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Course Date: 12 August 2014 to 30 September 2014 (7 weeks)
This course explores how teachers can capitalize on what students bring to the classroom - their ideas, perceptions, and misunderstandings - to advance the learning of all students in the class, a practice we call “leveraging student thinking”.
Estimated Workload: 3-4 hours/week
Dr. Barbara Stengel is Professor of the Practice of Education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and a philosopher of education by preparation and temperament. Stengel teaches courses that examine the social, philosophical, history, political and economic aspects of schooling specifically and educational efforts generally. In her role as Director of Secondary Education, she brings a philosophical temper to practical questions about teacher education programs and policies, raising prior questions, uncovering assumptions (including her own!), clarifying language, and generally deconstructing the stories we tell ourselves about what we are doing and why.
Over the past decade, Dr. Stengel’s philosophical work has focused on the moral and relational dimensions of teaching, learning and leadership (See, for example, Moral Matters: Five Ways to Develop the Moral Life of Schools (with Alan Tom, Teachers College Press, 2006). She has explored the language of responsibility as a useful foundational language for teaching and teacher education in that it integrates the moral (what’s worth doing) and the academic (what’s worth knowing) in pedagogical action. Currently, she is analyzing emotion as a feature of educational interaction. She is especially interested in the role of fear in the dynamic of learning (Does fear motivate learning? Or impede? Or is it more complicated than that?), but also in the ways fear has infected U.S. systems of schooling since 9/11 as well as since the introduction of the Bush/Kennedy opus, No Child Left Behind. Two essays that express Stengel’s thinking on these issues are available in “The Complex Case of Fear and Safe Space” in Studies in Philosophy and Education and “Exploring Fear: Rousseau, Dewey and Freire on Fear and Learning” in Educational Theory.
As the Director of Peabody’s Secondary Education Program, Stengel and her colleagues are working with a number of Nashville middle schools and high schools to create sites where the work of teaching, the professional development of teachers and the preparation of new members of the profession are seamless in what she calls “leveraged learning schools.” Based on staffing models that challenge the one-teacher, one-classroom mold, the goal is to imagine and create institutions where everybody involved is learning and growing all the time.
Marcy Singer-Gabella is a Professor in the Practice of Education, and Associate Chair for Teacher Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University. She teaches courses on educational foundations and teaching, and also is involved with a variety of research and development projects focused on teacher learning and development, including:
From 1999-2007, Dr. Singer-Gabella served as Director and Principal Investigator for two urban school reform projects, Imagine College and GEAR UP Nashville, funded by grants from the Ford Foundation, the Ingram Charitable Fund, the Inner City Education Foundation, the Flora Foundation, and the US Department of Education. These initiatives provided intensive professional development support to teachers in the areas of mathematics, standards-based planning and assessment, building classroom learning communities, and leadership; college planning, preparation, and financial assistance for middle and high school students; and health/social service outreach to over 5000 PreK-12 students and their families in two P-12 school clusters in Nashville, Tennessee.
Before coming to Vanderbilt, Dr. Singer-Gabella taught high school social studies in New York, and then worked with the Stanford Schools Collaborative Professional Development Center in the California Bay Area.
Course content will focus primarily on middle grades classrooms in various disciplines, but the practice of leveraging student thinking is applicable to all subject areas and grade levels. Participants will explore the design of curricular tasks, the analysis of patterns of talk, and the use of representational tools to:
These ideas will be introduced through guided engagement with video cases. Analysis of the video cases will highlight the elements involved in leveraging student thinking, and also will illustrate the epistemic, academic, developmental and managerial “pressure points” that challenge teachers’ ability to capitalize on student thinking in constructive ways.
Throughout the course, participants will further explore and test out these ideas in their own classrooms, be they formal or informal. (A Sunday school class, a scout troop, a homeschool opportunity, or a traditional classroom environment would all be appropriate, but some kind of teaching practice is necessary to benefit from the course.) The goal is to work on the work of teaching while teaching.
In addition, critical reflection with a group of partners is an important component of this course. At key points, participants will be asked to document their work to share with peers for feedback. Therefore, we strongly encourage teachers to plan to work through this course in teams (of two to four people) to facilitate mutual observation, analysis and discussion. Teachers who do not have a team at the beginning of the course will be able to create a team through online forums at the beginning of the course and can exchange their teaching examples through video or narrative descriptions.
Goal: Design a better task -- i.e., one that will more effectively get students’ thinking on the table.
• What does it mean to leverage student thinking?
• Why is leveraging student thinking educative?
• How can you design tasks to more effectively elicit student thinking and make students' understandings more visible?
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