Reflecting on Teacher Learning and Development

We believe in the impact of facilitation on teacher learning and development. We believe in providing high-quality experiences for teachers to transform their practice by engaging in facilitated learning activities that are focused on the best practices in teaching and learning.

Our colleague, Dr. Kelley Novak, shared her reflections on a learning experience at the Collaborative Classroom Summit in Clay County, Florida this past summer. Below, Kelley offers a synthesis of her learning:

  • Critical content is presented in a manner in which the participants are called to “think” and be “on the edge of their seats’ as learners.” This method of experience puts the participant in the mode of learner, helping teachers to more clearly see, hear, and feel how their students feel when they are learning. Through this type of learning, teachers are challenged to think more about how content is presented, questions that are asked, wait time is distributed, and how materials are used to deliberately support the learning.

  • Collaboration is a requirement for teaching and learning. Teaching and learning is active and interactive, and it relies on engagement and motivation. Through opportunities to think and reflect quietly, in pairs, small groups, and in large groups, participants are actively communicating ideas, sharing experiences, and bringing the mental workings of reading and thinking to life, thus enhancing their own understanding. Collaboration reinforces the principles of teamwork and the expectation that everyone participates. It also supports numerous learning styles by balancing “air time” for those who are more reserved and others who are more gregarious, allowing for a certain comfort that comes from working in groups.

  • Facilitation is KEY! The role of presenter is that of true facilitator: one who questions, guides, supports, provokes, reflects, and challenges the learner to use their own knowledge, thinking, collaboration, and engagement skills to grow. Through various facilitation styles and structures, the learner is in charge of her own learning with THINKING-something that has become sort of a mystery, or sidebar of teaching today with the use of so many basal programs. Of course the purpose of this growth is ultimately for the good of the students the participants teach, yet through the facilitative style, the participants are able to benefit from a great deal of personal growth that allows them to feel invigorated as adult learners, thus supporting their desires to be better teachers for their students.

  • Learning is based on what’s best for the learner. The social and emotional needs of the learner receive close attention and are deliberately incorporated into the learning structures and materials. We are not learning for learning’s sake, rather learning is a function of interaction, engagement, collaboration, and discourse to create thinking, feeling people who are able to problem solve, reflect, share, and argue in order to become enhanced citizens.

  • Resources are important. Research-based, differentiated best practices are more important. Although DSC has created many wonderful programs, I really appreciate how these programs are almost secondary to the concept of learning and utilization of best instructional practices. The DSC programs and pedagogy reinforce how the educators make the decisions first and foremost. The participants feel empowered to plan, teach, and learn in the absence of a program, thus seeing the value and impact they have as the professional instructors that they are.

We also believe that schools need to explicitly support both the child’s head and heart. When they do, it ensures that our classroom and school communities meet the complete academic, social, emotional, and ethical needs of the children in our charge. Visit The Center for the Collaborative Classroom to learn more and to read the Core Principles of the Collaborative Classroom.