Highlighting Learning

May 24, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Classroom

“The grass is always greener on the other side” is a phrase which applies to so many things in life. People have an amazing ability to see how things could be. We all have been in this camp at some time in our lives – “If only we had this, then…”

During my career I have had the opportunity to visit and talk to educators from across the globe. During every discussion I see an element (sometimes many) of the place we are talking about which I wish my current workplace would have. But, as I am sure we are all aware, what works in one place doesn’t always work the same way in the next. Every situation, schools in this case, is different and needs a different approach. But there must be some common elements to help create an effective learning environment.

This is something I have been thinking about for a while. It is something that has dominated much of my discussions with my PLN of late (thanks to @becline@jay_priebe@interpidteacher@amichetti & @mscofino for helping me on this journey). I think it is time that I stop looking at the “green grass” and share my thoughts on what common elements schools could have to promote effective learning:

Learning at the Centre

There is broad agreement in education that learning should be at the centre of learning but what does “effective learning” look like? Answering this question is extremely difficult but I think it is a discussion that every school needs to have. Teachers, students, administrators and parents need to come to a common agreement on what effective learning looks like in their school.

In order to ensure the whole school is working towards the same goal, there would need to be a set of overarching concepts which span the whole school (like the IB Learning Profile or Approaches to Learning) but the articulation of what learning looks like at different age levels would be broken down under these statements (sample articulation in the MYP – work in progress).

The process of articulating what effective learning looks like would require the involvement of all stakeholders. Having a common agreement would provide a common language through which we could discuss student learning. The description of what effective learning looks like would form the basis of the culture of the school – prospective teachers and families would gain an understanding of what the school believes, students would be given an insight into how their learning may progress and teachers will have a guide for explicitly guiding students through the process of learning – “learning to learn”.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by eliotreeves

Integrated Curriculum

When planning curriculum experiences teachers would use this articulation of “effective learning” to help focus their experiences. These skills would be explicitly taught through all subject areas. The curriculum would be mapped with the use of a curriculum mapping system to help identify the types of experiences being offer to students


The school would provide teachers, students and parents with exemplars of what “effective learning” looks like across the school. These exemplars would be structured around the articulation of “effective learning”. Teachers could uses this bank of exemplars as a guide to help them explicitly teach the concept of “learning to learn”.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by lovelihood


Like all initiatives there is a need to see if they are effective. One strategy to do this could be to focus walk-throughs around “effective learning”. A template could be made with which administration and colleagues could use to evaluate learning experiences. The school’s common understanding of what effective learning looks like would form that basis for discussion about professional practice.

Professional Development

Using the information collected from the curriculum mapping system, feedback and evaluation, professional development experiences would be tailored in order address the needs to the individual staff members and the school. This would help ensure that these experiences are focused on improving student learning

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by rachel_titiriga

This is what my “greener grass” looks like. I am lucky to work in a school which is heading in the same direction and it is time I step up and help in the process of guiding us across to these “greener pastures”

2 Comments + Add Comment

  • This is the post I was waiting for 🙂 I think you might be interested in the Looking for Learning model that we used at ISB (and hopefully will be using at YIS soon). It was a really powerful way to continue to focus on learning at the core of what we do, and to encourage teachers to do this together in partnership. ISB really did a spectacular job of consistent, job-embedded PD, that focuses on learning and understanding what effective learning looks like. You’re in the neighborhood, might be worth a visit?

    Building that kind of staff development in with the way you’re approaching the ATLs would probably be a great match. I think all of our various schools are probably doing parts of this process really well. It would be great to come together and share how those individual parts work, so that you can reflect with your own team on how to bring them all together. Of course, it’s a long shot for the tech coach to be making school-wide changes like this, but that’s all part of the fun, right?

  • Thanks for the comment Kim. As you said it seems like we all have elements of this process going on at our schools but putting them all together in one package seems to be the tough thing. I would love to sit down and chat with people who at a similar point and discuss the various approaches and strategies we could try.

    I actually had a meeting with our senior management about these issues a few days ago and it was amazing to see how similar our ideas where. It was just that even within our own school we hadn’t had the chance to share them. They are working on these issues from the approach of what effective teaching looks like, whilst we are coming at it from the learning side. From the sounds of it we are probably going to find a very happy middle ground. It is an exciting time.

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