The teachers of our school attended online courses given by Harvard University about classroom methodologies and work routines to encourage critical thinking in students and make them participants of their own learning.
How do I know that my students are learning? This is a key question that teachers must put forward when teaching a lesson. Today, educational methods have moved from their old focus set on mechanical learning (based on memory or repetition) to methodologies that seek to stimulate students to analyze and connect information so as to create mental connections leading to reasoning. This is why today it is not sufficient that teachers have wide knowledge of a matter, as they must also have abilities and techniques that make students effectively learn what they are being taught.
How to make it effective?
Within the framework of the Santiago College strategic plan and in harmony with the International Baccalaureate program, it has been established that one of the main points of attention to deliver quality education is set on teachers. This is why every year our school assigns resources to training its faculty in new educational practices favoring quality learning in the classroom.
During the first three months of the year, around 30 teachers from different SC areas followed online Project-Zero courses given by Harvard University. Project Zero is a program that draws upon the potentialities of the human being. Intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, transdisciplinary and intercultural thinking and ethics, and explores sustainable ways of supporting them in multiple and diverse contexts, always based on a learning process that merges theory and practice. “The purpose is to encourage critical thinking in children, develop work habits leading to reasoning and put into practice new methodologies to exercise in the classroom. Ultimately, what is sought is that students effectively learn the subject and become agents of their own learning process,” emphasized Claudia Rose, Academic Coordinator of Santiago College.
Another positive aspect of the Project-Zero courses is that they encourage teamwork. “This is very interesting, as it creates interaction amongst teachers of different levels with something in common - for example, they teach the same subject, they are in the same school level or they work in a given project-, thus allowing them to learn from other opinions or visions regarding classroom experience, whether within their own group or with teachers from other countries, who also followed these online courses,” added Rose.
Project- Zero courses
Project Zero offers different courses that last about 12 weeks based on a calendar of four to six weekly hours of work. The groups of teachers of our school worked in three different subjects during these months: Creating Cultures of Thinking, Thinking and Learning in a Maker-Centered Classroom and Making Learning Visible.
Creating Cultures of Thinking consists of promoting collective thinking in the classroom and encourage learning. This has to do with aspects related to contents; that is, different ways that may create a thinking culture in the classroom and predispose the student to connect with the subject in a better way.
This project focuses the teacher’s attention on eight cultural forces that may be present in each group-learning situation: language, time, surroundings, opportunities, routines, models, interactions and expectations. “For example the language, the way the teacher speaks to students is determining for learning. It is different to say: “today the homework is” than “today we are going to learn about …” stated the Academic Coordinator. Identity – in turn – is other cultural force where the teacher is included in the learning process, so as to generate a community. For example, speaking of “we are going to learn,” instead of “you are going to do.” “If I am teaching social sciences, I can place the students on the role and say “you, as historians,” in order to connect them to the relevance that today’s lesson will have in their future”, stressed Rose.
Thinking and Learning in a Maker-Centered Classroom offers opportunities to learn about new tools and technologies, but above this, encourages the development of thinking abilities, such as, adjustability, collaborative thinking, risk assumption and other characteristics that are essential to grow in a complex world as today. Learning supposes acquiring information, retaining it, interpreting it and being able to apply it whenever necessary. For this purpose, the use of knowledge and abilities is required, which may be acquired through this course that encourages practical and collaborative work as a complementary way to apply what has been learned. “In other words, it has to do with teaching the children to be designers and participants of their own learning process, so that they can organize themselves, define roles and tasks in order to conduct a research or develop a project applying all their knowledge,” stated the fourth-grade teacher Macarena Rojas.
Finally, Making Learning Visible teaches the teacher to document the learning contents in the classroom. According to that stated by the school Math teacher Claudia Herrera, the idea is to include everything that is being learned by each student, from the start until the final goal, so as to observe each student’s perception regarding the subject, their feelings, the way they are understanding the lessons, among other. To this end, there are thinking routines in the classroom that facilitate critical thinking, such as: I see, I think, I wonder, leading the child to reflect on what he/she has learned; Circle of viewpoints, where students assume different postures about an issue and defend them, among other. In summary, this course seeks to instruct the teacher to teach children to think critically.
As we stated above, the way to learn has currently changed. It has become more dynamic and collaborative, where the teacher has a mediator role rather than being an exclusive entity of knowledge, as it used to be when teaching was unidirectional. This is why it is important to instruct our teachers about the new learning techniques and methodologies existing today, so that they can provide state-of-the-art education, as established in the educational project of our school.