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A Vision for Learning

I love to read. But, with young kids, sometimes all I have the headspace for is a blog post. I've been working this summer to build in time for reading, and I've been better about it, but not yet at the point of my ultimate goal - reading actual books! Actual texts about education, current events, the world around me. I love blogs for the ways in which they help me to focus my attention on what I'd like to learn about, but it's up to me to take that next step and more deeply investigate the topics that interest me. Blogs can be a double-edged sword, because, if I let them (as I have), they will allow me to simply scratch the surface.

In our world of increaing technology, it's possible to just get those newsbytes, soundbites, and headlines, and not dig deeper to develop true understanding. One only needs to scroll their Facebook or Twitter feeds to realize that this happens all the time. Recently (in the past few weeks), an acquaintance even posted a story about a police shooting in 2008, under the assumption that it was current news. My guess: this person had not even opened the link, but rather saw the headline and shared. 

With all of these challenges comes the call from educators to dig more deeply, focus on depth over breadth, and to not simply work through a textbook - there's really no hope of completing said textbook if we are really looking for a depth of understanding. 

Last week, I posted a series of things that educators might do this summer to reset and recharge for the year ahead. Today I expand on my final bullet "Prepare for the year ahead (whatever that looks like). I propose that all educators, regardless of role, focus on this question:

What is your vision for learning?

Put another way, what MUST student learning look like, sound like, feel like, in your school or classroom? 

I went into a meeting with a school leader last week, with the goal of supporting her through the design of an intentional set of goals and possible professional development for the coming three years, designing backward from what she sees as a big need in the school. I think I went about it all wrong, in hindsight (though it's not irreparable, and we did get somewhere). I asked first, "what are your goals for teaching and learning?", and our conversation turned to a very teacher-focused goal-setting session. We discussed goals in teaching writing, mapping curriculum, considering next steps for social studies curricula. All good stuff. But, the learning part came at the very end - we started to unpack "increased student performance" and determined the need for some self-study mechanisms.

I wish we would have started there, and I've learned that the appropriate question is focused on student learning, first and foremost. Once we can hone in on the ways in which we will know that students have learned and goals for said learning, we can begin to see the ways in which teaching may need to change, and from there, develop a professional development plan that works, at the end of the day, toward that student learning we envision.

So, what's your vision for learning? 

If you're stumped, try this exercise that the late Grant Wiggins first introduced me to:

What can you do when you know a whole lot?

What can you do when you truly understand? 

If we go back to my initial anecdote about blogs vs. books, we may see a direct illustration. If I know a bunch about something, I may be able to memorize some information, recite it, etc. But, if I dive more deeply into a concept and build true understanding, maybe I'm then able to use that knowledge, perhaps to teach it to someone else, explaining its nuances. Consider what actions people can engage in with knowledge vs. understanding. Perhaps that will help lead you to the ways you envision learning manifested in your school or classroom. 

What do you think? Might spending time on a vision for learning be a fruitful use of time this summer? Will your vision for learning encompass depth as opposed to breadth?

Please don't hesitate to share your vision for learning with me at jraba(at)lsany(dot)org. Next week, we'll dive into actions to take in support of a vision for learning. Join me back here next Wednesday!


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