Monthly Archives: May 2014

On the Road with the CTTL: A Week to Remember

Post by Glenn Whitman

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If you really want to know if St. Andrew’s and its CTTL is at the forefront of thinking innovatively about teaching and learning, then grab a map.

This trip begins in Potomac, Maryland where St. Andrew’s 7th through 12th grade teachers are currently helping students prepare for Advanced Placement and year-end final exams using study strategies informed by research in how the brain learns (See attached). The next stop on this tour was Cambridge, Massachusetts. St. Andrew’s is one of six schools in the world that has been invited to be part of the Research Schools International led by Harvard University Graduate School of Education researchers. This invitation came as a result of St. Andrew’s leadership role within the Washington, DC region in integrating research in how the brain learns to the instructional practice of each of St. Andrew’s pre-school through 12th grade teachers. On Monday May 12th, The CTTL’s teacher and student research fellows boarded a plane at 7am to participate in the Research Schools Symposium. St. Andrew’s was the only school to have its students not only presenting, but also contributing, to the idea exchange. Many of the teaching and learning strategies that were recommended throughout the symposium as “new” to some of the network schools were “old hat” for St. Andrew’s teachers and included: Developing in students a growth mindset by introducing to them the idea of brain plasticity, increasing the use of more formative assessments and retrieval practice, and expanding service learning projects as a means to create active learners. On Wednesday, four faculty members of the CTTL headed further into New England as they facilitated workshops for St. Paul’s School teachers in Cord, New Hampshire. Dr. Ian Kelleher led a session on “Why Design Thinking (and not STEM)?” and Gregg Ponitch launched a session titled, “The Mathway to the Brain.” Foreign Langauge teacher Chantal Cassan-Moudoud shared how St. Andrew’s teachers demonstrate their ability to communicate in the language of their choice through Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs) while Glenn Whitman led the St. Paul’s Humanities Department discussion of teaching and learning strategies targeted at the highest achieving students. However, this was only Wednesday.

On Friday and Saturday, faculty from the CTTL will spend time at Blair Academy in western New Jersey to introduce their teachers to what is becoming the next frontier for teacher training: the science of learning. At every stop it became more apparent not only are St. Andrew’s some of the most knowledgeable and best trained pre-collegiate teachers in the principles of strategies of neuroeducation but also that other schools, some of the most prominent in the United States, are interested to learn and collaborate with them. After a record setting 2318 miles traveled by CTTL faculty this week it will be fun to return back to St. Andrew’s in order to help students launch into the summer by guiding them through their final projects and final exams using research in how the brain learns.

Never Too Early

Post By Scott Corkran
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I studied sight words with my son MacGregor (1st Grade) last night, and he flew through a long stretch before getting stuck. He gently cudgeled the back of his head and said, “What’s that called? The hippocampus? Come on hippocampus… help me out!” He still needed help with his sight word, but he got hippocampus right!
(Big shout out to Christine Lewis on this one – awesome job! You AMAZE me!)

Student Knows Best

Post By Scott Corkran

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I thought I had prepared a good lesson for my 8th grade history unit on the French Revolution. Students had completed a brief reading on the Old Regime and its oppressive Three Estates system. One of their homework questions had asked for a graphic representation of that system – some type of illustration, chart, or diagram that conveyed key details with a minimum of words. In class, I guided my first two sections through my own response to that question, and they used my pyramid chart as a graphic organizer to record notes from my information. At the end of class I showed students an 1815 French political cartoon (Le Peuple sous l’Ancien Regime) that presented a caricature of the injustice and inequality in France under the monarchy.
After my second class, a student suggested displaying the provocative image at the beginning of class instead of waiting until the end. When I asked why, he replied, “Because it’s awesome!” My instincts were to save the best for last, but my student’s proposal made sense; researchers have demonstrated the supremacy of images to words for helping the brain learn. In addition, an initial powerful image or other attention-grabbing device motivates brains to pay attention to subsequent information.
I opened next period with the cartoon, and a spirited discussion ensued. When I was ready to present, students remained engaged and demonstrated their understanding with thoughtful questions and comments. I’m so glad my student shared his idea. It reinforced (in a very applicable way) what I already knew about how the brain learns, and it reminded me that, sometimes, students know best!