistently, find out why. A good place to start in this exploration is the extent to which staff experience wellbeing in your school.

4. Take a look at the inherent tension between individual and institutional needs for development. There are multiple pressures on staff development, all demanding satisfaction. The task for schools is to balance all those expectations so that progress is made. Making sure that staff have a central role to play in planning for professional and personal development, even when this is directly linked to your school's overall development plan, is one way of retaining a sense of commitment and ownership.

5. Do a quick audit of the resources you use for professional learning. Are you using as much local expertise as you can, to keep costs down and enthusiasm high?

6. Aim to help staff learners understand the subtleties of development. A great analogy is that professional learning is like sunburn: you do not know how much you have been affected by it until
after the event.

7. Reiterate the 'change one thing' mantra. After any professional learning that is undertaken, it will always be possible to make at least one positive change to practice. If this can be written up in a professional learning journal or reflected upon in some other way, the scope of the learning will be wider still.

8. Be a model of great learning. The more this can be infused throughout your school's leadership team and the more staff can see that learning is something which everyone is engaged in all the time, the more fruitful your activities as a professional learning leader will be.

Source Courtesy: Mr. Santosh Kanavalli, Principal, HRS, TTL.- Posted in HRScholars Group. Dtd. 7th May 09.

06 May, 2009

Student Motivation – What you need to know?

Motivation is a critical component of learning. Motivation is important in getting students to engage in academic activities. It is also important in determining how much students will learn from the activities they perform or the information to which they will be exposed to. Students who are motivated to learn something use higher cognitive processes in learning about it. Motivation to do something can come about in many ways. It can be a personality characteristic or a stable long-lasting interest in something. There are several theories of motivation that exist. Some state that motivation is tied to the idea that behaviours that have been rewarded in the past will be more likely to be repeated in the future. Therefore past experiences will motivate a student to perform in future ones.

Other theories prefer to think of motivation as a way to satisfy certain needs. Some basic needs people must satisfy are food, shelter, love and positive self-esteem. Therefore, motivation to do something may be based on the achievement of these needs.

Yet another theory (the attribution theory) seeks to understand people’s explanations and excuses when it comes to their successes and failures. When people feel that they have control over their success in something, then they are more motivated to achieve in it. If they feel that they will not have any control in their success they might not be as motivated to achieve.

The expectancy theory of motivation is based on the belief that peoples efforts to achieve depends on their expectations of rewards. People will be motivated to do something based on whether they think that they will be successful and be rewarded.

How to enhance motivation:
The most important types of motivation for educational psychology are achievement motivation, people’s tendencies to strive for success and choose activities that are goal oriented. They main difference in achievement is the difference in how someone is motivated. Some people are motivated to learn, while others are motivated to perform well and get a good grade. It is important that teachers should try to convince there students that learning rather than grades are the purpose of academic work. This can be done by emphasizing the interest value and practical importance of the material that the students are studying and by de-emphasizing grades and other rewards.

It has also been seen that teachers' expectations of their students have an effect on student motivation. Research has generally found that students will live up or down to their teachers' expectations for them, particularly in younger grades when teachers know relatively little about their students' levels of achievement. In order to make sure that students will achieve communicates positive expectations to them. The teacher must communicate the expectation to their students that they feel that their students can learn the material. There are also ways that a teacher can imply that they have positive expectations for their students. These include:

* Waiting for the student to respond to a question.
* Avoid making distinctions of achievement among students. Assessment and results should be a private matter.
* Treat all students equally. Call on all students regardless of achievement levels, and spend equal amounts of time with them. Guard against biases.

Increasing Motivation
Sometimes the course itself is interesting enough and useful enough for a student to be motivated to do well in it. However, much of what is learned in school is not inherently interesting to most students. For this reason a variety of incentives and rewards for learning are introduced. These might be praise, grades, recognition or prizes. However, it has been researched whether or not extrinsic rewards end up decreasing intrinsic motivation. There are ways to enhance intrinsic motivation in the classroom:

1) Arouse interest: It is important to convince students of the importance and interest level of the material that is about to be presented, to show that the knowledge to be gained will be useful.

2) Maintaining curiosity: A skilful teacher will use a variety of means to further arouse or maintain curiosity in the course of the lesson. The use of demonstrations helps to make students want to understand.

3) Use a variety of interesting presentation modes: The motivation to learn is enhanced by the use of interesting materials, as well as by a variety in the way that material is presented. For example a teacher can use films, guest speakers, demonstrations and so on, in order to maintain interest in a subject. However, all of these different materials need to be carefully planned and should all focus on the course objectives and complement each other.

4) Help students set their own goals: People will work harder for goals that they have set for themselves, than if they were set by others.

5) Express clear expectations:
Students need to know exactly what they are supposed to do, how they will be evaluated, and what the consequences of success will be. Failure often stems from confusion about what was asked of them.

6) Provide clear feedback:
Feedback can serve as an incentive. It can be an adequate reward in some cases. Feedback must be clear and specific and given close in time to the performance. It should be informative and motivational and help by giving them suggestions for future success.

7) Increase the value and availability of extrinsic motivators: Students must value incentives that are used to motivate them. For example, some students may not be all that interested in receiving teacher praise and grades, but might value notes sent home to parents, more recess time or special privileges.

Source Courtesy:www.psychologycampus.com

Dealing with Misbehaviour – What you need to know?

Misbehaviour and behaviour problems can arise because students feel frustrated and bored in school. Instructional programs that actively involve students can prevent such problems. Another common reason students misbehave is because they want the teacher's attention. To deal with this, teachers should just pay attention to the student's good behaviour and ignore them when they are misbehaving. As well, students may be seeking peer attention as well. To deal with this - either remove the misbehaviour from the room or use group contingencies (where the entire class is rewarded on the basis of everyone's behaviour). A lot of problems which teachers must deal with are minor disruptions in the classroom. Students must respect teachers and the rules that they have made. Therefore, teachers need to establish their authority over the classroom. In dealing with classroom problems, it is best to correct behaviours by using the simplest intervention. The more time spent disciplining, the less achievement from students. Dealing with it should be effective, quick and not disrupt the lesson.

Prevention is a way to deal with misbehaviour before it occurs. This can be done by keeping students busy and interested, as well as avoiding frustration due to too hard of lessons. There are some non-verbal cues that can be used to avert misbehaviour. Making eye contact with a misbehaving student may be enough to stop them. Moving closer to a student may also stop them.

Source Courtesy: www.psychologycampus.com

05 May, 2009

Patterns of Thinking

Project Zero's Patterns of Thinking Project was supported by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The recently completed Patterns of Thinking project was a multi-year investigation into the nature of critical and creative thinking. The project's focus is the understanding, teaching, and assessment of thinking dispositions.

Traditionally, good thinking has been defined as a matter of cognitive ability or skill. Hence the term "thinking skills." Certainly, good thinkers have skills. But they also have more. Passions, attitudes, values, and habits of mind all play key roles in thinking, and, in large part, it is these elements that determine whether learners use their thinking skills when it counts. In short, good thinkers have the right "thinking dispositions."

The Patterns of Thinking project has investigated several key thinking dispositions that support high-level thinking in and across subject matters. A thinking disposition is a tendency toward a particular pattern of intellectual behavior. For example, good thinkers have the tendency to identify and investigate problems, to probe assumptions, to seek reasons, and to be reflective. However, research has revealed that often learners possess thinking abilities in these areas, but aren't disposed to use them.

The project has identified three logically distinct components that are necessary for dispositional behavior: ability, inclination, and sensitivity. Ability concerns the basic capacity to carry out a behavior. Inclination concerns the motivation or impulse to engage in the behavior. Sensitivity concerns likelihood of noticing occasions to engage in the behavior. As an example, consider open-mindedness. In order to engage in an episode of open-mindedness, one has to (a) have the basic capacity to see a situation from more than one perspective, (b) feel inclined to invest the energy in doing so, and (c) recognize an appropriate occasion to be open to alternative perspectives.

Research has shown that inclination and sensitivity make unique contributions to intellectual behavior that are empirically separable from the contribution of ability. Interestingly, findings revealed that the contribution of sensitivity is larger than would have been predicted, and that it is sensitivity, rather than inclination, that appears to be the chief bottleneck in effective intellectual performance. This is a provocative finding both instructionally and from the standpoint of intelligence theory. It is instructionally provocative because the cultivation of cognitive sensitivity almost certainly presents a different sort of instructional challenge than that of directly teaching for cognitive ability. It is provocative from the standpoint of intelligence theory because sensitivity does not receive much attention in current theories of intelligence, although the research undertaken in this project suggests that it ought to.

Courtesy: Project Zero

03 May, 2009

Cultivating the Art of Questioning

By C. Radhakrishnan

Let me begin with a quote of Albert Einstein - “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Why do we need to be good questioners?

In the 21st century, challenges and demands are expanding and changing faster than ever before. Our environment is one of rapid communications, exposing huge potentials for increasing knowledge. How can schools prepare their students for the 21st century? Educators should recognize the need for new approaches to learning and teaching in a rapidly changing society and, at the same time, be prepared to respond to much more diverse needs of the learners. Some of the most significant influences in the world today are the changes to how we live and work which are brought about by technology and globalization. In this context critical thinking and questioning skills play a predominant role in deciding the success or failure of the generation we teach. So the skill of forming good questions is vital to both teaching and learning. Being able to create inquisitive questions empowers both teacher and children. Questioning is a life long learning skill that is very important for success in the current world.

Who needs to be good questioners?
Good questioning skill is very crucial for teachers, students, doctors, researchers and almost all professionals.

What is a good question?
There are generally different types of questions. A good question is the one that gets us information we need at any given time. Sometimes the answer will be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, however, on other occasions it will be much more complex and so will the question that is required to prompt that answer. A good research question is one that guides the questioner through a quest to build personal meaning and understanding. Here again this can be very simple or complex.

Where does questioning belong in the curriculum?
The role of questioning runs throughout the curriculum. Motivation to learn is often prompted by questions. Clarifying details and thoughts, developing understanding, finding information and selecting relevant information are among the many skills crucial to all disciplines that depend on effective questioning skills. Critical thinking, regardless of the subject content depends on the ability to ask effective questions. The need for effective questioning skill is ever-present.

When do we teach questioning strategies?

In the primary classes we teach students to differentiate between statements and questions. We also introduce them to the “5W’s” (why, who, what, where & when). We need to continue to take a systematic approach to teaching questioning skill. It is essential that questioning skills are introduced and taught formally. Regardless of the class level, take time to observe and assess student skill level so that you can intervene with appropriate learning experiences.

How do we teach students to become good questioners? What tools can we use to help develop and hone questioning skills? The following questions will help you find the answer. Why don’t you be the first researcher in finding the advantage of questioning in teaching?
• How can the “5W’s and How” help students in question trekking?
• How can I help students organise data?
• How can questioning help students explore a topic?
• Q Task Quickies: KWL (Know, Wonder & Learn) Quickies (Developed by Donna M. Ogle).
• How can creating a question web help students develop a focus?
• How can I introduce the Question Builder to students?
• How can the Question Builder be used to help guide research?
• Q Task Quickies: Using the Question Builder (chart or web).
• How will a rubric help students create a better research question?
• How can students narrow and focus their questions?
• Q Task Quickies: Power-up Q Cards (Cards with 5W’s on a topic).
• How do I help students create a statement of purpose?
• How do students get to the right question?
• How can I help students move from question to thesis statement?

I am sure you will be able to find wonderful answers to all of the above questions through the “5W’s and H” technique. Any help or clarification in finding answers to these questions please doesn’t hesitate to contact me.


By Riane Eisler

What will the world be like for tomorrow's children? When I look at my little two year-old granddaughter's face, bright with wide-eyed curiosity and joyful expectation of love and life, I see wonderful possibilities. But when I look at the challenges she and her generation will inherit, I see that these possibilities will not be realized unless today's and tomorrow's children learn to live in more environmentally conscious, equitable, and peaceful ways.

Today, young people often feel powerless to change the course of their lives, much less the course of the world around them. Many become immersed in ‘me-firstism’ and ‘over materialism’ that permeates much of our mass culture, futilely seeking meaning and belonging in the latest fad or commercial offering. Some bury their pain and anger in drugs, gangs, and other destructive activities, unconscious and seemingly uncaring of the effect their actions have on themselves and others. A number become violent, under the thrall of hate-mongering or religious fanaticism, or simply because our video games, television, ads, and movies make violence seen normal and even fun. And the vast majority, including the young people who expect to get a decent job or go on to college to pursue a professional career, fail to see how what we do with our lives is both affected by, and affects, our cultural beliefs and social institutions.

There are many factors that contribute to all this. But there is one factor that can play a major role in providing young people with the understandings and skills to both live good lives and create a more sustainable, less violent, more equitable future: education.

For over two centuries, educational reformers such as Johann Pestalozzi, Maria Montessori, John Dewey, and Paolo Freire have called for an education that prepares us for democracy rather than authoritarianism and fosters ethical and caring relations. Building on the work of these and other germinal educational thinkers, Tomorrow's Children proposes an expanded approach to educational reform that can help young people meet the unprecedented challenges of a world in which technology can either destroy us or free us to actualize our unique human capacities for creativity and caring.

I call this approach partnership education. It is an education to help children not only better navigate through our difficult times but also create a future orienting more to what in my study of cultural evolution I have identified as a partnership rather than dominator model.

We are all familiar with these two models from our own lives. We know the pain, fear, and tension of relations based on domination and submission, on coercion and accommodation, of jockeying for control, of trying to manipulate and cajole when we are unable to express our real feelings and needs, of the miserable, awkward tug of war for that illusory moment of power rather than powerlessness, of our unfulfilled yearning for caring and mutuality, of all the misery, suffering, and lost lives and potentials that come from these kinds of relations. Most of us also have, at least intermittently, experienced another way of being, one where we feel safe and seen for who we truly are, where our essential humanity and that of others shines through, perhaps only for a little while, lifting our hearts and spirits, enfolding us in a sense that the world can after all be right, that we are valued and valuable.

But the partnership and dominator models not only describe individual relationships. As I will detail, they describe systems of belief and social structures that either nurture and support — or inhibit and undermine — equitable, democratic, nonviolent, and caring relations. Without an understanding of these configurations – and the kind of education that creates and replicates each – unwittingly we reinforce structures and beliefs that maintain the inequitable, undemocratic, violent, and uncaring relations which breed pathologies that afflict and distort the human spirit and are today decimating our natural habitat.

Once we understand the partnership and dominator cultural, social, and personal configurations, we can more effectively develop the educational methods, materials, and institutions that foster a less violent, more equitable, democratic, and sustainable future. We can also more effectively sort out what in existing educational approaches we want to retain and strengthen or leave behind.

The partnership framework outlined in this book offers the basic design for a new integrated primary and secondary education for the 21st century. This framework draws from my research over three decades, from my own teaching experiences, and from the work of educators at many levels.

Partnership education has three core interconnected components. These are partnership process, partnership structure, and partnership content.
Partnership process is about how we learn and teach. It applies the guiding template of the partnership model to educational methods and techniques. Are each child's intelligences and capabilities treated as unique gifts to be nurtured and developed? Do students have a real stake in their education so that their innate enthusiasm for learning is not dampened? Do teachers act as primarily lesson-dispensers and controllers, or more as mentors and facilitators? Is caring an integral part of teaching and learning? Are young people learning the team work needed for the postindustrial economy or must they continuously compete with each other? Are students offered the opportunity for both self-directed learning and peer teaching? In short, is educating children merely a matter of filling an "empty vessel" or are students and teachers partners in the adventure of learning?

Partnership structure is about where learning and teaching take place: what kind of learning environment we construct if we follow the partnership model. Is the structure of a school, classroom, and/or home school one of top-down authoritarian rankings, or is it a more democratic one? If it were diagramed as an organizational chart, would decisions flow only from the top down and accountability only from the bottom up, or would there be interactive feedback loops? Are management structures flexible, so that leadership is encouraged at all organizational levels? Are there ways of involving parents and other community members? Do students, teachers, and other staff participate in school decision-making and rule-setting? In short, is the learning environment organized in terms of hierarchies of domination ultimately backed up by fear, or is it a combination of horizontal linking and hierarchies of actualization where power is not used to disempower others but rather to empower them?

Partnership content is what we learn and teach. It is the educational curriculum. Does the curriculum effectively teach students not only basic skills such as the three Rs of reading, writing, and arithmetic but also model the life-skills they need to be competent and caring citizens, workers, parents, and community members? Are we telling young people to be responsible, kind, and nonviolent at the same time that the curriculum content still celebrates male violence and conveys environmentally unsustainable and socially irresponsible messages? Does it present science in holistic, relevant ways? Does what is taught as important knowledge and truth include – not just as an add-on, but as integral to what is learned – both the female and male halves of humanity as well as children of various races and ethnicities? Does it teach young people the difference between the partnership and dominator models as two basic human possibilities and the feasibility of creating a partnership way of life? Or, both overtly and covertly, is this presented as unrealistic in "the real world"? Does what young people are learning about "human nature" limit or expand human possibilities? In short, what kind of view of ourselves, our world, and our roles and responsibilities in it are children taking away from their schooling?

As we will see, teachers all over the world are already working with some of these elements of partnership education. There are good resources for moving toward both partnership process and structure. There are also good supplementary materials for teaching science in more holistic ways, for bringing information about women and various cultures into our schools, and for greater consciousness about social and economic equity and our natural environment.

But still lacking, and urgently needed, is an integrated partnership curriculum that can not only help today's and tomorrow's children build healthy bodies, psyches, families, businesses, governments, and communities but also give them a clearer understanding of our human potential, our place in history, our relationship to nature, and our responsibility to future generations.

What I am interested in is systemic or long-term educational change. Certainly schools need the best new technologies if they are to prepare children for the future. But schools also need to help students look at the environmental, social, and economic challenges young people face in the 21st century from a partnership perspective.
The curriculum proposed in this book will make it possible for young people to more clearly understand our past, present, and the possibilities for our future. It integrates the practical and the theoretical and the sciences and the humanities. It brings science to life by placing it in the larger context of both the history of our planet and our species and our day-to-day lives. Because the social construction of the roles and relations of the female and male halves of humanity is central to either a partnership or dominator social configuration, unlike the traditional male-centered curricula, partnership education is gender-balanced. It integrates the history, needs, problems, and aspirations of both halves of humanity into what is taught as important knowledge and truth. Because in the partnership model difference is not automatically equated with inferiority or superiority, partnership education is multicultural. It offers a pluralistic perspective that includes peoples of all races and a variety of backgrounds, as well as the real life drama of the animals and plants of the Earth we share. Since partnership education offers a systemic approach, environmental education is not an add-on but an integral part of the curriculum.

Through partnership education, young people will learn the dramatic story of our human adventure on this Earth against the backdrop of the need and prospects for a major cultural transformation. They will begin to see school as a place of exploration, a place to share feelings and ideas, an exciting community of educators, students, and parents working together to ensure that each child is recognized and valued, that the human spirit will be nurtured and grow. Above all, partnership education will help young people form visions of what can be and acquire the understandings and skills to make these visions come true.

The materials that follow offer resources for restructuring primary and secondary education that can be immediately put to use by teachers, parents, and students in public schools, in private schools, and in home schooling. These resources are also designed to be useful in universities and colleges, not only in education departments that offer teacher and school counsellor education, but in all departments interested in teaching that more adequately addresses current needs and problems. Tomorrow's Children can further be useful for community-based study and action groups, both those with a direct interest in education, and those interested in personal development and positive social and environmental action.

In sum, although the focus of Tomorrow's Children is on primary and secondary education, it is for all who want to explore new frontiers and become more active co-creators of our future.

I want to close these brief opening remarks with an invitation. I want to invite not only parents, students, primary and secondary school teachers, university professors, and other educators, but also all those working for a better future to become active partners in developing partnership education from the early years on. I want to invite you to use the materials offered in this book in your own teaching and learning as well as to develop replicable materials for others. These can be lesson plans or entire units to be incorporated into existing classes. They can be whole new courses, like those being developed through the Centre for Partnership Studies in collaboration with a number of schools and universities for distribution through the Centre website, bookstores, and other avenues. They can even be curricula for an entire school. The goal is to gradually put together new partnership curricula for kindergarten to 12th grade and beyond.

Some of what I am proposing will create controversy. But without controversy there is no possibility for real change.

If enough of us are committed to personal and collective transformation — if together we keep moving forward, as Marian Wright Edelman wrote, "putting one foot ahead of the other, basking in the beauty of our children, in the chance to serve and engage in a struggle for a purpose higher than ourselves"5 — we will succeed in laying the educational foundations for a safer, more liveable, more loving world for tomorrow's children and generations still to come.

Schools That Learn

A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education

Peter Senge, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, Art Kleiner

Reviewed by C. Radhakrishnan

In a fast changing world it is very essential for everyone to think about new paradigms in educational theory and practice. Schools That Learn gives us new approaches and system models to build learning organizations that suit the 21st century requirements of the society. Today people around the world see education as the highest form of influence to improve society. When more people than ever are concerned about the ability of today’s institutions to live up to that goal, Peter Senge and his colleagues have released Schools That Learn. This helps us to see our educational institutions in a new perspective – Learning Organisations.

“Capacity building” is a term widely discussed by educationists and policy makers to help schools in developing the skills and knowledge necessary to improve. But what is capacity building? How do schools actually develop capacity? Capacity to do what? This book provides satisfactory answers for all these questions and questions that may arise at the time of building learning organisations.

In Schools that Learn, Peter Senge argues that teachers, administrators, and other members of school communities must learn how to build their own capacity; that is, they must develop the capacity to learn. From the author’s viewpoint, real improvement will only happen if the people responsible for implementation, design the change itself: “It is becoming clear that schools can be re-created, made vital, and sustainably renewed not by fiat or command, and not by regulation, but by taking the learning orientation” (p. 5). Senge, author of the best-selling The Fifth Discipline, has written a highly readable companion book directly focused on education. He proposes five skills or disciplines at the heart of the learning orientation: developing personal mastery, creating shared mental models, establishing a shared vision, engaging in team learning, and thinking systemically. Collectively, these five disciplines represent the component skills underlying the learning process. According to him, if an individual, group, or organisation develops the capacity to do each of the disciplines well, they will have become proficient in learning itself.

The numerous exercises, techniques, and stories included in the book help the people who work with and within schools learn how to develop their capacity to find solutions to the problems that prevent improvement. Schools That Learn is presented in “three nested systems of activity” (p. 11): the classroom, the school, and the school community. In each section along with Senge, more than hundred authors contribute anecdotes about systemic thinking, exercises designed to facilitate learning the disciplines, and lists of resources to connect the reader to other important concepts.

‘Margin icons’ used by Peter Senge is very helpful to the reader to understand the material and easily connect to the related concepts in the book. Icons are used to denote individual and team exercises; the etymology of key words; practical techniques for learning the disciplines; lists of relevant books, articles, and videos; and opportunities for reflection. Three elements of “organizational architecture” are also indicated with icons: guiding ideas or principles, innovations in organisational design, and the theoretical underpinnings of the techniques for learning the five disciplines. These markings are very useful in orienting the reader to help see the connections between the nested systems and find illustrative examples of the concepts that are explained.

The author makes a powerful argument regarding the need for a systems approach and learning orientation by introducing Schools That Learn with a historical perspective on educational systems. Specifically, he details “industrial age” assumptions about both learning — that “children are deficient and schools should fix them” (p. 35), that learning is strictly an intellectual enterprise, that everyone should learn in the same way, that classroom learning is distinctly different than that occurring outside of school, and that some kids are smart while others are not — and schools — schools “are run by specialists who maintain control” (p. 43), knowledge is inherently fragmented, schools teach some kind of objective truth, and “learning is primarily individualistic and competition accelerates learning” (p. 48). These assumptions about learning and the nature and purpose of schools reflect deeply fixed cultural beliefs that must be considered, and in many cases directly confronted, if schools are to develop the learning orientation necessary for improvement.

As per my understanding, author offers no remedies for success. He believes that, in order to be effective, answers must be developed locally, not by “specialists” who sit far outside classroom and school walls. Instead, Senge presents a set of principles and activities, along with illustrative stories, designed to engage the reader in a process of learning and reflection. Schools That Learn is really a must have and read book for every one related to education because it is an excellent resource book for those working to “build capacity” in schools. Policymakers at all levels, school principals, teachers, parents, and students can benefit from the ideas, stories of inspiration, and many tools that are included. In Schools That Learn, Senge simplifies the complex conversation regarding what building capacity looks like in schools and offers practical suggestions for how to begin to do it.

To conclude in a rapidly altering world where school violence is not uncommon, moral standard and tolerance are at the brink of collapse, the value of standardised tests is questioned, where rapid advances in science and technology threaten to leave students sadly unprepared, and increased pressures cause many teachers to burn out before retirement age, Schools That Learn offers much needed fuel for the dialogue about the future of educating children into the coming decades of the 21st century.

About the Authors

Peter Senge is a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the chairman of the Society for Organizational Learning, and a recognized pioneer, theorist, and writer in the field of management innovation.
Nelda Cambron-McCabe is a Professor at the Department of Educational Leadership at Miami University and a nationally known expert on learning organization work in public education.
Timothy Lucas has been a teacher and administrator in public education for the past 27 years, most recently as the superintendent of the Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey school district, and a recognized innovator with systems thinking tools in classroom and school administration.
Bryan Smith is a vice president of Arthur D. Little, Inc. and a director of Innovations Associates; his work focuses on strategy implementation, corporate governance, and sustainable development.
Janis Dutton is an editor, writer and educational consultant who is active in community and school change efforts.
• Editorial Director Art Kleiner is a faculty member at New York University and the author of The Age of Heretics, a finalist for the Edgar Booz Award for most innovative business book of 1996.

Book Courtesy: The High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.

To Buy this book online click here: Schools That Learn

01 May, 2009

A Task-Centered Instructional Strategy

Based on a review of instructional design models previous papers identified first principles of instruction. These principles prescribe a cycle of instruction consisting of activation, demonstration, application, and integration. These instructional phases are best implemented in the context of real-world tasks. A Pebble-in-the-Pond approach to instructional development prescribes a task-centered, content-first instructional design procedure which implements these first principles in the resulting instructional products. This conceptual paper elaborates the component analysis and instructional strategy phases of this instructional design model. This paper also integrates previous instructional strategy prescriptions from Component Display Theory with the content components of knowledge objects. The strategy for teaching within the context of a whole task consists of applying strategy components to these various knowledge components in a way that enables learners to see their interrelationships and their relationship to the whole. The resulting instructional strategy is a guided task-centered approach as contrasted with more learner-centered problem-based approaches to instructional design. The application of this component analysis and task-centered instructional strategy is illustrated.

In coming days the trends in education shall change forcing changes in shaping the school planning and design. The 10 major trends shall be

1. The Lines of Prescribed Attendance Areas Will Blur
2. Schools Will Be Smaller and More Neighbourhood Oriented
3. There Will Be Fewer Students Per Class
4. Technology Will Dominate Instructional Delivery
5. The Typical Spaces Thought to Constitute a School May Change
6. Students and Teachers Will Be Organized Differently
7. Students Will Spend More Time in School
8. Grade Configurations Will Change
9. Instructional Materials Will Evolve
10. Schools Will Disappear Before the End of the 21st Century (Or Will They?)

Trends are defined as lines of direction or movement. Some trends may prevail; others, may not. What is important is not so much an awareness of a particular trend, but knowing what trends will likely affect a particular school.

If you are interested to read in detail about New trends in education, please contact me by email.