Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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13. Pulling It All Together - Creating Classrooms and Schools that Support Learning

Session Content Outline

Key Question
  • How can schools organize for powerful learning?

Learning Objectives
  • Organizing schools around students' development and learning – Teachers will understand that organizing schools for powerful learning means integrating what we know about children's development and learning with what we know about organizing curriculum and teaching.
  • Providing structural features that support powerful learning – Teachers will understand the structural features of schools that support teaching and learning for understanding.

Session Outline

This session synthesizes the body of learning theory presented in this course and suggests how it can be used to organize school environments that support teaching and learning for understanding.

Teaching and Learning for Understanding
  • Teaching for understanding means teaching "all students, not just a few, to understand ideas deeply and perform proficiently" (Darling-Hammond, 1997).
  • Schools that foster deep understanding are designed to build on what we know about how children learn.
  • Taken together, the principles of learning theory create a school culture that supports learning in everything the school does.
  • The learning theories in this course are interrelated. They have to come together if powerful learning is to occur.
  • The application of learning principles needs to be coherent across the school.
  • Schools that have reorganized themselves around how people learn–
    • support the growth and development of the individual learner
    • create a positive, productive environment for learning
    • organize the curriculum content for students to master

Structural Features of Schools that Support Learning
  • A coherent, connected approach to teaching and learning can be supported by the structural features of school design.
  • School features that support powerful learning include –
    • active, in-depth learning
    • emphasis on authentic performance
    • attention to development
    • appreciation for diversity
    • opportunities for collaborative learning
    • collective perspective across the school
    • structures for caring
    • support for democratic learning
    • connections to family and community

School-Wide Reform Requires Institutional Support of Teachers' Collaborative Practice

Collaboration among teachers is a critical key to school reform – both within and across schools. Structured time for collaboration gives teachers time to study their own and each other's "best practices" (Little, 1999).

  • Institutional support of teachers' collaboration is essential.
  • Teachers can collaborate to design learning environments. Learning theory can inform both classroom and school design.
  • Teachers can focus on student learning by collectively mapping curriculum and conceptualizing learning experiences.
  • Teachers can use collaboration as a tool to reflect on and look at their own teaching.

What Makes Schools Powerful

The two schools that are featured in this Session, Birmingham Covington School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and East Palo Alto High School in east Palo Alto, California were both explicitly designed to capitalize on what we have come to know about the learning of both students and teachers. Each school integrates important structural features of environments that support teaching and learning for understanding across grade levels and disciplines.


Schools that have organized everything they do around what enhances learning achieve extraordinary outcomes in large part because they are working with the way people learn and making every classroom a learning classroom.

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