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Q: What can I do to bring this research into my classroom and school?
Nick (Section 3) and Martha (Section 5) are two teachers who studied the research, extracted principles that resonated with their experiences, looked at their students and classrooms through these new lenses and developed solutions to problems they experienced. They created answers to their own questions, and they worked to change not just their classroom, but also the school itself. Their solutions succeeded for them in their specific situations—their population of students, their colleagues, their parents, and their resources. The solutions they found may not work at another school in different conditions. It is the process they used to find the solutions that is important, not the solutions themselves.
We recommend a similar process to those working through this course: Make sense of the concepts about learning. Articulate the principles that resonate with your experiences not only as a teacher, but also as a learner. And look specifically at issues in areas that are important to you, both those in your classroom and those systemic assumptions about learning that restrict what you want to do in your classroom. For example, take some belief you have developed about learning, and use it as a lens through which to look at one of these areas:
|Lesson plans||Student course loads|
|Memory issues||Departmental organization of schools|
|Tests and quizzes||Standardized testing|
|Expectations and rigor||Meeting "the standards"|
|AP courses||AP courses|
How does the connection between performance and context affect the way you might approach homework assignments? (top)
(End of the first column online)
How might it affect your school's policies about homework and what your parent body needs to know about homework? Invent something. Try something. Take a step, however small, in a new direction.
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Look, too, at the claims your school makes about its beliefs and goals. Consider the conditions that support or contradict these claims through the lens of the principles about learning that seem to emerge for you from the research presented in this course. Too many of these claims tend to be disconnected from careful scrutiny: We encourage risk-taking. We value creative, independent thinking. We graduate good citizens ready for democracy. We believe in cooperative learning and strong teamwork. We nurture curiosity. "We" may believe in these goals, but do the practices, teaching methods, and policies of our school move students toward these goals?
And, finally, don't set unreasonable expectations for yourself. The changes Nick and Martha created, both in their classrooms and their schools, took years to accomplish. Each of them worked with colleagues to develop strategies and plans. Although Martha was able to effect change in her own classroom very quickly, she continues the struggle to convince her school to abandon grades. The program that Nick helped create for ninth graders developed over many years and included two years of a pilot program before the full idea was launched. You can only do what you can do.