What Leads Your Learning Design Efforts?

I just read Matthew Ray's post, Putting the Pieces Together, which demonstrates the success of one educator's purposeful, targeted teaching in a positive, child-centered learning environment. I look forward to Ray's posts each and every day as he is a reflective educator who continually revises, creates and implements thoughtful learning design to engage, inspire and educate his students.

His posts inform my current inquiry surrounding optimal learning design?  I am eager to weed, prune and nurture the classroom environment, lessons and units to teach children well.  I want to know all there is to know about providing students with the best possible tools, attitude, skills, concepts and knowledge as they move forward toward happy, meaningful lives.

Mary Ann Reilly's blog and recent post, Nomad: No Passport/Too Many, invigorated this quest yesterday as she prompted me to think of our "nomads," those who do not establish lasting connections in our classrooms and schools.  All of Mary Ann's posts are helping me to ponder the depth, purpose and direction of my work as an educator.

At this juncture, the learning design inquiry stands before me like a cloud--I can see the outline and understand many of the components, but I'm not quite sure how they all fit together or the best path to take towards deepening my knowledge in this area.  I am looking for mentors, guides, successful examples, authentic assessments and research to guide my work.

Currently, these are the ingredients of learning design I value and continue to explore.

A Positive Climate:  I'm sure some will see this as obvious, but I am just realizing how important this is to optimal learning.  Brains respond to positive atmospheres, and children learn more in these environments.  What does a positive climate look like?  How do teachers respond to students in these environments?  How does this notion affect assessment design and implementation, conflict resolution, classroom routines, parent conferences and student goals?

Engagement:  When students are motivated and engaged, their minds are working; they're asking questions; and they are creating.  What lessons foster greatest engagement?  What does engagement look like in a classroom or school environment?  Where does this engagement lead?

Skills:  There are specific skills that are integral for all students.  Students need to develop optimal social, organizational, and goal-setting skills so they can get along with others, collaborate and manage their learning journey. Students also need to acquire skills that lead to learning such as reading, writing, speaking/presenting, and mathematical thinking/computation. Underlying those essential skills are the comprehension/critical thinking skills related to understanding: asking questions, making connections, inferring, determining importance, monitoring for meaning and synthesizing (Mosaic of Thought)--skills which can be integrated throughout the curriculum.  How do we develop skills in developmentally appropriate, targeted, engaging ways so that students have the tools they need to comprehend and move forward in their world as optimal communicators, critical thinkers, creators and collaborators?

Concepts/Knowledge: Determining which concepts and knowledge are worthy of our schedules and consideration is the challenge of our time when knowledge is bountiful, accessible and overflowing in every direction.  We want to provide students with a broad understanding of the world we live in.  We also want students to understand themselves, their families and communities, and we want them to experience deep, meaningful, engaging project work that leads to greater self knowledge, learning how to learn, and a thirst for more.

Learning Environment: Our learning environments should support pedagogy that reflects the latest cognitive research related to learning.  What do these environments look like?  What tools are used?  What furniture and arrangement marks a school and/or classroom?  What transportation is readily available so that learning extends into the community at senior citizen centers, museums, science laboratories, businesses, nature sanctuaries, farms and more?  How do students access virtual spaces in the school environment, and when are virtual spaces used?

Social Media: How is social media used to respond well to students' needs, inquiry and learning?  What protocols are in place to develop and utilize these tools?

Communication:  What does effective communication look like in person, on the Internet and via written correspondence and assessment?  What communication tools best effect optimal student learning and engagement?  How are those tools organized, managed and shared with others?  Is every student and family member in the loop of communication, and if not, how can we broaden communication to include all?  Also, how do we streamline communication so that it does not become overwhelming?

What am I missing?  What are the first steps with regard to an optimal learning design inquiry?  How will I create a comprehensive tool to lead my learning design plans, implementation and analysis?  Please don't hesitate to send me your thoughts, links and ideas.

Related Posts:
Matt Ray's Optimal Learning Post
A Post by Grant Wiggins
Project Base Learning and Differentiated Instruction
Lessons from the Design Studio
Great Teaching: Love and Trust
What You (Really) Need to Know
Google Learning Design for Secondary and Primary

My Posts:
Professional Inquiry: Learning Design
New Learning: Embrace
Lesson Choreography
Developing Student Interest and Motivation: Criteria Chart for Lesson Plannning
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