Friday, July 27, 2018

Student Voices Video: Episode 11

Here's Charlotte. She's a first year student at Cal Poly, majoring in Environmental Earth and Soil Sciences. Charlotte discusses how working on problems and learning other students' perspectives helped her own learning and her classmates' learning. Fruitful engagement and collaboration are two core components of IBL!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

France's Soccer Program, Professional Development in Math Teaching

The World Cup 2018 is going on as I write this, and I happened to come across this Vox Video that explains why France has far more players in the World Cup than any other.  "France was one of the first European countries to create an academy system for scouting, recruiting, and training talented young soccer players; many grew up in immigrant neighborhoods where their foreign-born parents had settled." 

How did they get to having the most soccers players at the top level? They have a system that invests in their people.

System-level success is intentional work. You could try to rely on luck, “osmosis,” or search for a magic bullet, like the special textbook or school choice that will mythically unlock the learning potential in our students. Or wait for the next generation of talented people to move us forward. Of course good materials and dedicated professionals are needed. I’m not discounting those things. We need those things. But thinking in terms of only books or simple, one-dimensional ideas isn’t a strategy should bet on. It's too passive, and ignores the power we have to act and work together now to harness our ingenuity and passion. Further, if it was that easy, it would have been done already generations ago.

I prefer an intentional, systems approach. Teaching is a human system, and improving education means thinking carefully about solutions on a system level. This includes addressing change as a community building effort. People do the teaching. People, primarily students, do the learning. People write the assessments, publish the textbooks, set the schedules, and so on. Education a human endeavor, and teaching (math) is a cultural activity.

To get at the core things that we need to do to make progress, we shouldn’t think only in mechanistic terms like schedules and books. Education is not a factory, and children are not machines. Yes, math teachers are humans :) Like France’s approach to developing soccer players, we’re developing an approach to professional development to establish a system for math instructors to learn about IBL methods and join a community for continuing, long-term development. We're supporting math instructors. We’re investing in people, and hence the community of practitioners who are key players in system. (We've highlighted our real-world successes so far in this post HERE).

Professional development, therefore, is a vital strategy. It’s how knowledge, skills, and practices of the broader profession can be efficiently shared with and learned by individuals. IBL Workshops are in this sense a framework or structure that can collect or house the community knowledge, and then provide coherent programs for new IBLers to learn quickly the skills and practices of effective IBL teaching.

Professional development is also an opportunity to build new leadership. Developing facilitators is developing community leaders, and this then grows the capacity for the profession to effectively implement improvements to education. Professional development is to faculty as classes are to students. (See our team of IBL workshop facilitators and IBL community leaders!)  This year I am attending exactly zero workshops, so others can learn to do this and own it. In fact, this is one of the main goals of our current project (NSF-PRODUCT).

Some caveats... Professional development does not solve all problems in education, but it's how we get at solving many of those problems. The point I'm making here is that investment in professional development is necessary. People solve problems, and professional development programs bring people together to share, grow, and find new solutions.

Designing a professional development system with intent is our mantra. Not only are we focused on running workshops to disseminate IBL methods, we also have an eye on community building and scalability of our workshop model.

More Links:
1. A Vision for the Future of Active Learning: Professional Development Centers

2. 2018 IBL Workshop General Info

3. Vox Video "Why France Produces the Most World Cup Players"