Now is the time to acknowledge what we've all known and experienced since our own schooldays: Relationships (healthy, constructive, counter-productive, or non-existent) significantly impact the quality of learning that happens in our classrooms.
When students work collaboratively, they engage. When they collaboratively engage around topics of shared relevance, a legitimate sense of community is strengthened... building belonging.
New ideas and insights are inevitably generated when students collaborate around challenges and issues they care about. Experience-based research in multiple classrooms has proven that when behavior challenges are topics of collaborative peer group discussions, students (starting at 4 years of age) will listen to, and adopt, peers' explanations far more often than they'll really listen to, and adopt, adults' explanations / solutions. Fortunately, this makes teachers' jobs a lot easier, once they commit to making the Win-Win-Win 'collaboration' shift.
When students collaboratively engage with constructing their own understanding, that's when 'ownership' of understanding happens.
~ Nini White, B.A.
"Every citizen is capable of the kind of intellectual competence previously attained by only a small minority." Deborah Meier, The Power of Their Ideas
Deborah Meier is an icon of child-first education. Working in partnership with dedicated teachers, Meir turned failing schools into landmark schools in which 90% of the East Harlem children she served graduated from high school and 90% of those children went on to college. Meier demonstrated how seeing children's as ideas worthy of respect not only cultivates critical thinking skills and develops compassionate collaboration.
Important to Meier was to also develop the skills needed for children to grow into full participants in democracy, a goal shared by John Dewey, Loris Malaguzzi, and Jean Piaget. Embodying a faith in collaboration, Meier and her staff created five guiding principles or "intellectual habits":
We, as KIDS' OWN WISDOM® educators, know the importance of these questions as we guide children in collaboration to find answers using our SOARR-ing approach. When we work together employing our intellectual skills, we also ignite powerful pathways to development of social and emotional growth.
Our circle time dialogues with a skilled facilitator provide situations rich with cognitive stimulation and opportunities for sharing ideas that fully engage children while they tackle complex and challenging topics. These facilitated conversations lay the groundwork for developing children's skill set which are readily applicable to school topics and challenges: analyzing literature, writing a research paper, and solving personal challenges with peers.
~ Wendy Zacuto, M.A., Educational Consultant
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Respecting and building on students’ own intrinsic motivations to connect around topics that matter to them is a natural way to leads to engagement and achievement.