When I was in high school, my English teacher, Mrs. Horn, required her students to write a research paper. This process included daily trips to the school library, where I used a card catalog to look up the name of a book that may, or may not, have the information I was looking for. Once I found a book in the card catalog, I had to hunt for it using the Dewey decimal system, locate the book, and then begin searching for the basic facts about my topic. Mrs. Horn was a stickler for notecards. Our research papers needed to have 75 accompanying index cards so that we could organize our information one fact at a time, before typing it out on the word processor or typewriter.
How times have changed. Most school libraries today have more space dedicated to technology than books, and the long process of searching through dusty publications or old-timey microfiche has become a thing of the past. But here’s the thing: the importance of research papers hasn’t changed. And the importance of research hasn’t changed. What has changed is our access to information.
Shifting educational landscape
The radical advancement of technology and the internet has fundamentally changed our relationship with information. A 20th century education taught us how to find information — but finding information is no longer a problem. If anything, in the 21st century, we have access to too much! With hundreds of thousands of hits through internet searches and recommendations for related information, the question is no longer how to find the facts, but what to do with the information that’s literally a click away. How do we interpret this information? This is the question that teachers and school leaders struggle with as they attempt to make key concepts relevant to children in a rapidly changing world.
These advances in technology have not only changed our relationship to information, they’ve changed our relationship to other people. Instant connection, instant messaging, and instant information-sharing have changed the landscape of interactions.
Educating students for tomorrow, today
We can no longer sustain a 20th century mindset in a 21st century world. The Global Learning Alliance (GLA), with its commitment to cross-cultural research collaborations and a desire to define a pedagogy that takes into account the dynamic needs of a shifting educational landscape, knows that the task before us is to educate students today for the world they’re poised to lead tomorrow.
The GLA is the outgrowth of CPET’s ground-breaking research on the features and practices surrounding 21st century teaching and learning. It has evolved from the seeds of a research project and is now a consortium of schools and universities around the world dedicated to understanding, defining, applying, and sharing the principles and practices of a world-class education within a wide range of educational contexts. As a result of ongoing research, we have been customizing the Global Mindset Framework, a tool that helps educators consider new skills for a new world.
The Global Mindset Framework builds on the importance of the critical thinking skills of the 20th century by fostering skills in collaboration, creativity, caring, and global consciousness.
If we want to ensure that our students are developing the skills needed for the next hundred years, we must begin considering a new pedagogy for a new era. We must consider the implications on our curriculum, assessments, and instruction, if we are going to add these essential skills in our schools.
By DR. ADELE BRUNI ASHLEY
We begin our session with an exercise borrowed from Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. Players (our term for students and teachers who are in creative collaboration with each other) disperse throughout the room facing in any direction and are invited to move silently about the room at their own pace without collision, always passing through the center of the room en route to another side (rather than merely circling the periphery). Welcome to the act of milling and seething.
The purpose of this introductory activity is twofold: first, to foster an awareness of space. All too often in school, students are aware of neither the classroom as a physical space nor themselves and their peers as bodies coexisting within that space. Milling and seething prompts students to examine the entirety of the classroom space; at points, the facilitator leading the activity claps and says, “Look around. Are there any empty places in the room? When I clap again, move to fill them.” Students thus begin to notice the gaps and spaces within the room at any given time and to understand their responsibility to venture out and fill those gaps and spaces. And because of the mandate that they move through the center of the room as they mill and seethe, students must negotiate encounters with one another. They must become aware of where their individual bodies end and the bodies of others begin.
Second, to ease players into imaginative work without any burden of “performance.” There exists no audience in this exercise; all are players. Players need only follow the directions of the facilitator (“When I clap, pause wherever you are. When I clap again, begin moving.”), and these directions shift subtly as the exercise progresses. While at first, the facilitator might ask players to “speed up (or slow down) by 50%, whatever that means to you,” directions ultimately become more like this one: “Pause. You have somewhere important to be. You’re late. When I clap again, get there.” Even with this simple direction, the players start to move into imaginative worlds.
Reimagining texts and teaching
The Literacy Unbound initiative, the driving force behind this session, was originally conceived as a grand experiment in teacher education that sought to encourage instructors to consider the power of artistic play as an opportunity to help students develop as critical, collaborative, creative readers. At its core, Literacy Unbound seeks to reinvigorate students and teachers through project-based, collaborative curricula developed around challenging texts. Throughout this process, we often witness increased student engagement and the development of a stronger classroom community.
By bringing students and teachers together as creative collaborators, we’re able to reimagine the acts of reading, writing, listening, and speaking through multiple modalities. Though various aspects of this process can change, the core principles always remain the same:
Why does this work?
Through this approach, students get the chance to move — intellectually, physically and emotionally — into the world of the text. So frequently, we talk about text in the classroom. By contrast, our process allows students to talk from within the text; they speak directly from the perspective of one character and then another. They can feel the story in ways that might not otherwise be possible. At Literacy Unbound, we believe strongly that rich meaning-making happens when we find ways to experience literature together in the classroom.
By COURTNEY BROWN
The numbers are daunting: approximately 50% of teachers leave within their first five years of teaching. This rapid turnover negatively impacts districts, schools, and students. All over the country, schools and principals are left scrambling to find teachers at the last minute, and school culture, curriculum, and instruction suffer from a lack of continuity. Statistically, this high turnover disproportionately affects schools primarily serving students from low-income families and students of color.
What can we do to address the issue of teacher attrition? How do we help teachers not simply stay in their jobs, but become committed, successful, practitioners? Certainly, a strong supportive school culture helps, and we recognize that ongoing mentoring, strong preparation, and a repertoire of instructional moves go a long way in helping new teachers experience success.
Research shows that teachers who are well-prepared and well-mentored are much more likely to make a long-term commitment to the profession, and increase their effectiveness while doing so. At CPET, we specialize in offering new teachers ongoing, individualized mentorship as well as ready-to-use resources they need to be successful in the classroom.
Engaging with a community of peers
The New Teacher Network at Teachers College (NTN@TC) is a community of practice for individuals in their first three year of teaching. NTN@TC provides a custom blend of in-person and online collaboration, personalized support through customized professional development workshops, on-site coaching, and a dedicated online community. Since its establishment in 2014, nearly 250 Teachers College graduates have connected to the network. Though some network benefits are limited to Teachers College alumni, all new teachers can benefit from our in-person workshops and conferences, many of which are tailored specifically for the experiences of first- to third-year teachers: