When attempting to focus a teaching staff on designing environments for learning, I try to emphasize the need for us as a group to design for LEARNING, rather than for teaching. That emphasis usually goes unnoticed by teachers, and they begin to discuss their needs - the layout of their room, storage, and so on. Usually, I let it go. Its a normal reaction. We are all inclined to think of our own set-up than to think about how to design for our REAL client - learners. True, teachers need the right stuff in the right place to be effective, but if that's all the conversation is about, well, we're missing an opportunity when building new environments to finally focus on the learner and learning.
So, when I read Carol Ann Tomlinson's review of about Barry Beers' new book Learning-Driven Schools: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Principals I found an educational leader who can help us all refocus our efforts where they need to be. Beers, a school principal with 21 years of service, is interested in constructing bridges between what we know about learning and how teachers teach. It also touches upon that often contentious language barrier between academic researchers and practicing teachers.
Beer's book puts the focus back on the learner and learning, rather than the teacher and teaching.
"Learner-doing focuses students on deep understandings related to content rather than only on absorption of information or on favored activities. It requires students to reason. Learner plans are also purposeful in attending to student engagement. Further, learning-focused classrooms employ assessment to ensure that the teacher understands the relationship of each student to learning outcomes. Beers explains that assessment only becomes formative assessment when it causes the teacher to adjust instructional plans to ensure that they are working for individual learners. As a teacher continually monitors the academic progress of each learner toward essential knowledge, understanding, and skill, differentiation is simply a logical teacher response to inevitable student differences. Assessment for learning, Beers reminds us, not only involves the teacher in reflection and planning but involves the student as well."
"Teaching for learning necessitates providing an environment in which students search for meaning. Teachers in such settings check for students’ prior knowledge as a unit of study begins—likely discovering learning gaps for some students and early mastery for others. Teaching for learning requires student action; growing student awareness of him or herself as a learner; processing of ideas and reflection on those ideas; motivation via removal of threat, use of novelty, and positive feedback; monitoring and enlisting student emotions in learning; and teaching for memory and meaning. Teaching for learning also calls on teachers to use strategies that enhance learning—for example, effective cooperative strategies, identifying similarities and differences, interactive writing, hypothesis-testing, organizers, and non-linguistic representations of ideas."