Posted on January 19, 2015
Iʻve been writing lately about faculty professional learning because attention to the ways in which we teach directly impacts student learning. Quality instructional teaching ensures that teachers have multiple ways to respond to the needs of students who have multiple ways of learning (this is true for every classroom of students everywhere). The word we use in the world of education for the art of teaching is pedagogy -- the artistry for decision-making while teaching, the particular approach and strategies, and the keen awareness of leaners in terms of their developmental cognitive, social, and emotional abilities. Educational research has shown that Investing in teacher knowledge and teaching practice is the best way to improve student learning.
To this end, teachers of language arts in grades 3-12 worked with assessment consultants Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst (our second year with them) in an intensive day of analyzing actual pieces of student writing to better understand how to teach writing and thinking. On another day, teachers of social studies from grades 5-12 spent a similar all-day session looking at evidence of learning in writing collected from a range of social studies classes. We are working on a continuum of student writing in both content areas in order to help students improve their thinking and learning. What has been most inspiring to me is the fact that this is an entire school effort to ensure continuity of learning experiences from elementary through high school. We have taken a very significant step to raise expectations for teachers and students toward quality teaching and learning. Youʻll be hearing more about our school journey over time.
Celebrations of School Spirit Week on a campus are typically associated with a pep rally, homecoming game, and zany dress-ups. Our preschool and elementary students came to school this past Wednesday in wacky, mismatched clothing colors and on Friday in green and white. For the girls varsity soccer game played on January 13, students received Mid-Pacific tattoos after school then headed for the game. (The Mid-Pacific girls defeated Sacred Hearts, 5-2.) All students and their families are encouraged to attend athletic events. If there are early home games in different sports, weʻll continue to take the afterschool students to the games as much as possible and invite other students to stay for the games. Please check MyPueo daily for these announcements. We also let the students know in the classroom about these special events.
We completed the third in a series of five sessions on Reggio Emilia principles of teaching and learning for all educators this past Saturday on our campus. The focus of the recent session was on project work, which has its roots in inquiry learning. Pedagogista Leslie Gleim led the presentation, with Lead Teacher Robynne Migita and Atelierista Jordan Guillory as co-presenters. The most important piece of learning for participants was perhaps the distinction made between "project-based learning" and "project work" as practiced in a Reggio Emilia-inspired setting. Briefly, project work, as it is experienced by the children in our preschool, is focused on conceptual understanding and anchored in teachersʻ research questions. Documentation of student learning (photos, transcripts of student conversation, childrenʻs drawings) are constantly assessed in order to determine the next steps in the childrenʻs learning. Project work evolves over a long period of time, sometimes over a year. The concept(s) are investigated in different ways, using the notion of a "hundred languages" as the guide for explorations. Project-based learning, while driven by studentʻs questions, is much more teacher-guided and pre-planned, with a defined timeline, usually a period of four to eight weeks. Topics of study, e.g., energy, time periods, literary genres, etc., frame the project. While assessment of student work may not necessarily inform the direction of a project, the quality of student learning is the focus. Both approaches, which are inquiry-based, are implemented in our school. (See the main page of the school website for a story on Leslie Gleimʻs new book, Seeing Young Children with New Eyes, copyright 2012, co-authored with Sydney C. Guerwitz. Weʻre proud of her!)
This weekʻs blog ends with a photo that captures in medias res a project fifth graders had been working on as an inquiry. The inquiry began with addressing the cat problem on campus and evolved into an investigation of plants in our campus environment and the discovery of non-native invasive species right in our backyard! Integrating topics from earth science (photosynthesis, energy, soil study), math (measurement, data analysis), and social studies (environmental impact), the students prepped and planted new plants, including many native Hawaiian species. This action came after weeks of research and discussion. They will continue to care for their plants while conducting science experiments. Their experiences speak to the importance of understanding their relationship with the environment, a critical concept for the 21st century.
E Kūlia Kākou! Letʻs strive and aspire together!
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey, Ed.D.