Teacher Innovation #5: “Learning is Inquiry, not Acceptance”

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Post #5 comes compliments of a friend and former doctoral cohort compatriot, Nick Thompson. Nick is currently a doctoral student at The University of Georgia, but before he attended UGA, Nick taught in a public high school in the metro-Atlanta area for years, including a few of those years when we both started our doctoral journey at Kennesaw State University. Much of Nick’s research interests have been driven by comparing medical doctor preparation and practice to that of educator preparation and practice. That’s the lens he brings to today’s post. While Nick shares an experience from his classroom two years ago in the same vein of previous posters in the series, Nick starts this post with a bigger picture in mind. The innovation we are looking at today is both internal and external. Internal in the sense of how a teacher contemplates teaching English language arts (ELA) canon through inquiry, and external in the sense of how teacher preparation programs do or do not require an educator-in-training to be an inquirer him or herself.

Previous Series Entries: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4

by Nick Thompson

The Progressive Movement

Around the turn of the 20th century, John Dewey was working hard to fight for a more democratic society through education, arguing that a “society with too few independent thinkers is vulnerable to control by disturbed and opportunistic leaders. A society which wants to create and maintain a free and democratic social system must create responsible independence of thought among its young.” At the same time, the Carnegie foundation appointed a man named Flexner to make a comprehensive report on the state of medical education in America. Flexner visited 150 medical schools, university-based and otherwise, and his resulting report changed the face of medical training to this day. It was he who proposed the four-year curriculum that is still followed in most medical schools. Continue reading

Coming Soon: An Afternoon with The Studio Squad

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On Sunday, September 18 something very cool will happen. Seven years ago I started a project-based learning (PBL)classroom with my friend Nic Carroll we coined as The Studio. When I started this blog many years ago, much of my posts surrounded me blundering my way through teaching in an immersive PBL experience. I stayed mostly positive here, but there were very real struggles. What made building The Studio worth all the trial and error and ups and downs were the students who took the journey with us. In just over a week I get The chance to sit down with five students who started and finished the journey with me. They are all successful college students in their third year of university studies. We will broadcast live here on the blog at 4PM and reflect on their time in Studio and looking at their lives now. I truly do not know what they’ll say or how they’ll answer my questions, but my hope is this broadcast will provide powerful insight into how PBL as an instructional practice and teachers and students who take it up impact our lives experiences. As much as this is my seven year journey it is theirs as well. I hope people tune in to be part of the conversation. I promise it will be worth it!

Here’s a link to the broadcast on YouTube: https://youtu.be/7NZftMcmA9M

Ankle-Deep: Three Weeks Into Teaching Grad Students

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How is my ‘wading into the waters’ metaphor sounding at this point? I think sometimes it is nearly unhealthy how much I desire to write in metaphors. I certainly do not speak in them often (I, like many native English speakers, use idioms all the time though). Alright, opening, trailing thought closed.

I am writing this post at the opening of the fourth week of a six weeks master’s level course I have had the privilege of working with this semester. I started this conversation in a post about three weeks and you can find it here. Half-way through, I have a handful of epiphanies and revelations to reflect on, so if you will indulge me, here is where I feel I am in my conception of teaching at the collegiate level thus far: Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Project

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Happy accidents are the best you can have I always say. In my last post, I lamented a mistake I had made with my first period class, and I’m happy to report that I think I may have already learned from that mistake. As mentioned last time, my first period gives me trouble from time to time. It can be difficult to get full focus from them, but really worse is they can be very complacent to accomplish the bear minimum task. I’m at a point in my career that I’m simply not okay with that anymore. So you’re not labeled gifted–who cares? A label only defines you if you let it; unfortunately, I think many of my students in that first period are often times okay with the label of being ‘on-level,’ ‘college prep’ students. The point here is that I wanted to challenge them with a project I would usually reserve for my honors/gifted group. When I did earlier this week, they bucked against me hard! They wanted nothing to do with it; the requirements were confusing, would take times, and lacked a connection they could see. Now, I could have gotten frustrated again, and I did to a degree; this time, however, I turned their complaints around on them to help them help me revise the project to be something they had some actual ownership. Continue reading

‘Things are about to Get Weird:’ (Re)Imagining the Classroom as a MMORPG

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The odd and creative thoughts that arise out of conversation with fellow doc students can be quite surprising. I’ve learned in the past year that I think best when bouncing ideas and thoughts off of others; these conversations allow me to talk through the mist or cloud I’m in when trying to digest new theories or wrap my head around the implications of a study. All that to say, my conversations with others are frequent to say the least. In most cases, the others I speak of are my fellow doc students. Well, as you might imagine, sometimes those conversations get weird, and a conversation I had with my compatriot Nick Thompson of Lassiter High School was no exception. Our dialog centered around creating a language arts classroom built entirely to replicate the feel and focus of a massively mulitplayer online role-playing game or MMORPG. That’s right kids–quests and all! Continue reading