by Jane Repp, Director of Teaching and Learning
This year, Kingswood Oxford teachers are exploring new ways to create an equitable classroom culture where students take ownership of their own learning process. To pursue this quest for innovation, every teacher has elected to join one of five collaborative learning groups, based on his or her own area of interest. Each group is devoted to a different aspect of engaging students in learning.
During the course of the academic year, these collaborative learning groups will meet several times to generate ideas about curriculum, methods and activities that foster equity and empower students in their own learning.
Teachers will plan, implement and evaluate these new approaches, and then share their experiences with the colleagues in their own groups and eventually with the entire faculty. The objective of the collaborative learning groups is to ensure that innovation and creativity become the norm, rather than the exception, in our classrooms:
The collaborative learning groups and the key questions each will be addressing are:
- Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain – How can we use the ideas in Zaretta Hammond’s “Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain.” the book read by the entire faculty this summer, to create a culturally responsive classroom environment?
- Project-Based Learning and Authentic Application – How might we devise new student projects and applications that are culturally responsive in their content or structure?
- Feedback – How might we use the feedback students receive from teachers or other students to develop independent learners who are eager for intellectual growth?
- Student-led Discussions – How might we develop independent learners through practices of student agency and voice in our classrooms?
- Collaborative Learning – How might we use a culturally responsive lens to modify or create structures of collaborative learning?
This shared process of professional growth offers enrichment and refreshment for our teachers and helps our students in several ways:
- Teachers become students – By following their curiosity, discovering new ideas and generating new strategies, teachers savor the same intellectual exhilaration their own students do. This stimulation enables teachers to stay vibrant and fresh, and this excitement in turn energizes their own students.
- Teachers learn from one another – Teachers traditionally do much of their planning in isolation, but collaborative learning allows teachers to share ideas and resources, discover what other teachers are doing in their classrooms, and support one another. Pairs of teachers partner to sit in on each other’s classes and then share post-class debriefings, which provides useful feedback, suggestions, and validations. They can also serve as sounding boards for each other and hold each other accountable for meeting deadlines to devise, implement and evaluate their innovative projects.
- Teachers become a team – Because each group comprises a mix of teachers of different grade levels, academic departments and years of experience, teachers come to know colleagues with whom they’re unfamiliar. These interactions encourage interdisciplinary perspectives, professional respect, and faculty camaraderie, which, in turn, provides a model for how such cooperative learning can be implemented in the classroom.
Through these collaborative learning groups, we’re asking of ourselves what we ask of our students: to think creatively, to take ownership of their own learning, and to work productively and joyfully with others.