Preparing for the opening of school, I went back to my old standby materials around the Visible Learning research from John Hattie to refresh what I have read so many times the pages are nearly worn through; that is the importance of knowing where students are entering the learning process in regard to the capacity they are exhibiting in thinking. In Professor Hattie's book, Visible Learning for Teachers (2012), Hattie does a masterful job of linking the discussion of the importance of understanding student's prior knowledge and the work of Piaget. What is most disturbing is that the research out of the UK, as referenced by Hattie (2012) suggests that students are not moving into the phase of more abstract creative thinking until later and later in life. My belief, like many others, is this has been sparked by a series of accountability measures that have celebrated students' ability to parrot back "facts" rather than measure students ability to apply and actually use what they have learned. It is not that surface level knowledge is not important, it certainly is the foundation for being able to go to deeper levels in understanding. We learn to crawl and walk before we can run. But "fact factories", as some schools have become, are just not cutting it for an ever growing number of kids.
Jim Popham, Professor Emeritus of Education at UCLA, peaked my interest in also being concerned as to whether we are fostering students "affective" needs in regard to learning. That is, are we engaging students with strategies that have a high likelihood to actually foster a "like" for reading and mathematics. Shouldn't these affective measures also be some of the long term goals we set for our schools? It highly unlikely a student will experience the sheer thrill that comes with deep learning with Polly the Parroting of facts as the solitary aim. Schools that are interested in exploring these additional worthwhile aims can find a framework for doing so in the "Student Voice" work of Dr. Russ Quaglia and Dr. Michael Corso. These researchers have developed a model for creating the necessary conditions for engaging the affective side of students as well as the cognitive. In fact, their research suggests neglecting the affective growth of students can steepin the hill for the cognitive learning of students. Therefore, affective and cognitive growth should not be mutually exclusive - they should work in concert.
As you prepare for the start of your school year, what thought have you given to students prior knowledge, capacity for thinking, affective development, and/or the conditions in your school that might foster these attributes?
I would love to hear your thoughts.