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Education for life and work: Developing transferable knowledge and skills in the 21st century. Hilton Eds. Given what each child is ready to learn, teachers should structure appropriately challenging activities that balance what a child already knows with what he wants and needs to learn, while introducing other rich experiences to support ongoing learning. Teaching should support conceptual understanding, engagement, and motivation, by designing relevant, problem-oriented tasks that combine explicit instruction about key ideas — organized around a conceptual map or schema of the domain being taught — with well-designed inquiry opportunities that use multiple modalities for learning.

This requires opportunities for self-direction, goal-setting and planning, and formative assessment with regular opportunities for reflection on learning strategies and outcomes, feedback, and revision of work. Jean Piaget was the first student of learning to lay out a set of developmental stages that he observed children move through as independent learners.

This concept of development was fairly static, suggesting that students would be ready for certain kinds of learning at certain ages, for example. Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes.

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Futhermore, experiencing a sense of disequilibrium in light of new situations or unfamiliar ideas can trigger the need to resolve puzzlement through exploration, which itself sparks more learning, especially when the right supports are in place to help the student make meaning of what he or she is experiencing. We treat each of these in the following sections.

Teaching and Scaffolding in the Zone of Proximal Development. The ZPD represents the learning space between what a child can do in a particular area on his or her own and what he or she can do with some assistance from more capable peers, teachers, or others. Children internalize the help they receive from others, which becomes part of their repertoire to guide future problem-solving. Well-designed instruction helps nudge the child to a new level of understanding within the ZPD by providing the right kind of experiences and supports.

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Furthermore, each student functions within multiple zones of development that vary from one domain to the next. A student may need one kind of assistance as she completes a long division problem, and yet another kind of assistance as she writes a short story. Careful observation, questioning, assessment of work, and one-on-one interactions with students provide the kinds of information teachers need to determine what level and type of assistance a student may need to advance in his or her understanding. Part of successful teaching is learning what students already know, where they already demonstrate competence, and how they can bring that knowledge into the classroom context.

As Nasir and colleagues , p. For example, complex statistical calculations used on the basketball court may not initially carry into the mathematics class, unless teachers are alert to support the transfer by building on this kind of real-world knowledge. As Lee Lee, C.

Culture, literacy, and learning: Taking bloom in the midst of the whirlwind. Lee illustrated symbolic meanings in literature by beginning with rap songs and texts the students knew, and carried their insights into study of more formal canonic texts. Learning from teaching: Exploring the relationship between reform curriculum and equity.

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Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 33 4 , — A broader body of research has documented similar strategies for building classroom communities that support successful mathematics learning e. Creating productive learning communities in the mathematics classroom: An international literature review. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 3 3 , — Studying historical understanding.

Anderman Eds. Reading like a historian: Teaching literacy in middle and high school history classrooms. Creating Rich, Collaborative Environments for Learning.

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As the aforementioned examples illustrate, learning abilities are developed by access to rich experiences that stimulate the brain. Experience and brain development. Child Development, 58 3 , — Many studies since have shown that brain development is experience-dependent. Similarly, rich classroom environments provide interactions with others in the classroom and community, hands-on experiences with the physical world, and frequent, informative feedback on what students are doing and thinking.

Teaching transformed: Achieving, excellence, fairness, inclusion, and harmony. Boulder, CO : Westview Press. Neuroscientists have also demonstrated that the development of neural pathways is associated with exposure to and generation of language Kuhl, Kuhl, P. A new view of language acquisition. When they are able to articulate concepts, use them in a task, see or hear other models of thinking, and get feedback, they learn more deeply.

How can we teach for meaningful learning?

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In Powerful learning: What we know about teaching for understanding. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass. Collaborative learning is an important classroom tool that can be used to provide students with learning assistance from peers within their zone of proximal development, opportunities to articulate their ideas, and opportunities to develop metacognitive skills like self-regulation and executive function, as they learn to manage themselves to interact productively with others and seek out help from teachers and peers.

Cooperative small group learning is one of the most studied pedagogical interventions in educational research, with hundreds of studies and many meta-analyses finding significant achievement benefits for students when they work together on learning activities. Effect sizes range from. Cooperative learning methods: A meta-analysis.

Cooperative Learning Center website. Retrieved from: www. A meta-analytic review of social, self-concept, and behavioral outcomes of peer-assisted learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98 4 , — Researchers have identified a number of social processes that help to explain why small group work supports individual learning.

There is evidence that collaborators can generate strategies and abstract problem representations that are extremely unlikely to be observed when individuals work alone, suggesting that there are unique benefits of joint thinking Schwartz, Schwartz, D.

The emergence of abstract representations in dyad problem solving. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 4 3 , — While well-managed group work can enhance student learning, it requires group-worthy tasks in which all must engage for the work to be successfully accomplished, support for students to learn to work together, and sophisticated questioning and scaffolding skills on the part of teachers.

For example, in Complex Instruction classrooms—a much-researched approach that uses cooperative learning to teach at a high academic level using carefully-constructed, interdependent group tasks—students are taught to undertake different roles e. Teachers equalize interactions between high and low-status students by structuring tasks to help them recognize and use their multiple abilities, as students draw on different competencies to accomplish a group task.

Designing groupwork: Strategies for the heterogeneous classroom. For example, in a review of 94 studies which focused on the conditions for high quality discussion in science teams, the authors concluded that:. A successful stimulus for students working in small groups to enhance their understanding of evidence has two elements.

One requires students to generate their individual prediction, model or hypothesis which they then debate in their small group.


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A systematic review of the use of small-group discussions in science teaching: Review summary. In Research Evidence in Education Library. Teachers play an active role in constructing the tasks and questions that help students learn to coordinate their work and frame their ideas in terms that reflect the modes of inquiry in the discipline.

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These efforts support the development of social, cognitive and academic skills while also developing student agency and the ability to reflect on and evaluate ideas. Providing Cognitive Supports. Teachers can also support student learning by being aware of how cognitive development unfolds. At the heart of all learning is meaning making that involves connecting what we already know to new information.

The central role of background knowledge is well documented in cognitive research. Reading for understanding. When students have not had particular experiences or have not acquired certain kinds of background knowledge, teachers can in fact create experiences for them to develop that knowledge. The kind of classroom described above, which constructs rich experiences for students and provides extensive information on the topics that are the subject of deep inquiry, helps to do that. One way to build background knowledge is to ensure a broad curriculum in history, social studies, science, and the arts, as well as reading and math, and engage students in field trips as educators have long advocated.

Finally, teachers can set the stage with information regarding the context and topics of a shared text, before they began with the students. In fact, allowing for discovery and exploration can help set the stage for explicit instruction. Rethinking transfer: A simple proposal with multiple implications. Pearson Eds. Working memory is our capacity to simultaneously keep in mind multiple pieces of information, and it is highly influenced by how information is perceived and connected to concepts, schemas, and scripts that are already familiar. These forms of background knowledge influence what is noticed, how easily new knowledge can be kept in mind and previous information remembered.

Teachers can support learning by chunking information in manageable ways and supporting students to become proficient in the use of new material by attaching ideas to one another and to a common schema of the domain under study that makes the material more meaningful rather than asking students to remember disconnected pieces of information , and by giving students opportunities to practice skills so that they become automatic, freeing up bandwidth for new material and more complex applications. Educators can also help students reduce cognitive load to free up their minds for problem solving by using tools for adapting to working memory limitations, from using notes to digital tools such as calculators or computers that can be used to offload computational or memory-heavy tasks during problem solving sessions.

This view of cognition casts intelligence as distributed among minds, material artifacts, cultural tools, and interacting partners Pea, Pea, R. Cognitive technologies for mathematics education.