One of the challenges facing today’s teachers is the fact that today ’s students need to acquire skills habits of mind that were not the focus of classrooms in the past when the focus was on learning content. Today’s students need to now learn not only the content, but how to work with that content in a manner that requires them to work collaboratively with others to analyze information and solve problems, communicate using academic language, take risks and try ideas, make judgments, and be innovative and creative. Unlike some aspects of the academic content, these skills and habits of mind are not something that can be learned through direct instruction. Students need to experience the content through lessons in classrooms that encourage the development of these 21st Century skills and habits of mind.
Many of today’s classrooms are designed and practiced as teaching classrooms, where the actions and learning are focused on and driven by the teacher. Teaching classrooms, however, do not match the needs and expectations for 21st Century learning. To be successful in the 21st Century students need to be engaged in learning classrooms, where the actions and learning are focused on student outcomes and classroom practices that strengthen and deepen not only students’ content knowledge but their overall ability to think deeply, communicate, analyze, problem solve, and take responsibility for their learning.
There has also been, over the last decade, a shift in thinking about what students should be able to know and do when they graduate from high school. Completing courses is no longer the only requirement for graduating. Students must demonstrate their knowledge, and now, in the era of more rigorous state math standards, demonstrate what they can do with what they have learned. All of these expectations and shared attitudes have influenced the overall culture of education. While there has been this overall change, many classrooms have not had the cultural shift that will allow for student success. And, while each classroom culture is dependent on the teacher’s expectations, attitudes, goals, and practices, it is not okay for students to experience classroom cultures that are extremely different year after year.
This course has been divided into six modules:
- Introduction to Learning Classrooms
- Rituals, Routines, and Communication
- Managing Student Groups
- Learning Questions
- Rich Learning Discourse
- Putting the Pieces Together: Creating Your Learning Classroom