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| Volume 68 | Number 1
Table of Contents
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The best homework tasks exhibit five characteristics. First, the task has a clear academic purpose, such as practice, checking for understanding, or applying knowledge or skills. Second, the task efficiently demonstrates student learning. Third, the task promotes ownership by offering choices and being personally relevant. Fourth, the task instills a sense of competence—the student can successfully complete it without help. Last, the task is aesthetically pleasing—it appears enjoyable and interesting.
Carol S. Dweck
In her well-known research, Carol Dweck has documented how individuals' attitudes about intelligence affect their behavior and achievement. People with a fixed mindset, she writes, believe that intelligence is inborn and unchangeable, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can grow through practice and effort. In this article, Dweck discusses how teachers can design and present learning tasks in ways that foster a growth mindset. Such teachers praise the learning process rather than the students' ability, convey to students the joy of tackling challenging learning tasks, and highlight students' progress and effort.
Joseph P. Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen
We often think of boredom, restlessness, and rebellion as inevitable characteristics of adolescence. No so, assert Allen and Allen. These traits spring from teens' understandable feeling that they are "stuck in a seemingly endless holding zone." In many other societies—and in Western society in the past—adolescence was a more fleeting phase, and young people participated with adults in adult-like work. The authors discuss how schools can infuse adolescents' learning experiences with elements that give adult work meaning—relevance, real-world feedback, responsibility, and respect.
Two widely held beliefs continue to hold sway in math class—that all students should work on the same problem at the same time and that each math question should have a single answer so the teacher can easily check all responses. To differentiate math instruction in a meaningful but manageable way, teachers can use two core techniques: creating open questions and parallel tasks. An open question is broad enough to meet the needs of a wide range of students while still engaging each one in meaningful mathematics. Parallel tasks focus on the same big ideas but enable students at different levels of readiness to tackle a concept at different levels of difficulty.
John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller
Too often, Larmer and Mergendoller lament, "meaning-lite" activities like having students research an assigned topic and create a pretty poster about it are what passes for projects in schools. The authors—from the Buck Institute for Education, which advocates for project-based learning—detail seven elements they have found every meaningful project needs to have: (1) A "need to know," (2) a driving question, (3) student voice and choice, (4) 21st century skills, (5) inquiry and innovation, (6) feedback and revision, and (7) a publicly presented product. Through an extended example, modeled on an actual student project studying ocean pollution that students at High Tech High carried out, the authors illustrate how teachers might infuse each element into a project.
Gregory Smith and David Sobel
Place- and community-based education provides learning experiences aimed at incorporating local issues or knowledge into the curriculum and offering students the chance to do valuable work. Teachers should concern themselves with the local to engage students, build social capital, reconnect students with the natural world, and build leaders. By taking on such problems as saving the local trout population or lending a hand to Haiti, students interact with adults and come to see themselves as fellow citizens with shared responsibilities.
Many high schools have launched internship programs, helping students carry out authentic work in professional settings related to their interests. This work motivates students them to work harder, gaining knowledge and skills that often elude their disengaged counterparts. In this article, Eliot Levine refers to his experience with internship programs to at The Met and Four Rivers Charter Public School to explore the advantages of internship programs and to discuss how schools can set up effective programs.
High school English teacher Stacy Kitsis had been having her students discuss books in weekly literature circles, but she noticed that the discussion frequently stalled. To infuse new energy into the groups, she added an online component by asking students to comment about the books on a class blog. Students who rarely completed homework or who were quiet during class discussions actively participated in the online discussions. On the blog, students learned to share opposing points of view and make meaning together. The in-person discussions were also enhanced because in their face-to-face meetings, students would often pick up on a point made on the blog and discuss it further. In this article, Kitsis explains how she set up the literature circles and the accompanying blog, and she explains the benefits of the online component for her and for her students.
Dana H. Maloney
A high school English teacher revamps the traditional term paper, giving her students the opportunity to pursue inquiry related to such topics as poverty, child abuse, the immigrant experience, and school shootings. Students still write a college-level paper—and literature is still the foundation of this paper—but they now read books not only as works of art but also as source material for problem solving. Reading literature, consulting other sources, and writing the paper have become stepping stones to action, as students devise and implement social action projects that they share at an in-school inquiry and action fair as well as with other authentic audiences.
Yvette Jackson, Tyrone Geronimo Johnson and Ahmes Askia
This article describes what happens when middle school students are given the opportunity to design instruction and teach lessons to their peers. As part of a professional development program administered by the National Urban Alliance in Newark, New Jersey, students teach demonstration lessons. The students receive support from Alliance mentors working in each school. As the examples in the article show, students placed in the role of teacher gain a sense of responsibility and purpose that can make them more competent learners.
Table of Contents
Cheryl Becker Dobbertin
When experts from relevant fields collaborate with students on authentic projects and—especially—critique students' evolving work, students understand why attention to quality is needed in real-world work, and their motivation and effort intensifies. Partnerships with experts are a key feature of schools that follow the Expeditionary Schools reform model. Dobbertin describes successful projects teachers launched at Expeditionary high schools that included cooperation and critiques from skilled practitioners in the field. She shares suggestions and tips about how to find student-friendly experts and incorporate experts most effectively into student projects from teachers who have blazed this trail.
ReLeah Cossett Lent
When a teacher realizes that she has been assuming far too much responsibility for her students' learning, she makes major changes in her classroom. Her thinking is reinforced by the work of Daniel Pink, who, in his latest latest book, Drive, breaks down the components of motivation into autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If students have as much autonomy as possible in such areas as choice of content and due dates, if they understand that mastery means getting better at something that matters to them, and if they see a purpose to their work, their motivation and achievement will soar. The author includes three helpful tools that support student-directed learning.
It's no secret that teens devote hours of focused effort—what cognitive scientists call "deliberate practice"—to sharpening their abilities in extracurricular activities they care about. So why don't students willingly devote equal time to improving academic skills through homework? Kathleen Cushman probed this question by interviewing adolescents who had self-identified as experts at various nonacademic pursuits. Cushman (as part of a research project sponsored by What Kids Can Do) asked these kids why homework assignments often didn't feel like meaningful effort—and what it would take to make homework become deliberate practice. She presents five suggestions from her informants about how teachers should change traditional homework practices. Her interviewees even designed creative alternative assignments that might replace old standards like a review worksheet before a final exam.
Robert J. Marzano
William M. Ferriter
Tracy Broccolino, Jen Morrison and Michelle Neely
Janet Alleman, Rob Ley, Barbara Knighton, Ben Botwinski and Sarah Middlestead
When homework is treated as just an add-on that has no vital connection with the classroom curriculum, it's no wonder that students often fail to give it much effort. The authors of this article propose that homework assignments should give students opportunities to create authentic products that can be used in meaningful ways in the classroom. For example, students might keep a written record of their families' Internet use, and the class as a whole can combine the data into an informative chart that provides a basis for class discussion of the influence of media. Assignments like this one extend the in-school curriculum and help students practice inquiry skills. The results can enrich in-school learning for all students.
Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher
Group work has an important place in the instructional cycle, helping students consolidate what they have learned and giving them the opportunity to interact with others to refine and extend their understanding. But to use group work productively, write the authors, teachers need to attend to six quality indicators: (1) creative tasks, (2) joint attention to the task, (3) development of group social skills, (4) language and organizational support, (5) optimal group size and composition, and (6) an active teacher role.
William Butler Yeats's adage "Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire" may be the current "go-to quote" for inspiring teachers, but middle school science teacher Catilin Moore believes the quote should be amended to read "Education is the filling of a bucket and the lighting of a fire." Truly meaningful work enables students to be lifelong learners by both providing students new knowledge and drawing on the wisdom they already possess. Moore came to this opinion when she realized that her students often didn't know enough about topic areas outside their ken even to generate meaningful questions for a K-W-L—or to be curious. Their "buckets" were too empty for true learning. She shares strategies she now uses to both fill students' knowledge buckets in a way that engages them and also to light a fire, igniting students' desire to learn more and build on freshly acquired knowledge. Part of Moore's process was learning to respect and draw out the wisdom and insight
all her students, even the woefully unworldly ones, brought to the classroom.
To light our students' passions for learning, we have to provide a real context and real-world consequences for that learning, argues Burmark. Real-world environments give young, budding experts a context in which to discover inborn talents in a way a one-size-fits-all classroom does not. Burmark describes three examples of how schools in which she's consulted have created "microworlds" for learning: (1) a school-run press through which students sharpen business and graphic skills by creating custom-ordered posters, plaques, and the like; (2) a middle-school project of digital storytelling focused on real-world moral dilemmas; and (3) an instructional strategy that an elementary school in California uses reflexively to help students connect all school learning to their lives.
Copyright © 2012 by ASCD
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