Friday, 12 August 2016

High-performing Learning Environments: Three Examples

High-performing Learning Environments: Three Examples
By Nicolas Martin

Roller Coaster Physics by Donna Migdol

This high-performance activity does an excellent job of fostering individual and group learning. Ms. Migdol obviously holds her students in high regard, as she grants them autonomy under the expectation that they will function well as a group and restrict their learning to the subject matter she has assigned. Likewise, the fact that she has given them multiple restrictions and rules shows that she believes her students are all capable of working within the confines of these rules and finding successful strategies through critical thinking and assessment of the problem. “The more constraints, the better problem-solvers they become.”

That she lets them work in groups without supervision speaks to her trust in the proper behavior of her students. In the first scenario, making the roller coaster, they are able to stay on task without deviating. The second scenario, sketching designs, is a strict design that takes advantage of the knowledge they have already learned and puts it to use in the activity. Ms. Migdol specifically says students must use knowledge ‘you have already learned,’ meaning they already have all of the tools they need available.

The concept of ‘chiming in’ allows free-form discussion and critical collaboration. Procedures are defined in the lesson plan. Ms. Migdol says that students are unable to remove themselves from the learning aspect of the lesson, even when it is a game, because they must remain engineers and always be mindful of the physics they are using. This means they are constantly aware of and implementing the physics-based knowledge they are meant to be developing.

3rd Grade Chinese Math Class by Crystal Chen

The rhyming scheme that seems to be ubiquitous in Chinese classrooms appears to be held in high regard by the teacher in the video, who expects all students to be proficient and able to keep up with the rest of the class during recitation. From the article linked, parents and teachers have high expectations for children in math, and China consistently tests high in this subject. One reason may be that math is considered a core curriculum, and so much time is spent on the subject that proficiency is expected.

The procedure of the rhyming scheme itself is ingrained through routine and repetition, a behavioral expectation and norm the students can count on. Since, according to the article, math classes focus on ‘rigid practice’ and ‘whole-class instruction,’ the video shows what should be the norm: the entire class, functioning as a single unit, able to recite the rhyme without pause or problems. Challenging students to keep up with their peers is one way of motivating them. Regarding classroom management, the students are taught to focus through chants and cheers that incorporate hand gestures like clapping.

Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High - The Basics by roxishayne

Like the Chinese teacher in the previous lesson, the academic expectations for these students are high, and shown by the teacher’s expectation that students can follow and execute the classroom management rules that have been previously established. Students are ‘rewarded’ in ways such as class cheers and ‘bonus points’ as defined on the website, which give them a sense of accomplishment. Students are expected to be able to recognize the procedures in class and follow them like their classmates. There was no deviation from the rules in the video.

Some norms and procedures that keep students on track are recitation of classroom goals, and repeating tasks assigned by the teacher, such as the page number of the next activity in their textbooks. Some of these procedures are listed on the Whole Brain website, where they are used as transitional steps in the learning process to better allow assessment and encourage collaborative learning.

If I were to incorporate these learning strategies into my classroom, which is composed of Pre-K students, I would focus mostly on sound and repetitive actions that are short and easy to remember. Clapping associated with familiar phrases, for example. These acts would have to be simplified, as per assessment my students are still developing in rhyme recognition and pattern emulation. Variations on the ABC song, similar to the rhyming math pattern in the Chinese example, could prove positive for students. Likewise, the rhythm and motion actions in the third video are fun and easy to replicate for early childhood learners.

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