As good teachers know, our most important resource(s) in classroom interaction
are the ideas and experiences our students bring with them. The past two
decades of research on learning, and more recent framings of academic goals
(especially the Common Core State Standards) bring this insight to the
forefront. This short course, designed for as few as four weeks and as many
as eight, asks how teachers can and do capitalize on what students bring
to the classroom - their ideas, perceptions, and misunderstandings – to
advance the learning of all students in the class.
Our overarching goal is to support participants in developing the knowledge and skills needed to take up student thinking in ways that enable all students to learn challenging subject matter – a practice we call “leveraging student thinking”.
Course content will focus primarily on middle grades classrooms in various disciplines, but the practice of leveraging student thinking is applicable to all subject areas and grade levels. Participants will explore the design of curricular tasks, the analysis of patterns of talk, and the use of representational tools to:
These ideas will be introduced through guided engagement with video cases. Analysis of the video cases will highlight the elements involved in leveraging student thinking, and also will illustrate the epistemic, academic, developmental and managerial “pressure points” that challenge teachers’ ability to capitalize on student thinking in constructive ways.
Throughout the course, participants will further explore and test out these ideas in their own classrooms, be they formal or informal. (A Sunday school class, a scout troop, a homeschool opportunity, or a traditional classroom environment would all be appropriate, but some kind of teaching practice is necessary to benefit from the course.) The goal is to work on the work of teaching while teaching.
In addition, critical reflection with a group of partners is an important component of this course. At key points, participants will be asked to document their work to share with peers for feedback. Therefore, we strongly encourage teachers to plan to work through this course in teams (of two to four people) to facilitate mutual observation, analysis and discussion. Teachers who do not have a team at the beginning of the course will be able to create a team through online forums at the beginning of the course and can exchange their teaching examples through video or narrative descriptions.
This course justifies and unpacks a teaching practice we call leveraging student thinking. This practice (actually a constellation of practices) supports important educational goals including, but not limited to, achievement as outlined in the Common Core State Standards. The elements of leveraging are:
Goal: Design a better task -- i.e., one that will more effectively get students’ thinking on the table.
• What does it mean to leverage student thinking?
• Why is leveraging student thinking educative?
• How can you design tasks to more effectively elicit student thinking and make students' understandings more visible?
K-12 teaching experience in any subject area and a commitment to all students' learning and achievement is necessary background. Also, as instructions and forums are English-langugage centric, is it necessary that all participants be able to work through the English medium. At times this can be troublesome for those participants who teach a class in a language other than English but should not be prohibitive of contribution.
We also recommend joining the course with colleagues, friends, or family who can form a “critical partnership” in thinking through – and putting into practice – the ideas of the course.
The course will be built around teacher participants' guided engagement with their own teaching practice (documented by video-recording, audio-recording, or post hoc note taking) in the company of teacher colleagues or on-line partners who serve as "critical friends". Short instructor video presentations as well as panel discussions are interspersed with video clips of teaching practice to illustrate concepts and practices. Assignments will require review of one's own and one other's developing practice. Reflective writing on the experience of engaging in the assigned practices will be peer-assessed.