This week I want to share what I’ve been reading lately – not that I cried through the beautiful ending of Cutting For Stone, but the reading related to teaching and learning. The three I’m highlighting fit with the discussions we’ve been having as faculty and staff at ISTP – about engaged, collaborative learning.
First, and a blog I will be sharing with the elementary school faculty as an inspiration for future projects, is from the Huffington Post: Curriculum for the Ages – How do you Measure This? It is written by Steve Nelson, who is the Head of School at the school where I taught when I lived in New York. He is a very wise and articulate man, and I encourage you to read anything by him! In this post, he describes a project between 4th graders and local senior citizens, the value of which extends far beyond preparing for any test. This type of project is what we would like to see more of as we put more emphasis on 21st century skills.
In her book, Motivated Minds; Raising Children to Love Learning, Deborah Stipek supports such projects as Steve discusses, because this is the type of learning that really engages students, and helps them to see the purpose behind the project. Her book is aimed at parents, and based on the research that helping your child to love learning is the best way to improve many measures of success, such as test scores. Process, purpose, and engagement are the key factors in learning. Stipek also emphasizes the importance of the parent-child relationship and connection, and gives concrete suggestions for how to best support your child’s love of learning.
Last but not least, I wanted to note Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset. Dweck is known for her research on motivation and achievement, and has engaged in years of research showing that praising effort and process leads to building greater intrinsic motivation in learners than praising talent and product- ie, “wow, you worked so carefully and used so many colors!” as opposed to “Oh, you are such a talented artist!” In Mindset, she discusses the concept of “growth mindset”, in which hard work and learning lead to greater achievement and happiness. She teaches us that we must help our children develop this, teaching them that they can learn and achieve more if they set their minds to it.
As an independent school, that we strive for academic excellence is a given. It is how we go about doing so that sets us apart. We already have the benefits of bilingual and bicultural education in our favor. Incorporating practices promoted by the above authors – engage, collaborate, and value - will make us that much more successful at what we aim to do.