I attended the School District #35 sponsored professional day conference for WGSS feeder schools. The keynote speaker for the morning session was Lynie Tener who spoke on Exploring Learning and Teaching. Lynie Tener spoke to the idea of teaching to all students not just the capable ones. She presented a lot of Carol Dweck’s research, particularly her findings for the different effects of praising children for their ability and praising them for their effort. When praised for their ability, students tend to refuse challenges so that they don’t prove themselves unable and they experience more anxiety when presented with more challenging work. But with praise for effort, children were more likely to accept challenges and deal with failures as learning experiences. This has been much quoted research of late and I struggled to remember who I have been reading lately that has also gone into these findings in detail.
Then Tener spoke more about Carol Dweck’s work on a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. With a fixed mindset, people tend to believe that their intelligence is somewhat fixed and there isn’t a lot that they can do to improve it. They shut down with criticism, avoid challenges, and do what they can to make themselves look smart. With a growth mindset, people know that their intelligence can improve. They believe that their knowledge and abilities will improve with hard work. Criticism and setbacks are just tools for learning.
Finally, Lynie Tener spoke about the OECD’s 7 Principles of Learning. She expounded on each the principles; learners at the centre, the social nature of learning, emotions are integral to learning, recognizing individual differences, stretching all students, assessment for learning, and building horizontal connections. Then she had us to some reflection on how we teach in regards to these principles.
For my second session I attended UDL: Universal Design for Learning given by Anne Midzain. She explained that the philosophy of Universal Design for Learning was about getting to know your students as a community of learners as well as individual learners. Then you start by looking at their strengths. When using this model we teach with the three principles: Representation, Action and Expression, and Engagement. Anne Midzain also gave us the following websites to explore: www.udlresource.ca, udlresource.com, and cast.org. This is a model that I am very interested in learning more about!
The final session I attended was Primary Genius Hour given by Tracy Cramer. I have been interested in Genius Hour for awhile now but have struggled to picture how to put it into practise with a class of 24 grade one and two students with just me. I have heard teachers of intermediate grades express frustration with implementing it due to the lack of independence among many children these days and with maxed out class sizes the lack of independence is even more taxing. This session gave me some great ideas! First of all she had her students partnered up with “inquiry buddies”. These were older buddies who can write! Another good idea is to start with a class topic. That way she gathered research material on that topic. The students were able to research different subtopics of that class topic. With just these two details, I have a much clearer idea of how I might implement this kind of inquiry into my classroom for the next school year!