Linda Darling-Hammond on Creating a Collaborative Classroom
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Linda Darling-Hammond on Creating a Collaborative Classroom


>>Linda: When you think about how
you want to educate the whole child, it’s critical to be sure that you’re
helping kids be able to engage with one another, understand
themselves and how they think, be able to handle the stresses
and challenges in their lives which are increasing all of the time. Kids today come in many cases from
very challenging environments. So it’s impossible really to focus on
preparing teachers, preparing leaders for public schools without dealing
with social and emotional learning as well as academic learning if
they’re going to be effective. In the work we do in
teacher education we build in social emotional learning into
adolescent development courses, into learning theory
courses, really in a variety of ways throughout the program
not only for teachers to learn how to help students get along with
one another, develop socials skills and emotional skills, but also to
help teachers and leaders figure out how to support themselves
as social emotional learners. It’s a very, very intense
kind of work. You have to be able to relate well to
a variety of kids and other adults. You have to be able to manage
relationships on an ongoing basis. You have to be able to calm yourself
and be deliberative in working in situations that are
very unpredictable. And the best teachers in
fact I believe are very emotionally intelligent. They’re very socially intelligent
and the same thing is true for school principals
and school leaders. So I think this work around
how we understand ourselves, how we understand others, how we
work together is sort of at the core of so many aspects of education.>>The other piece that I think is
critically important in addition to preparing people to do this
work in the classroom is thinking about how we design schools so that they are developmentally
healthy places. You can’t just plunk this kind of
work down in the middle of a school that is antithetical to
good human relationships. Schools need to be places where
strong relationships can form.>>That’s not the environment
that we have at all schools. We are still struggling to get
past the factory model school that we inherited in the early 1900s
which adopted age grading so kids go to different teachers every year. In the middle and high schools
they go to different teachers in many cases every 45 minutes. Teachers have 150 or 180 or
200 kids a day in this model. And much of the environment
particularly in big urban factory model schools
is punitive and coercive because it’s about control of large
numbers of people being asked to do things that are not natural. So we’ve got to redesign schools
and people are working on this to create smaller environments that
are more personalized where adults and kids stay together
over periods of time, where teams of teachers can work
with each other around the needs of the kids as well as
with the kids directly.>>Often when we think about social
and emotional learning we think about teaching kids
skills of interaction and skills of self-management. We don’t always think about
the ways in which that kind of learning comes together with a
particular kind of teaching strategy. But if you think about the ways
in which we have to be able to be functioning adults, it’s in
contexts where we work in groups on hard problems that
need creative solutions that require problem solving. And it’s getting to do that work well
that is really part of the major goal of education in the 21st century. So when you think about project-based
learning, learning that results in demonstrations of performance,
exhibitions of what kids can do in real tasks that have brought these
kind of novel challenges to them to solve, you can see that when
an individual student or a group of students come together to solve
a hard problem to figure out how to do research, how to do
inquiry, how to investigate, how to put their ideas together, how to figure out which ideas
have the most grounding, how to present what they’ve
done, they have to do a lot of socially intelligent work. They have to be able to figure
out how to relate to one another, how to divide tests, how to solve
problems, how to probably run into dead ends, pick up the pieces,
reorient and go in a new direction. All of that develops children’s
abilities to be socially capable, emotionally capable and grounded, and in the long run also
intellectually capable. And those pieces all come
together when you’re working on project-based experiential
learning activities.>>Some years ago in New York
City a group of educators began to redesign high schools. One of the very famous school
designers, Debbie Meier, had been initially a
kindergarten teacher and had designed several
elementary schools that were very, very successful, and then she
wanted to create a high school that those kids could go to. When she designed the first such model Central Park East
Secondary School she designed it so that teams of teachers would
work with the same group of kids over two years at a time. The kids would stay together. The teachers would have time to
plan around the needs of the kids. Every student has an advisor. Every advisor has about 15 kids that
they are personally responsible for. They meet with the parents
several times a year. The students learn how to become
responsible for their learning and their interactions with their
parents about their learning. Much of the work in school is
around teamwork and group work. Kids learn to work interactively
and they demonstrate their work through authentic assessments, performance-based learning
exhibitions and so on which give them the opportunity to
learn to be disciplined and organized and to persevere in the
face of challenges in a lot of the other aspects of emotional
development and social development that we need them to have. So that school actually became
one of a number of schools that were organized around those
features where kids were graduating at higher rates, where kids were
experiencing a much safer school environment where they were
more connected to school, more socially responsible,
taking more leadership roles. That movement really has evolved into
a small-schools movement nationwide. We’ve developed some schools in
the Bay Area in San Francisco that use the same kind of model
and they provide the opportunity for children to grow up feeling
confident, learning how to be members of a community, being engaged with
and thoughtful about their learning because they’re doing
it in authentic ways that help them develop not only the
academic skills but also the skills of being independent, being
planful [sic], being purposeful, being able to mediate challenges. And these are the features of social,
emotional, and academic learning that people need when they go
into the world outside of school. And I think that when we think about
the whole system of education we have to put this kind of learning
at the heart of the system.>>Narrator: For more
information on what works in public education,
go to edutopia.org.

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