Al­low kids to take risks, adapt to change: Au­thor

Cul­ture Tests only part of the pic­ture, ed­u­ca­tor says Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 30, 2017

StarMetro Calgary - - CANADA - The CAnA­diAn Press

The key to en­sur­ing kids are pre­pared for the un­pre­dictable world that awaits is to make sure to­day’s schools al­low them to take risks, try new things and learn how to adapt to change, says ed­u­ca­tor Nancy Stein­hauer.

The Toronto school prin­ci­pal teamed up with lawyer and ed­u­ca­tion ac­tivist Kelly Gal­lagherMackay to lay out their vi­sion for the fu­ture of ed­u­ca­tion in the book Push­ing The Lim­its, out this week.

They pro­file sev­eral public schools that are al­ready cham­pi­oning harder-to-mea­sure skills in­clud­ing high-or­der think­ing and so­cial-emo­tional learn­ing.

Cur­rent achieve­ment tests — which mea­sure math and read­ing lev­els — are still import- ant pieces of in­for­ma­tion, but they’re only part of the pic­ture, Stein­hauer says.

“The kinds of things peo­ple were learn­ing 50 years ago, 75 years ago, in school, that’s not go­ing to pre­pare our kids for the world that they live in,” she says.

Stein­hauer doc­u­ments the five years she spent at an un­der­per­form­ing school where many stu­dents were refugees and new im­mi­grants, and most lived in poverty. She says a shift in pri­or­i­ties — and an in­flux of funds and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment through a spe­cial pro­gram tar­get­ing in­ner-city schools — helped turn things around.

She says this isn’t an iso­lated case, and that par­ents can be en­cour­aged by a grow­ing move­ment to em­ploy in­no­va­tive ap­proaches at Canada’s schools. I hear a lot about teach­ing the four C’s — crit­i­cal think­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and cre­ativ­ity. How broadly em­braced is that? Many of the pro­vin­cial sys­tems are re­ally look­ing at that whole idea of 21st-cen­tury learn­ing: what do our kids need to know to thrive in a world that is con­stantly chang­ing? It’s com­mon knowl­edge now that most of the jobs that will be the best jobs in 10 years don’t even ex­ist right now. So it’s not enough to teach chil­dren ba­sic skills any­more ... stu­dents need to learn about cre­ativ­ity, about prob­lem-solv­ing, they need to learn emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, they need to learn how to think about think­ing, learn about learn­ing. Does this con­flict with the si­mul­ta­ne­ous push for STEM ed­u­ca­tion, which em­pha­sizes sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math? I don’t think it has to be op­posed at all. Re­ally, STEMbased learn­ing is about think­ing about prob­lems and com­ing up with so­lu­tions and de­sign-think­ing and us­ing the tools that we have be­fore us to try and be cre­ative .... It’s harder to mea­sure cre­ativ­ity, it’s harder to mea­sure so­cial and emo­tional learn­ing, but what we were find­ing as we were talk­ing to peo­ple – es­pe­cially to kids who had re­ally ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ences in schools – was that it was that so­cial-emo­tional learn­ing piece, it was what they learned about them­selves, it was op­por­tu­ni­ties to think cre­atively that re­ally kept them mo­ti­vated and made them feel like the learn­ing was mean­ing­ful and worth do­ing. Does any prov­ince mea­sure cre­ativ­ity? Most prov­inces as far as I un­der­stand are re­ly­ing on achieve­ment data for the most part. (As part of the Model Schools for In­ner Cities pro­gram) we were also look­ing at things like re­silience sur­veys and the Early De­vel­op­ment In­stru­ment, which mea­sures a num­ber of things in­clud­ing so­cial-emo­tional fac­tors in young chil­dren. And we were us­ing par­ent sur­veys and stu­dent sur­veys and teacher sur­veys, staff sur­veys .... We were able to see for ex­am­ple that our re­silience scores were re­ally high. Our kids were feel­ing re­ally se­cure in the school. Our par­ents’ sat­is­fac­tion sur­veys were ex­tremely high, they were feel­ing re­ally good. We dis­cov­ered that the vast ma­jor­ity of our par­ents had ex­pec­ta­tions that their chil­dren would con­tinue be­yond high school to post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion. That was re­ally a good thing to know. How would a par­ent be able to eval­u­ate a school on those terms? That in­for­ma­tion isn’t nec­es­sar­ily read­ily avail­able. Par­ents can have a lot of power in their own school sys­tem. If they let their ed­u­ca­tional lead­ers know we value more than just aca­demic achieve­ment, (that) we also want to know how you are ad­dress­ing these needs of teach­ing cre­ativ­ity, teach­ing prob­lem-solv­ing, (then) peo­ple pay at­ten­tion to that. What would you like to see changed? One thing I would make sure of is that there is time for teach­ers to learn to­gether about their stu­dents and what their stu­dents need. Time to col­lab­o­rate .... A sec­ond thing would be to have schools look at high-or­der think­ing and how much of the time is spent on ba­sic knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing and how much of the time is spent on ap­ply­ing those to new sit­u­a­tions. What should the split be? Most of our time should be spent on ap­ply­ing those skills to au­then­tic prob­lem-solv­ing sit­u­a­tions. And I guess the third thing would be the whole so­cial-emo­tional piece. I think some­times we think that that’s an ex­tra, but un­less kids’ so­cial-emo­tional needs are be­ing met, it’s much harder for them to be suc­cess­ful in the learn­ing. What should par­ents take away from this book? First of all a sense of hope .... There is a lot of good prac­tice hap­pen­ing in our schools. But then also ... a sense of what’s pos­si­ble, so they can en­gage in a di­a­logue with their own schools and their own sys­tem about what they want for their chil­dren.


The book Push­ing The Lim­its lays out Toronto school prin­ci­pal nancy Stein­hauer and ed­u­ca­tion ac­tivist Kelly Gal­lagher-Mackay’s vi­sion for the fu­ture of ed­u­ca­tion.

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