Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Making Learning Whole - "Light" Summer Reading

David Perkins is the co-director of Harvard's Project Zero*.  In Making Learning Whole, he introduces seven principals of teaching that take a revised look at wise practice.  Building the book around a baseball metaphor, Dr. Perkins offers a compelling look at what we can do to enhance learning.  Thank you to my friend and colleague, Missy Matthews, for recommending it at our last "Friday Freaks" get-together.
    This is not a "how to" book, it's not filled with easy answers that provide a step-by-step notion of teaching.  BUT, if you're interesting in taking your philosophy to new depth--to rethink how you look at learning and to reflect thoughtfully on your own practice--this is a terrific read.  It's fodder for thought!
     Dr. Perkins develops a framework for teaching that is both practical and research-oriented.  And since it's a framework, it's not explicitly developed as a "do this" type of text, but more of a "think about this" guide.  His seven principles for making learning whole include:
  • Play the whole game
  • Make the game worth playing
  • Work on the hard parts
  • Play out of town
  • Uncover the hidden game
  • Learn from the team... and the other teams
  • Learn the game of learning
     Dr. Perkins talks about approaching the complexity of learning with wonder and placing a focus on understanding.  He ends each chapter with a one-page "Wonders of Learning" synthesis related to the seven concepts he espouses.  He talks about motivation and the importance of sustaining learning.  He talks about the importance of knowing and emphasizing sustained learning.  He talks about how to develop self-managed learners.  I think Making Learning Whole is a perfect cousin text to Ellin Keene's To Understand.  
     If you're like me, you plan on spending some time reflecting on your practice over the summer.  If you're like me, you're always looking for research-oriented support for your deeply held beliefs as a teacher and learner.  If you're like me, you're looking for "real-world" applications of learning and trying to identify the needs of the 21st Century learner.
     Some of my favorite quotes from the book are:  
  • "Do not read this book too carefully.  By all means look through it, but if you discover ideas that seem provocative, try something soon." 
  • "The problem of content is simple:  Teach today what learners will need to understand and act on tomorrow.  Unfortunately, both as individuals living our personal lives and in a larger social sense we only know roughly from trends and guesses what tomorrow ill be like.  Tomorrow is a moving target."
  • "Good work on the hard parts is one of the fundamental structural challenges of teaching and learning."
  • If much of what we taught highlighted understandings of wide scope, with enlightenment, empowerment, and responsibility in the foreground, there is every reason to think that youngsters would retain more, understand more, and use more of what they learned."
  • Here is a simple but surprisingly revealing plan for such a dig: 1) What is one thing you understand really well?  2) How did you come to understand it?  3)  How do you know you understand it?
     I can imagine reading Making Learning Whole with a small group of colleagues and having rich conversation about the purpose and practice of wise teaching... any takers?  I can't wait to dig deeper into this book!  It may just nudge my thinking in a new direction. 
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*Ron Ritchhart also works as a researcher at Project Zero.  His research focuses on understanding how to develop, nurture, and sustain thoughtful learning environments.  He is the author of Intellectual Character:  What it is, Why it matters, and How to get it.  Check it out if you haven't read it!

1 comment:

  1. The part I like most about this post is where you say the author talks about self managed learners. I think this is so important for children to learn. You can tell the ones who haven't been taught this as they always need a boss or some other figure telling them how to do things. Sounds like a great book!