I recently presented at the Mediterranean Association of International Schools (MAIS) Annual Conference (Carpe Diem; Seizing the Teachable Moments) in Rome and had the opportunity to hear a keynote by Dr. William Durden, President of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. His presentation, A Few Things that “Need Fixed” in Precollegiate Education (with accompanying solution!), generated considerable conversation and provided some connections to my session, Tapping Student Effort: Increasing Student Achievement. (Durham’s speech and my PowerPoint will be available on the MAIS website.)
Durden’s comments centered on these areas:
(1) Self Esteem Movement – Durden suggested that programs have focused on self esteem without performance. Students are missing the connections between “working hard” and “feeling good.” (See Glasser quote).
(2) Accountability – Durden urged the conference attendees to not allow a testing focus to derail the instruction/learning of important skills and values that may not fit into the test. (My session started by having participants define student achievement that they envisioned for their schools, similar to the Fairfax County definition .)
(3) Either/Or’s – Durden defined the trap often presented to educators, forcing the selection of either/or/choices. (Either phonics or whole language, either liberal or conservative approach, either strong academic or life [work] skills.) He encouraged educators to be pragmatists – study, observe, experiment and select what works best. (My words – teachers as thinking problem-solvers.)
My session stressed the value of live event learning to promote/engage student effort. Live events (students running a business, delivering community services, growing a garden) also provide real opportunities to enhance student self esteem through successful execution and to learn real life skills, such as communication, negotiation, and teamwork. Click for info on the PLS Graduate course- Discovering the Power of Live Event Learning.