Monday, August 17, 2009
Two great books
Two books worth having on the teachers shelf.One for principals and teachers- the other for teachers and principals.
'Teaching the Best Practice Way' by Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar ( Stenhouse Publishing 2005)is a very practical book and it's approach very much in line with the New Zealand Curriculum. The authors present seven basic teaching structures that make classrooms more active, experiential, collaborative, democratic , and cognitive.Each chapter begins by describing one key method and follows up with practical classroom examples from early childhood to high school.
The key methods they explain are not new and creative teachers will recognise them all. This book is and updated version and in this edition the authors have placed Reading as Thinking first believing that it is the key to achieving integrated learning. 'Reframing' reading to contribute to inquiry learning is a vital emphasis - introducing content, exploring 'prior' ideas and teaching information and research skills.
Other chapters cover Representing to Learn - ways of expressing what students have discovered; Small Group Activities; Classroom Workshop model; the need for Authentic Experiences; Reflective Assessment and finally Integrative Units.
All together a very practical book for teachers who want to place inquiry central to their programmes.
The second book 'Powerful Learning' by Linda Darling Hammond and others ( published Jossey Bass 08) explores the research about what we know about teaching for understanding. It covers much the same territory as the book above ( project based learning, interdisciplinary learning, performance based assessment and co-operative learning) but focuses on the importance of an inquiry approach in three major subject areas - reading and literacy, mathematics, and science.
This book, while it also has practical examples to share, focuses on the research backing up active inquiry approaches. It begins with describing the principles of effective teaching:
1 The need to value students' prior knowledge.
2 the need to help students organise and use knowledge ( the NZ Curriculum's 'seek, use and create knowledge')
3 And that students learn best if understand how they learn and how to how to manage their own learning ( this align to the 'key competencies of the NZC).
The first chapter extensively describes the research about how to teach for inquiry learning to support 21stC skills. It covers range of well known inquiry approaches.
The second chapter describes in detail the kind of literacy teaching that supports inquiry learning that lead to in depth understanding. The chapters on mathematics and science likewise. The final chapter focuses on research about how to create schools to teach for understanding.
Both the books are an antidote for much of the shallow inquiry teaching seen in our schools. All too often classrooms seems to feature walls covered with various thinking skill processes and models.Some call this 'Higher Order Thinking'(HOT). All too often , however, it is all process and no in-depth content understanding.'Higher Order Thinking for thin learning'.
Real inquiry must be based on students being involved in exploring real content which naturally requires an inquiry process ( inquiry competencies are the shadow of real learning).
Involving information literacy and active mathematics and science into the equation is vital if schools are to become true communities of inquiry.
Very few schools are.
These are two book that would put some serious learning into inquiry pr grammes.