Last Tuesday, faculty gathered for their weekly meeting and were immediately split into four groups to take part in work shops led by the Learning Skills department.
Professional development through continuing education of faculty provides an opportunity for those teachers who have attended conferences, taken courses, or engaged in department-wide endeavors to come back to the greater community and share what they have learned.
This past September, Learning Skills Department Chair Jennifer Fletcher welcomed writing specialist Linda Hecker
of Landmark College's Institute for Research and Training to discuss writing strategies with Proctor's English, Social Science, and Learning Skills teachers. Hecker's comments highlighted the need for many students to incorporate movement and visualization into the writing process.
Throughout the school year, the Learning Skills Department has read Teaching with the Brain in Mind
by Eric Jensen in order to gain valuable insights into the science behind best learning practices. Four breakout sessions allowed different groups of faculty to be exposed to an in-depth discussion surrounding ideas of how the brain best learns. I had the privilege of attending a session discussing the connections between movement and learning led by Melanie Maness and Susanne Razweiler.
After an opening memory activity, our group learned that the cerebellum is not only the part of the brain that processes movement, but is also the same part of the brain that processes learning. Therefore, when an individual is moving AND learning, the likelihood of processing and remembering that learning is superior to more static learning approaches. In fact, after sitting for just fifteen minutes, the pressure on the bottom of the spine slows the transmission of neurotransmitters to the brain, thus slowing learning.
So what does this mean for us? For our students?
In order to assess where we want to be as a faculty, we first must understand where we are. Each teacher or administrator in the room shared ways they currently incorporate movement into their teaching. Ideas encompassed using Tai Chi while instructing, active group work, simulations and role plays, and acting out scenes from Shakespeare.
The ideas shared not only reinforced the dynamic classes this sample of teachers provides, but served as an opportunity for each faculty member to self-assess his or her teaching and incorporate new ideas into the classroom that will allow for more effective student learning. Christopher Taibbi
explains our role as educators in the continued development of teaching practices, "We as teachers are at a pivotal point in time now wherein the apexes of both educational theory and brain research just might overlap. Making use of these understandings, that is actually 'applying the science to the art', is what will, in the end, make our students able to take the next grand steps."
As last Thursday's post
mentioned, any school can talk about what best learning and teaching practices are, but what really matters is how well the research is implemented in the classroom. We know we can always improve. Professional development, from both internal and external resources, ensures that we sustain Proctor as a learning community and create a culture of accountability that puts what we learn into action.