Learning Forward Conference, Day 2, Part 1

Yesterday I shared some thinking and learning from the first day of the Learning Forward Conference in Nashville. Here are my highlights from Day 2.

During the first session of the day I was a co-presenter rather than part of the audience. My colleagues and I shared some of the interesting developments and and changes in our district strategy for professional learning. You can view our presentation slides and find additional resources related to our presentation if you’re interested. Our approach was to suggest that while we’re proud of the work we’ve done and the way we’ve done it in Palo Alto Unified, we also know that we’re on a journey similar to many others, and we wanted the feedback and interaction as well so that we’re all learning from peers around the country. My particular parts in the presentation focused largely on teacher leadership and district-union partnership in developing and supporting changes to professional learning for all teachers.

When students make learning visible, it's more likely to have lasting effects.

When students make learning visible, it’s more likely to have lasting effects.

The keynote speaker at lunch was John Hattie, a researcher whose reputation rests largely on the idea of visible learning. He’s done considerable work in the area of meta-analyses of educational research. By compiling data from thousands of other studies in more discretely focused areas of education, he has compiled evidence that suggests some interesting ways of thinking about education. He said that there’s very little in the way of school design or instruction that will actually harm student learning. There are also many highly debated areas of education policy that Hattie suggests lead us into areas that, changed one way or another, will have very little effect on learning. The most powerful aspects of teaching and schooling concern what he calls visible learning. Check the link for more information.

The most curious nugget of information from his presentation was that outdoor education experiences (think Outward Bound) have a solid effect on literacy even though they don’t teach literacy directly. The implication is that such experiences are valuable to students’ sense of self-as-learner, even as their own teachers, and their approach to additional challenges and learning. He also had some strongly negative words for teaching according assumptions about Bloom’s taxonomy, and labeling students according to learning styles and multiple intelligences.

I have more to say about Day 2 in an upcoming post, perhaps tomorrow morning.


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