I. Co-construction of Understanding: cooperative learning, each participant brings part of the picture, part of the understanding, and the dialogue together constructs a new understanding more sophisticated and rich than one person could do alone.
II. Representing to Learn: the act of re-presenting ideas or partial ideas in another form than oral language enables others in the learning group to add to or alter the representation towards some mutually agreeable envisioning. Representing to learn also includes the synthesis of multiple experiences and ideas constrained by the affordances of the medium used.
III. The Reciprocity of Documentation and Meta-cognition: by reviewing traces of the learning passages, learners come to realize the interconnectedness of experiences that change oneself, the social relationships, other environing conditions and opportunities, constraints, flow, time, and resources have effects on people over time. The more one understands how one learns the more focused one can be on maximizing strengths and taking risks in new areas.
Documentation is one of the major responsibilities of the learning facilitator. While working in learning in learning groups to solve a problem and represent a solution or a new understanding together, the facilitator records what was said, made, questioned, and produced in recordings, products, or logs. These traces of the events, that transpired so quickly and become overplayed and forgotten, become available to review and discuss with others in the learning community. Those discussions—the meaning-making that ensues in response to those traces—not only illuminates change and growth but also reminds participants of their experience of those moments, their emotions and choices at the time, which becomes a window into how that change and growth happened.
These Gems of Pedagogy become guides for the facilitator to create the conditions for learners to optimally encounter, engage, and participate fully and bring their abilities and dispositions to the fore to venture bravely in new learning experiences.
Those who wish to be master educators face the challenge of understanding, inventing, and then evolving these three kinds of opportunities their area of expertise.
No Need to Read On
There you have it. I suggest that you turn now to the Making Learning Visible offerings in the menu. The first article contains the documentation of a general chemistry learning group encountering the challenge of representing with Lewis structures the dissociation of sodium sulfate in water.
That capture illustrates the Gems of Pedagogy better than any words can convey.
The long article goes on to display the effects of watching this slide show upon the students themselves, their classmates, chemistry faculty, general faculty from many disciplines, and state liaisons in institutional and faculty development in Washington State. Dr. Kalyn Owens and I spent six years together investigating Gems of Pedagogy. You can see that summarized here.
The second page, Listening to Students, is an explanation of our experience in an earlier capture that summarizes the transformative power of that one slide show on students in the remainder of their first year of general chemistry.
The third, Algebra Learning Group, is a guest capture for a developmental algebra class at a neighboring college.
Gems of Pedagogy Program
I created a professional development sequence that is a year-long cooperative study of the deeper dimensions of learning to facilitate learning without regard to discipline or employment focus. It is a stand-alone series of discussions, investigations, and reflections on leadership in the college classroom in seven modules.
Gems of Pedagogy: intentionality in classroom leadership
Module 1 — A Focus on People
A video is online of a discussion by Tom Drummond (Early Childhood), Jane Lister-Reis (Communication), Kalyn Owens (Chemistry), Bradley Lane (English), and Jack Bautsch (Institutional Development). The members of the panel share their perspective of the contrast between a traditional view of the classroom as a place to transfer content and a view that begins with the uniqueness of each student and the necessity for creating conditions for each person to flourish. Since each student’s brains are unique, their dispositions, experiences, emotions, and habits of mind will also be unique. From this perspective learning happens when conditions are optimal for each person, when engaged and visibly connected to others in a community. Participants discuss the video in small groups. Then thoughts are compiled from the entire group and immediately emailed to all participants.
The first topic is how to distinguish socially-constructed understanding from personal opinion. A video, also online, offers an opportunity for participants to reflect, discuss in small groups, and compile what they know and what they question about this distinction.
Create ideas on how to investigate some aspect of this distinction to bring next time.
Module 2 — Co-construction of Understanding
Participants meet in small groups to share their investigations and co-construct what we know and understand about a focus on people and the conditions for optimal learning.
Participants capture of students in developmental math working to understand something, such as the slope of a line.
Share reactions and define together what co-construction of understanding means.
Identify opportunities for co-construction in one’s own classroom and present those to others for their consideration.
Create ideas on how to investigate ‘co-construction of understanding’ to bring next time.
Module 3 — Essential II: Representing to Learn
Share investigations of co-construction and co-construct what we know and understand.
Draw in small groups a diagram of co-construction as a concept.
Present a PowerPoint capture of students representing to learn in first year chemistry.
Define together what representing to learn means.
Identify opportunities for representing to learn in one’s own classroom and present those to others for their consideration.
Create ideas on how to investigate ‘representing to learn’ to bring next time.
Module 4 — Personal Authenticity in the Facilitation of Learning
Share investigations of representing to learn.
Reflect upon what we have done so far: where we started, what has happened, and what it means, as well as re-consider the norms for participation in this series.
Present a video of a discussion by Tom, Jane, Kalyn, Bradley, and Jack of the ways we can bring our authentic selves forward to model, inform and respond positively to what we value.
Offer a provocation to reflect, discuss in small groups, and compile what they know and what they question about the essential dispositions to learn: initiative, cooperation, and perseverance.
Create ideas on how to investigate one’s positive attentiveness to bring next time.
Module 5 — Authentic Leadership in a Structure of Openness
Share investigations of positive attentiveness.
Compile what we know and want to practice and strategies to implement.
Present a video of a discussion by Tom, Jane, Kalyn, Bradley and Jack of how we have learned to deal with power and authority in the classroom and how we can behave in ways that help equalize the student teacher relationship. The discussion defines a democratic learning community as a container for the voices of students to emerge as well as guides for the facilitator/leader of the ‘game board’. Topics include offering negotiable opportunities, enrollment, feedback, avoiding evaluative judgment, and responding informatively.
Offer a provocation to reflect, discuss in small groups, and compile what they know and what they question about talking informatively, avoiding praise and offering negotiable opportunities in one’s own class.
Create ideas on how to investigate providing a structure of openness to bring next time.
Module 6 — Care
Share investigations of talking informatively.
Compile what we know and want to practice and strategies to implement.
Present a video of a discussion by Tom, Jane, Kalyn, Bradley, and Jack of the role of the teacher as a provider of care instead of a manager of problems. The panel makes a distinction between assertively offering care and supportively offering care. The former provides what students need as a responsibility of the instructor; the latter offers listening and resources for the students to take responsibility to act.
Offer a provocation to reflect, discuss in small groups, and compile what they know and what they question about caring for those students who are harder to reach.
Create possible investigations of assertive or supportive care.
Offer time for participants to write what they have found most essential or most interesting in their work in these modules.
Assign each participant the task of sharing with someone at home or at school the story of your experience in ‘Gems of Pedagogy’ as a gift to them.
Module 7 — Essential III: Documentation/Meta-cognition
Share investigations of offering assertive or supportive care to students.
Compile what we know and want to take forward in our teaching.
Present the story of the previous six modules as told in all the documentation that is available in photos, videos, documents, etc.
Offer the opportunity for people to reflect on this experience in small groups.
Present ‘Passages for Learning’ as a way to define transformation.
Invite a final sharing by each participant.