Learning by Heart


I’m currently rereading a book by Roland Barth titiled “Learning by Heart” which I think makes a number of relevant comments for me about school reform from a very practical perspective. I also think his quotes are great: e.g. 

  • “Experience is not so much what happens to us as what we make of what happens to us.” Aldous Huxley
  • “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
  • “To achieve excellence one must want to become good enough bad enough” Pete Carroll Princeton University Basketball Coach.

He makes the point about teacher learning needing to parrellel student learning. In other words to get improved learning outcomes for students you must have teacher learning that improves their instructional capacity. I scrambled back to my school data over the past 5 years and tried to match whether there had been improvemnts in both teacher learning [as measured by staff satisfaction surveys] and student learning [as measured by state wide testing results]. Aheee! Yes there was some correlation over a few years between the two.

However I remember Michael Fullan’s “implementation dip” thinking when new innovations occur and I posed the question – Does this mean that teacher learning precedes large scale improvement in student learning?

I pondered a second question on what type of teacher learning do I see has the largest impact on improving teacher’s instuctional capacity?  Over the past 3 years we have had lots of modelling of instructional strategies in classrooms by key educators and our assistant principal so that teachers get to visualise, ponder and reflect on their own instructional practice. In the past 12 months we have also introduced principal walkthroughs as another form of feedback and learning on instructional practices.

A recent piece of data on teacher learning from America indicated that a coaching model had greater impact than modelling. benefitsofcoachingstatistics_000.pdf  This has reshaped my thinking for planning teacher learning 2008.

Finally Barth says: “refelecting on practice – by observing practice, by writing about practice, by engaging in converstaions about practice, by embracing the differences we encounter in practice – builds a school culture hospitable to both learning and community.”  

I know that we have challenges ahead to make the time and reflect on the practice we observe and have feedback on and in 2008 have bought teacher journals to ramp up our written reflection.

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