Designed to give all students a voice and encourage deeper learning,
Verso is based on the research of the following educational thought leaders.
Alan November‘s vision for contemporary learning challenges educators to bring about a change in creativity, critical thinking and a fundamental shift in relationships.
He describes the role of the teacher as being “more essential than ever, as students develop their capacity to question, discover, connect, collaborate and contribute and where they are empowered by an increase in direction and management of their own learning”.
He cites key learning dispositions, self-efficacy and a requirement that the ownership of learning shifts from teacher to student.
Michael Fullan, OC, is the former Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Recognized as a worldwide authority on educational reform, he advises policy-makers and local leaders around the world in helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children learning. Michael Fullan received the Order of Canada in December 2012. He holds honorary doctorates from several universities in North America and abroad.
Michael Fullan is in broad agreement but recognizes that if we are to overcome the problem of increasingly disaffected students, enticed by the informal lure of near pervasive access to technology and just-in-time, passion-based learning beyond the school gates, we need to adopt new pedagogies for deep learning. These new pedagogies require the development of six key learning dispositions: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, citizenship and character. He states that in order to meet students’ needs we need to embrace digital and “move towards the danger”, “making learning irresistible”.
For Fullan, new pedagogies “require students not only to create new knowledge, but also to connect it to the world” as social entrepreneurs, developing their capacity to identify and engage with real world problems, transitioning their learning from surface to deep. In so doing, he believes that “students gain the experiences, self-confidence, perseverance and proactive disposition required to create value in our knowledge-based, technology-driven societies”.
This extension of Alan November’s vision connects the “what” to the “why” and begins to detail the “how”. Both agree on the requirement for a shift in ownership, but for Fullan this is defined as “a shift in relationships between and among students and teachers”, seeing the way forwards as a student teacher partnership, requiring a collective response to the challenge of change.
For this to happen, teachers need to be connected, and their work informed by access to actionable data on both student perspectives and process. In order to “teach like a pro’” Fullan is clear that teachers need to have access to new measures where pedagogies can be tested, and upon which teachers can persist in working together “with all the collective might and ingenuity of professional colleagues in order to improve practice.
His response is firmly connected to the work of Prof. John Hattie (below) in terms of the moving away from the sage on the stage and guide on the side, to a model where the teacher works in partnership with students, activating learning as an agent of change.
John Hattie is Professor of Education and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He is a proponent of evidence-based quantitative research methodologies on the influences on student achievement. Hattie undertook the largest ever meta-analysis of quantitative measures of the effect of different factors on educational outcomes. His book, “Visible Learning”, is the result of this study.
On undertaking the largest ever meta analysis of quantitative measures of the effect of different factors on educational outcomes, Hattie concluded that interventions that aim at fostering correct peer feedback are needed. He found that the most valuable form of feedback was from student to teacher, and teachers who fail to acknowledge the importance of student and peer feedback can be most handicapped in their effects on students. Students receive more feedback from their peers than anyone else on a daily basis. In line with the thinking of Carol Dweck, (below) students need to be explicitly taught how to give and receive process-related feedback as this can have a high impact on their learning.
To this end, activating student voice and adding a layer of anonymity to support risk-taking is essential if we are to make original thinking visible.
Hattie is passionate about the challenge teachers face in transitioning students from surface to deep. He believes that this cannot be done without educators becoming activators of learning, responding to reliable data, allowing teachers to see learning through the eyes of their students, and students to see themselves in the role of the teacher, as active participants engaged in peer instruction.
Hattie believes that that “effective teachers see themselves as evaluators, change agents, adaptive learning experts, seekers of feedback about their impact, engaged in dialogue and challenge, and developers of trust with all”. They see opportunity in error, and are keen to connect with peers to spread the message about the power, fun, and impact that they have on learning. He believes that teachers and school leaders who work to develop, measure and improve these ways of thinking are more likely to have major impacts on student learning. In his book Visible Learning for Teachers he outlines 8 mindsets that should underpin every action and decision in a school:
1. My fundamental task is to evaluate the effect of my teaching on students’ learning and achievement.
2. The success and failure of my students’ learning is about what I do or don’t do. I am a change agent.
3. I want to talk more about learning than teaching.
4. Assessment is about my impact.
5. I teach through dialogue not monologue.
6. I enjoy the challenge and never retreat to “doing my best”.
7. It’s my role to develop positive relationships in class and staff rooms.
8. I inform all about the language of learning.
Dweck is Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dweck has primary research interests in motivation, personality, and development. She teaches courses in Personality and Social Development as well as Motivation. Her key contribution to social psychology relates to implicit theories of intelligence per her 2008 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Hattie’s high currency teaching strategies that show large effect sizes are the setting of challenging goals, active learning activities based around the application of knowledge, formative evaluation of how well students are progressing towards those goals, and rich, broad feedback to learners about their errors and how they can mitigate for them. All of these, when examined through the lens of Carol Dweck’s research into the impact of academic mindsets, illustrate the value of instilling and supporting growth mindsets, where failure, risk-taking and effort are seen as essential in all learners. Dweck’s research calls for students and teachers to focus on process. Feedback to students on how they are developing as learners, collaborators, communicators and critical thinkers is vital.
Students and teachers need access to actionable data on participation and the richness of engagement if they are to inform the parallel cycles of inquiry as both teacher and learner. It is critical that students see the voices of others as critical to their own learning just as their voice is critical to the learning of others, including their teachers.
Mazur is Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University and Area Dean of Applied Physics. In addition to his work in optical physics, Mazur has been very active in education. In 1990 he began developing Peer Instruction, a method for teaching large lecture classes interactively. He is the author of Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual (Prentice Hall, 1997). In 2006 he helped produce the award-winning DVD Interactive Teaching. Dr. Mazur’s teaching method has developed a large following both nationally and internationally.
Mazur has seen a great response from his students, both in their attitudes and in their grades since adopting a flipped learning model of instruction in his applied physics class at Harvard University. His approach requires students to prepare for class by watching video, listening to podcasts, reading articles, or contemplating questions that access their prior knowledge. After accessing this content, students are asked to reflect upon what they have learned and organize questions and areas of confusion. Students then log in to a Learning Management System (LMS), where they post their questions. The instructor sorts through these questions prior to class, organizes them, and develops class material and scenarios that address the various areas of confusion. The instructor does not prepare to teach material that the class already understands. In class, the instructor uses a Socratic method of teaching, where questions and problems are posed and students work together to answer the questions or solve the problems. The role of the instructor is to listen to conversations and engage with individuals and groups as needed.
With obvious parallels to Hattie, Fullan and November in terms of the shift in relationships, peer instruction and the role of the teacher as initiator or activator of learning, Professor Mazur’s Flipped Learning approach clearly has potential yet it has gained only limited ground in K-12. Only in rare cases has it managed to progress beyond innovative early adopters. For many, the technological shift is too great a barrier to entry.
In order to shift to an entitlement model for all learners across all areas of learning in a school, this barrier needs to be overcome.
November, A. (2012). Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age. Solution Tree
Fullan, M. (2012). Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge. Pearson, Canada
Fullan, M & Langworthy, M (2015). A Rich Seam. How Deep Pedagogies Find Deep Learning. Pearson
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. Routledge
Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. Constable & Robinson Limited.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.