As of February 25th myself and five other IPS teachers have gone “back to school” with the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). We are taking a course called “Creating Cultures of Thinking” that is part of Harvard’s “Project Zero”. The HGSE and Project Zero recently allied with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and their courses are considered Level 3 IB professional development and such training is linked to our status as an Authorized “IB World School”.
The course is designed on a team basis and we are part of a worldwide collection of close to 400 participants from six continents. The course is fundamentally linked to the principle that supporting and empowering teachers to continually grow, innovate, question, take risks, reflect, examine, inquire, and learn from and with one another is critical to success. The course centers on the premise that effective teaching takes more than good planning and instructional design; it also requires attention to the culture of the classroom. IPS has great tradition and history and a solid mission and values that form the basis of our school culture. Ron Ritchhart, the course designer and Project Zero Principal Investigator, challenges educators, parents and citizens to settle for nothing less than “environments that bring out the best in people, take learning to the next level, allow for great discoveries, and propel both the individual and the group forward into a lifetime of learning”.
Over the duration of the course we are set to explore the eight cultural forces present in every group learning situation—language, time, environment, opportunities, routines, modeling, interactions, and expectations—and how they influence the group’s cultural dynamic.
Our first unit focused on the following five “belief sets” and how they can either facilitate a culture of thinking or act as an inhibiting challenge to that development. Each of the IPS team members will focus on one of the following expectations:
- Focusing students on the learning vs. the work
- Teaching for understanding vs. surface learning strategies
- Encouraging deep vs. surface learning strategies
- Promoting independence vs. dependence
- Developing a growth vs. a fixed mindset.
I know I speak on behalf of the team when I say that finding ourselves as students has added a whole new perspective to our life as teachers and we are excited to have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other as we individually and collectively strive to fulfill our mission to equip and inspire our students and ultimately, cultivate their humanity.
Stay tuned for more updates and in the meantime check out these great tips for parents to help make thinking visible on the home front.
Head of School