10 Facilitator Moves for Adult Learning

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Word association quiz.

When someone pairs “School” and “Learning” who is the first learner you think of?

A student? A class of students? If so, you are like the majority of people. And for good reason — the student learner is the most important point of focus for schools.

However, capitalizing on the unique interests, affinities, and personalities of students to cultivate a rich learning environment isn’t an accident. It requires a focus on the ecosystem of learning at the adult level as well as at the student level. Fortunately, nurturing vigorous learning at the adult level has a mutually beneficial impact on the student learners.

Leading_for_Powerful_LearningWhile numerous tomes offer recipes for mining student data, creating professional learning communities, and implementing data driven instruction, fewer focus on the culture of learning or how to foster a culture that endures, inspires, and develops internal leadership. Authors Angela Breidenstein, Kevin Fahey, Carl Glickman, and Grances Hensley have filled this void with “Leading for Powerful Learning, A Guide for Instructional Leaders” from Teachers College Press.

The book identifies three types of adult learners (Instrumental, Socializing, and Self-Authoring) as well as methods and practices for facilitating authentic learning for each of these types (with a goal of helping them move toward Self-Authoring).  The book includes some protocols for use in meetings.

The entire book is well worth the read, however, of particular interest are 10 facilitator moves that “influence how teams, departments, and faculties learn.” Below are the 10 moves as stated in the book without the accompanying descriptions. For a more in-depth analysis check out the book. You won’t be disappointed.

Facilitator Move 1: Openings are important.

Facilitator Move 2: Closings are also important.

Facilitator Move 3: Understand why you are using a particular protocol.

Facilitator Move 4: Plan the protocol.

Facilitator Move 5: Explain the protocol.

Facilitator Move 6: Facilitate the entire protocol. 

Facilitator Move 7: Don’t be afraid to facilitate.

Facilitator Move 8: Never forget to debrief the process. 

Facilitator Move 9: Find a place for negative questions and comments. 

Facilitator Move 10: Trust the process and trust the group. 

Disrupting Injustice: Principal Strategies to Advance Social Justice

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The problem: Social injustice across our social landscape, with concentrations in schools where social justice is most needed.

A solution: Leadership focused on targeting, disrupting, and transforming such norms into new outcomes.

Teacher College Record published a paper by George Theoharis, an assistant professor in educational leadership and inclusive education at Syracuse University, titled “Disrupting Injustice: Principals Narrate the Strategies They Use to Improve Their Schools and Advance Social Justice.”

The study’s focus is on principals who positively advance social justice in their schools, who rely on the notion that schools can be places that break the predictive qualities of race, class, gender, and cognitive variation on student outcomes. However, the focus of these principals is not directly on targeting academic gains — which often result in practices that “maintain structures that isolate, track, and segregate instead of structuring inclusion and belonging of all kinds. The findings of this study directly contradict many current practices and reforms that propose that the best ways for students with disabilities, students learning English, and other struggling students to learn involves individually designed and/or remedial instruction conducted outside the general classroom.” Rather, their focus is on targeting the injustices themselves, with academic gains being an outcome.

The principals highlighted in the study focused on strategies to disrupt specific injustices. Below is an overview of the four main injustices and strategies that disrupt these injustices. They are reprinted directly from the study. However, for a fuller analysis and in-depth look at these strategies in practice, we would encourage you to take a look at the article.

Injustice 1: School structures that marginalize, segregate, and impede achievement

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Eliminate pullout/segregated programs.
    • Increase rigor and access to opportunities.
    • Increase student learning time.
    • Increase accountability systems on the achievement of all students.

Injustice 2: Deprofessionalized teaching staff

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Address issues of race.
    • Provide ongoing staff development focused on building equity.
    • Hire and supervise for justice.
    • Empower staff.

Injustice 3: A Disconnect with the community, low-income families, and families of color

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Create a warm and welcoming climate.
    • Reach out intentionally to the community and marginalized families.
    • Incorporate social responsibility into the school curriculum.

Injustice 4: Disparate and low student achievement

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Confluence of all efforts and strategies

 

Image:Photo Credit: Dustin and Jenae via Compfight cc

Racing to the Top and Leaving the Impoverished at the Bottom

dollar eyePoverty cripples societal advancement. When prevalent in the richest nation in the world, it becomes mindboggling. Why are so many individuals struggling under the weight of poverty in America? Why is nearly 1 in every 4 children considered impoverished in this land of Race to the Top? Are we racing to the top of the wrong metric?

 My hat goes off to the many families who are pushing their children to aim higher than the constraints of their impoverished surroundings. As members in a society, we share their challenges too, even if we turn a blind eye.

During an interview with CNN, actor Jeff Bridges and “Share our Strength” founder Bill Shore, express why poverty, child poverty specifically, is our responsibility; “If we’re not taking care of our kids, we’re not taking care of our country. If another country was doing this to our kids, we’d be at war.”

relative-child-povertyIn a post titled, “Map: How 35 Countries Compare on Child Poverty,” the Washington Post reports, “A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, on the well-being of children in 35 developed nations, turned up some alarming statistics about child poverty. More than one in five American children fall below a relative poverty line.” Out of the 35 countries examined, America ranked 34th.

Mind you, In this study, UNICEF is using its own “poverty line.” Internationally, poverty is defined as families living on less than $1.25 or $2.00 per day, and as much as we grumble about how little we are paid, no gainfully and legally employed American is limited to these lowly amounts. (But in the shadows? That’s another story.) In America, poverty is defined as families living on less than about $22,000 per year.

Because of such huge gaps between developed countries’ internal economies, UNICEF instead measures how much poorer children are from their country’s national average.

“The UNICEF report looks at something it calls the ‘child poverty gap,’ which measures how far the average poor child falls below the relative poverty line. It does this by measuring the gap between the relative poverty line and the average income of poor families.”

Again, from the Post, “The picture (in the U.S.) looks even worse when you examine just how far below the relative poverty line these children tend to fall.”

What are we doing, America? And what should we be doing more of?

Eric Jensons, “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” provides insight into the weight of these children’s challenges. He highlights four major risk factors that, because of economic hardship, burden the developing child and hamper student achievement.

E = Emotional and Social Challenges

A = Acute and Chronic Stress

C = Cognitive Lags

H = Health and Safety Issues

This may explain why many of our students coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds experience difficulties performing in their classrooms. Unfortunately the direction educational policy is headed (as well meaning as it may be) is unjust, unequal, and unapologetic for learners outside of more affluent communities. If a student doesn’t make the mark, they are tracked to remediation or retention in attempts to correct their academic deficits rather than build on their strengths!

Show me a dropout who complained about not getting tested enough, and I’ll show a dropout that never dropped out. The truth is, how often do we hear about students dropping out because they felt the system spent too little time focused on their deficits? How many were exasperated with the focus on their strengths? Is this “leave no deficits behind” approach really attending to their needs and cultivating their interests? Clearly not.

However, while schools, school systems, and educational policy makers can play a role in transforming practices to meet the needs of these learners, we as a larger society have a role to play as well. We, the people, need to stand up to demand that the promissory note that MLK, Jr. referred to way back in ‘63 be delivered upon, because it is clear that we are, as a nation, are still defaulting on that promise.

Again, from the Post: “The poor U.S. showing in this data may reflect growing income inequality. According to one metric of inequality, a statistical measurement called the gini coefficient, the U.S. economy is one of the most unequal in the developed world.”

(What would MLK have to say about that, I wonder?)

Until such time that we fully, tactically and strategically engage in the war on poverty, we must focus where we can — on the students, children, and learners in our charge. Their voice, their dreams, their empowerment must be our first and foremost goal.  But how?

The 2007 Dispelling the Myth Award winners, Osmond A. Church P.S./M.S. 124 K-8 School, have done a remarkable job in breaking down those barriers.  Recognized for significantly raising students academic achievement, their dedication to these young minds is reflected in their success. With an enrollment total of about 1,227 students; 97% are low-income, 33% African American, 44% Asian and 21% are Hispanic, educators were able to provoke a lasting change. What once had dismissed this school, because of their high achievers awarded them much acclaim. Perhaps this school’s mission is responsible for their turnaround; “to inculcate all members of the school community with an understanding and acceptance of diversity, fostering individuality and creativity, where high expectations are the norm for all students.”

Yet we know a well crafted mission isn’t enough. Without the leadership and vision to pursue it relentlessly, such a mission is an empty platitude rather than a way out of poverty. If we want to actualize the talking point that education is a pathway out of poverty we must focus on four things:

1. Leadership.

2. Equity.

3. Cradle to college rap-around services.

4. Sustaining educator engagement.

And even these offer no guarantees without a larger effort to break the status quo of inequality. And judging by where we fall in a comparison of developed nations, our leaders seem abysmally disinterested in racing to the top of that metric.

So, for now, education offers our best hope for affecting change and breaking the predictive cycle of race, class, and gender on educational outcomes. So, bring along your copy of Jenson’s work and lets get to work.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc
Graph: WashingtonPost

How to Increase Group IQ

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The following is a guest post by Annie Paul Murphy – book author, magazine journalist, consultant and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better. This post was originally published on her site, The Brilliant Blog.

What makes a group intelligent? That is: what enables a team of people to effectively solve problems and produce solutions? You might think a group’s IQ would be simply the average intelligence of the group’s members, or perhaps the intelligence of the team’s smartest participant. But researchers who study groups have found that this isn’t so.

Rather, a group’s intelligence emerges from the interactions that go on within the group. A team’s intelligence can be measured, and like an individual’s IQ score, it can accurately predict the team’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. And just as an individual’s intelligence is malleable and expandable (a big theme of The Brilliant Blog), a group’s intelligence can also be increased. Here, seven suggestions to guide the development of smart teams:

1. Choose team members carefully. The smartest groups are composed of people who are good at reading each others’ social cues, according to a study led by Carnegie Mellon University professor Anita Williams Woolley and published in the journal Science. (Woolley and her collaborators also found that groups that included a greater number of women were more intelligent—but the researchers think this is because women tend to be more socially sensitive than men.)

2. Share the floor. On the most intelligent teams, found Woolley et al., members take turns speaking. Participants who dominate the discussion, or who hang back and don’t say much, both bring down the intelligence of the group.

3. Talk about the “how.” Many members of teams don’t like to spend time talking about “process,” preferring to get right down to work—but Woolley notes that groups who take the time to discuss how they will work together are ultimately more efficient and effective.

4. Make sure members spend time face-to-face. L. Michelle Bennett and Howard Gadlin, two high-level administrators at the National Institutes of Health, performed in-depth interviews with members of five teams of NIH scientists. The conclusions they drew from these interviews, published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine, point to the importance of bridging the physical distance between the members of a team. The most successful collaborations assembled regularly for video conferences, or better yet, in-person meetings.

5. Foster informal social connections among members. Sandy Pentland, an MIT professor who studies group dynamics, has found that the smartest teams spend a lot of time communicating outside of formal meetings. He tells of a call center where team members’ coffee breaks were staggered across the workday. Changing the schedule so that all the members of a team had a coffee break at the same time led the workers to do their work more efficiently and to feel more satisfied with their jobs.

6. “Modularize” the work to be done. Bennett and Gadlin of the NIH advise groups to break up big tasks into distinct chunks that can be distributed among team members. Just because you’re working together doesn’t mean each member must have a spoon in every pot. Make sure that the correct incentives are in place, too: if your teammate’s boss rewards individual achievement but not productive collaboration, it won’t be long before your team falls apart.

7. Make contingency plans. While no one wants to think about it in the exciting early days of a project, group ventures do sometimes fail—so it’s important for prospective team members to write and sign what Gadlin calls a “prenuptial agreement,” spelling out how responsibilities are to be allocated, how credit is to be awarded—and who gets custody of the work if the collaboration should falter.

Abstracts of the studies mentioned here can be found on my blog.

Photo Credit: Lin Schorr via Compfight cc

Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership

These “Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership” were published by Kent Keith in 1968 as a series designed for emerging student leaders. However, when it comes to efficacy, determination, grit, and tenacity — and really, just good old fashion putting vision into action — these are as true and relevant today as ever.

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.

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