Strategies for Teaching and Learning

Finding time for professional reading can be a challenge. I consider it a priority, however, because as extraordinary as the learning experience is at Catlin Gabel, the world keeps changing and we need to keep learning.

As we approach school-wide strategic planning in 2015-16, I want to share with you several new works that are informing my thinking on Catlin Gabel’s future.

Tom Little, head of school at Oakland’s Park Day School for 27 years, visited 45 private and public schools in the course of writing Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools (with Katherine Ellison). To demonstrate how schools like Catlin Gabel inspire, motivate, and educate students, he identifies six “core strategies”:

  1. Attention to social-emotional intelligence
  2. Interest-driven learning
  3. Real-world learning experiences
  4. Integrated and thematic learning
  5. Teaching social justice and citizenship
  6. Limited testing, grading, and ranking

These strategies have their origin in the progressive education movement of the early 20th century, though they’re championed today as essential to fostering “21st-century skills.”

In #Ed Journey: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, blogger and consultant Grant Lichtman provides vignettes of educational innovation from visiting over 50 public and private schools across the country. Utilizing a systems thinking approach, Lichtman focuses on three key questions:

  • How can we overcome obstacles to school reform?
  • What does transformative learning look like?
  • How do we get there from here?

Following his own schema for effective teaching and learning, he highlights how schools can be dynamic, adaptable, permeable, creative, and self-correcting. He urges all schools to “ask questions that challenge, break, or discard the foundational concepts of ‘school,’ and test those against our best imagining of what the future might hold.”

As Khan Academy, Ted Talks, and Knewton surge into the classroom, high school English teacher Michael Godsey asks compelling questions about the future of his profession with the essay, The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher” (The Atlantic, March 25, 2015). Godsey expresses his concerns about intellectual property sharing, being a curator rather than a teacher, and the impact of tech-based education companies. He observes, “There is a profound difference between a local expert teacher using the Internet and all its resources to supplement and improve his or her lessons, and a teacher facilitating the educational plans of massive organizations.”

As I read and reflect on these three authors, I see important questions for us to consider in the months ahead: what is “progressive” about a Catlin Gabel education? To what degree are we following a model of education or creating our own? How can technology support teaching and learning in harmony with our belief in relationships and interpersonal skills? What structures and processes foster innovation in education? And, perhaps most important, how can we shape the role of the teacher in ways that honor their skills and dedication?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have a response you’d like to share, please post it below.

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The Future of Education?

This spring’s pivot to full-time remote learning sparked many questions about school, from the profound and challenging to the mundane yet urgent. The most fascinating question to me during this time has been: What will this mean for the future of education?