When you get into school either today or tomorrow, whether it’s on your prep period, or during a walk through the halls, take note of who is doing the talking in your schools. Is it the students? The teachers? Take this one into consideration as well:
Brains are more engaged when people are interacting with one another.
Are students interacting in your school? Are they placed within situations that promote safe conversations and high-yield accountability? What happens when these answers are “no?”
Kagan shared with us this image that clearly shows the activity within the brain when various learning tasks are going on. What do you see?
Here’s what I see.
The person doing the talking is the person doing the learning.
Yes, I understand that I just wrote that on Saturday in reference to another session, but it is so much more telling when looking at these PET scans.
Try taking your next lesson plan, your next department meeting or faculty meeting (please do this there) and incorporate some cooperative learning structures into the process. In looking back at this weekend, I am noticing a connection between two specific ideas: the Kagan structures and the Gradual Release of Responsibility model espoused by Fisher and Frey. Here is that image once again:
Notice this: your direct instruction is not lost; you can hang onto your chalk and talk. It just lives in a smaller space within your overall lesson or meeting structure. That area where Fisher and Frey delineate at Guided Instruction and Collaborative Instruction is where the learning structures of Kagan reside. So the flow goes “I-We-You(plural)-You(singular).”
PET Scans: “Kagan Structures Enhance Brain Engagement!” images adapted from Rita Carter’s Mapping the Mind.
Gradual Release of Responsibility. Image taken from this slidedeck.
Last year, I used a book on assessment from Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey in a study group with teachers. When I saw their name attached to this morning’s panel discussion on Literacy in the 21st Century, I was intrigued. My thinking was that they would have some great foundational elements to add to the what I’ve been thinking lately.
What happened was much more than what I thought. Amy Sandvold, a colleague of Angela Maiers, was also on the panel as well. Here is what I pulled out.
Fisher, Frey and Sandvold advocated a Gradual Release of Responsibility in the relationship between teachers and students.
A few years back, when I really began this journey, I saw Alan November present about the need for teachers to outsource what they do to the students to prevent them from being the only voice in the classroom. What they advocated and described here is exactly that. Focused instruction, according to Fisher, is pointed modeling of expert thinking and behavior. It’s in this mode of instruction where we help students build the requisite background knowledge and vocabulary they need for success in higher level tasks. This argument, which is raging throughout the educational world right now, about content v. skills, then becomes moot. Is there direct instruction in this model? Absolutely, but it is followed by gradually removing the emphasis on what you as a teacher do in front of your students. Once you model and instruct, move into more collaborative and shared modes of teaching and learning, until the end result is full on student responsibility.
And this from Frey:
Students and teachers must know stuff in order to do stuff.
Teachers now stuff.
Students know stuff too
Teachers and students learn from one another by interacting and collaborating.
I truly believe that learning takes place in many forms and through many processes. One that I will recommend to anyone is that of conversation and communal learning among students and teachers. Even today, sitting there discussing our greatest learning experience we ever had (my partner had a great one where she remembers finally being able to move from snow-plow skiing to parallel skiing), I didn’t realize my own until we began talking to others in the room and listening to the stories of people learning. Collaboration is a powerful tool for learning.
There is so much more to come out of this session, but I am finding that it’s hard to process, especially in light of what occurred directly after this session. That’s coming too.