Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Intensive Learning Teams

In Unmistakable Impact by Jim Knight, the power of teams and collaborative learning are shared.  More specifically, an approach to curriculum review and development is presented through the creation of intensive learning teams.  To support the development of ILTs, Knight suggests that a facilitator first lay the groundwork by engaging participants in one-to-one interviews in order to set the stage for praxis, giving each individual an authentic voice in shaping the process.  The facilitator then reports out to the ILT, sharing vignettes that summarize themes shared by all so that common ground is recognized, which is essential for a learner-friendly culture.  Building upon the shared vision, the ILT then creates team values (working norms, philosophy, mission statement, etc.).  This preliminary team building is essential before wrestling with the next steps of identifying the big ideas, essential questions, and content.  As Heidi Hayes Jacobs writes in Curriculum 21, the importance of mapping review teams is "to question, to raise specific challenges, and to generate provocations, with the goal of upgrading and targeting content replacements based on strong principles and tenets. (pg. 32)  Further, she suggests three questions that would serve as a framework to challenge our current curriculum instead of reinforcing what is already familiar to us (pg. 34):

1.  Within the discipline being reviewed, what content choices are dated and nonessential?
2.  What choices for topics, issues, problems, themes, and case studies are timely and necessary for our learners within disciplines?
3.  Are the interdisciplinary content choices rich, natural, and rigorous?

These questions challenge our peers to reconsider what they may have always done with fidelity, passion and purpose.  Naturally, vulnerability will be present.  Developing ILTs that give voice to individual teachers, are able to focus on the group's commonalities, and share common values (especially trust) are the foundational elements upon which to build collaboration that will enable us to challenge the thinking behind our practice.

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