Sunday, July 13, 2008

Student ownership of learning

In this excellent article by Joe Paterno (yes, the football coach) he expresses the joy of learning to read Virgil in Latin during his high school days and has this insight from his instructor that describes the gradual release of responsibility of learning to the student:

Starting from his first day as a teacher, Father Bermingham always kept an eye out for kids who had begun what he calls the most important task in education: their “self-education.” He meant kids who showed signs of taking responsibility for their own expansion instead of waiting for teachers to do it for them. Even the most talented teacher can try what he or she thinks is “teaching,” but it won’t really take unless the student takes charge of the more important job: learning.

What an excellent goal for every teacher to focus on as the new year gets underway.

(HT to kitchen table math, the sequel)


dcowart said...

This is why I love cooperative learning so much. When I observe a cooperative learning lesson and I watch students working collaboratively to complete a task or solve a problem, I feel they are learning more because their dependence is on each other instead of the teacher. The teacher in the facilitator role is sometimes more effective than direct instruction. Great post!

dcowart said...
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danw said...

@ dcowart

We've been working the past year on the Gradual Release of Responsibility which gives students a chance to do lots of productive group work (AKA cooperative learning), after getting a strong dose of Modeled and Guided instruction. I think that is the place where students really cement their learning. Do you know of any resources that describe effective cooperative learning activities? We would like to increase our repertoire.

dcowart said...

The first thing that comes to mind is Literature Circles- which is structured and an effective cooperative activity. Mostly I use techniques like jigsaw to develop interdependency amongst the group members. No matter the activity, I find that young kids need specific roles (task master, praiser, materials...) with specific responsibilities to learn how to be cooperative. Tell me more about how the gradual release looks in your school.

danw said...

We've been working with Doug Fisher at San Diego State University who has worked with a collaborative in the city of San Diego developing a curriculum around the theme of Gradual Release.

They broke up all activities into 1)Modeling 2)Guided Instruction 3)Collaborative Work or Productive Group Work and 4)Independent. Sounds a lot like Madeline Hunter, eh? The goal is to develop clear alignment between the learning goal and the ultimate student independent task. Last year we worked exclusively on proper modeling as teachers were more likely to ask questions during this direct instruction phase rather than demonstrate the new concept. Next year we plan to work on guided and collaborative instruction.