Author Archives: Quantum Learning

I SAW IT FIRST-HAND IN ASIA AND THOUGHT WHY NOT IN EVERY CLASSROOM?

Imagine . . . There’s a buzz down the corridor of classrooms. Not an audible buzz, a sensation, a feeling that heightens your curiosity. Peering into the small window in one classroom door you see what’s generating the buzz and it draws you into the room. Students with partners, some with puzzled looks, others with smiles, huddle over their work. Two students gather around the teacher speaking of their work and defending their choices as the teacher probes for deeper thinking. Soft, melodic sounds seep into the energy of voices. A student’s gesture toward the wall directs your focus to a colorful icon, and the whiteboard displays a digital clock counting down from ten. There’s an orderliness throughout the classroom—everything in its place—as if to invite students toward resources and supplies.

Within moments, a chime sounds and students respond quickly in silence. “It’s time to look critically at your work. There are three questions you’ll use to do so. Let’s read them together.” The students, in one voice join the recitation. “Each of you, individually and to yourself, answer the questions. This will take you just about a minute, so when you have answered each question, turn back in this direction and be ready when I call on you to share your answers. Please begin your analysis.”

Behind the Scenes

… is a system orchestrated by the teacher, a system of four core components that when artfully orchestrated create a shift in what the teacher thinks is possible and what students believe about themselves.

  1. A strong Foundation where everyone knows what is expected and how to interact with one another.
  2. An empowering Atmosphere where everyone feels safe and supported, that they belong and are valued.
  3. A supportive Environment that uses the physical space to enhance learning.
  4. A purposeful Design & Delivery that ignites creativity, critical thinking, and reflection.

It’s almost too good to be true. How can students be this engaged, focused, communicative and interested? What’s happening behind the scenes that creates such attentiveness and evokes such respect? You think this must be an exceptional class with an exceptional teacher. Surely, not all classrooms here are like this.

Then you wander down the hall. Classroom after classroom, each teacher unique in style, and students engaged in various learning activities—writing, viewing videos, reading, noting, peering into microscopes, researching, listening to another student speak. A few classrooms reveal students arranged in a lecture format, in other classrooms students stand at stations tucked up against the walls.

YOU THINK, HOW DO THEY DO THIS AND WHY NOT IN EVERY CLASSROOM?

After peering into classrooms down three hallways, you enter the teacher’s lounge. Women and men, spanning a range of years and experience, talk freely of what’s working and seek solutions for what’s not. An occasional remark about another’s quirky style and outlandish instructional activities bring a round of laughter.

You stick around to attend the after-school professional development workshop facilitated by five of the school’s teachers. You arrive as 120 on-time teachers and administrators take their seats at tables arranged for four. Within a few minutes and right at the scheduled time, a member of the Lead Learners team greets everyone as they show their respect with applause.

“Welcome to this third session in our series of workshops on effective teaching and learning. The team and I have prepared, based on your feedback, an eventful, and practical experience from which you’ll better understand the why and the how behind strategies that maximize learning.”

After a brief set of instructions, teachers and administrators, heads leaning toward the center of the table, grab markers to create their metaphor for today’s topic. These creations soon adorn the side walls while they talk with colleagues at their tables about their successes of the day.

When everything is done with intentionality, singularity of focus, and the belief that students and teachers can achieve, schools become places where everyone succeeds, where everyone experiences joy and purpose.

Four other teammates scurry to stations decorated to support their respective topics. At the signal, everyone darts to their assigned station and settles into an intensively focused conversation about how to maximize learning. Soon a bell sounds and everyone goes back to their original tables to share what they learned and make applications to their next day’s lesson.

“Is this typical PD at this school?” you ask the gentleman next to you. The principal remarks without hesitation without breaking his attentiveness, “Yes. In my 30 years in education, this is the finest PD I’ve experienced.”

UTOPIA?

What is this place? Utopia? Wishful thinking? Could this even be possible?

This is a description of what’s happening in two schools in Malaysia.

As I saw this first-hand, I thought these two schools have fully embraced a teaching and learning system that has transformed the professional culture, enhanced lesson design, elevated the delivery and facilitation of learning, and increased the effectiveness of leadership.

Two schools where teachers and administrators are creating the school they’ve always dreamed of—a place where students and learning come first.

WHAT’S MISSING? THE “HOW”

In far too many schools here and abroad, the description above is far from reality. Far too many teachers and leaders feel stuck, drained by initiatives and mandated expectations, policies and an ever-shifting focus of what’s important. They know what to do (teach the content, manage the initiatives) and the outcome toward which they’re aiming (effective learning, achievement, graduation.)

Is it possible they simply do not know HOW? While most are clear on the WHAT, they may lack the skills and understanding of how to accomplish the task.

What if there was a HOW that capitalized on the brain’s natural learning systems—a HOW that released teachers’ passion and creativity and unleashed students’ potential to create, find solutions and articulate those ideas?

QUANTUM LEARNING IS THE HOW

It’s not that the schools in Malaysia face fewer demands, have higher quality teachers, better trained leaders, more respectful students, or more resources. It’s that these two particular schools have embraced a HOW, a system. A system built on accessing the brain’s natural learning systems and employing strategies grounded in the neuro- and cognitive sciences.

The Quantum Learning System integrates with content standards and initiatives providing a philosophy, models, and strategies that amplify teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to master those standards. It transcends grade levels, ethnic and cultural nuances, and teacher and leadership styles. The Quantum Learning System increases teachers’ and leaders’ efficacy while providing the WHY behind what’s effective.

Most likely, if you are reading this, you entered education to make a difference. So did we. Each of us desires to express our passion with joy and work our magic with students. Our students with unlimited potential and possibility are not just our future. They are our present. They deserve the best we’ve got— the what and the HOW that ignites joyful, meaningful, and challenging learning.

I saw first-hand 100% commitment from all faculty.
I saw feedback, effort and practice.
I saw joy and pride in the results.
I saw first-hand and thought it’s possible, and why not in every classroom!

See it first-hand:

Taylor’s Education, Malaysia

Episode 1 (Making the complexity of learning easy like A, B, C & D)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExnIXUKJQoE
Episode 2 (Learning which caters to every cookie mold)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGyWBCrlXlM
Episode 3 (How superheroes learn)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q38OHmbPQec
Episode 4 (Learning happens any time, any place, anywhere)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzVTIU7fckg
Episode 5 (The student experience)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M3rZ2YoZq0

They are currently working on Episode 6, 7 & 8 for future release.

By Mark Reardon, Quantum Learning Lead Learning Consultant

CIVA, a CO Quantum Learning school, wins state award!

A charter school Quantum Learning has partnered with for many years was just awarded the Colorado Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award for exceptional student growth on state assessments.  …  Its doing “different and unusual things to help students achieve”.  Through QL, it uses techniques to keep students alert and interested.

“It’s the concept of paying much more attention to students’ state of learning and making sure teachers are delivering engaging, memorable lessons. The whole atmosphere is positive and peer-friendly. Our approach focuses on ensuring students are in the best place to learn – mentally, emotionally, and physically.” Randy Zimmerman, headmaster.

This video is featured on the CO Department of Education website as part of its series “Stories of Promising Practices” https://youtu.be/JSVJf9rPgVA

Randy wrote us: “Partnering with QL has benefited our students and staff immensely.  I love being a part of creating a school where students are excelling.”

Keep the 8 Keys alive! A personal share of what they can mean.


Have you been aware of the 8 Keys of Excellence for years or are you new to them? Either way, one of the questions we at Quantum Learning frequently get is “How can I keep the momentum of the 8 Keys going” or “How can I keep the 8 Keys fresh with my students who have known them for many years?” Check out this short video of one of our Senior Facilitators and Educational Consultants, Shari Murphy, as she shares how she keeps the keys “alive” and how “This is it” has changed for her on a 20 year journey.

QUANTUM LEARNING’S MINDFUL ENVIRONMENTS

Quantum Learning has coached and inspired teachers and facilitators to create mindful environments for the last three decades (since 1982). Our methodology includes two tenets—Everything is on Purpose and Everything Speaks—that remind us to pay attention to every detail of our learning environment because everything our students hear, see and do sends a message, either positive or negative. It’s up to us as teachers to be attentive and understand the impact of the environment we create.

These tenets and the importance of being mindful of the impact of everything around us was driven home to me when in 1979 I studied with Dr. Georgi Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator. His teaching methodology was declared a “technology worth merit and further study” in 1978 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Since that time, we have been diligent in our study and application of Dr. Lozanov’s methods in our student and teacher development programs. In 2010, Dr. Lozanov invited me to submit an account of our programs and their impact on participants. My paper was included as part of Dr. Lozanov’s further research and report on the effectiveness of these methods to UNESCO’s Education for All. Before his death in 2012, Dr. Lozanov expressed that he held me and one other as students who excelled in their understandingand adherence to the integrity of his fundamental principles.

One of Lozanov’s methods highlights the need for students to be relaxed, alert and curious about what’s next, and to maintain a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn. He emphasized the need for lessons to be purposefully planned and well-orchestrated to consistently get outstanding results. Everything is on purpose.

Mindfulness is about paying attention, moment by moment, to all aspects of our classroom environment, including the following.

  • physical environment: seating arrangement, light, temperature, purposeful art, positive messages, visual reinforcement of content
  • emotional atmosphere: positive language, joy, acknowledgment
  • purposeful instruction where teachers intentionally design and deliver lessons that
    • engage students and build curiosity,
    • immerse them in an experience that connects to the content,
    • reinforces their learning, and
    • guides their review, self-reflection and celebration.

Everything Speaks
One of our Quantum Learning directives is Send Intentional Messages.

“Everything we say and do sends a message that either positively or negatively impacts the quality of learning—there is no neutral.

“Whether it’s actions, interactions, body language, quality and formatting of handouts, posters, display of student work, room arrangement, teacher’s manner of dress—everything speaks. Everything that takes place in the classroom sends a message, but only students can decide what the message is and what it means to them. Knowledge of everything speaks means we view the classroom and all that’s in it with consideration of what message it sends.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, p. 20)

 Everything is on Purpose
Another QL directive is Be Purposeful.

Being deliberate in what you say and do leads to achieving desired outcomes.

Because everything speaks, we must be very purposeful about what we do and say. Think What is my desired outcome? and make choices that propel learners to that outcome. Whether we are choosing an instructional strategy or placing posters on the walls, we must be consciously intentional—everything we do is on purpose. This focus encourages a greater awareness of all the variables that influence learning. Every aspect of the environment needs to be purposefully designed with the student in mind, and with what research supports. The environment must not distract from the learning process. We are purposeful with our planning and actions to orchestrate successful learning.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System p. 102)

Conscious and Nonconscious Learning
Learning is dual-planed. We learn through both our conscious and nonconscious  (referred to by Lozanov as para-conscious) mind. Everything makes a suggestion, either consciously or nonconsciously. While a student is consciously listening to the teacher, his mind is nonconsciously absorbing information from the environment such as peripherals, the teacher’s mood and tone of voice, noises in the room and outside, as well as many other stimuli not consciously observed.

In Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, Gerd Gigerenzer (2007), a German psychologist says, “Unconscious inferences weave together data from the senses using prior knowledge about the world. . . . They are triggered by external stimuli in an automatic way.” (Part 2, chapter 7, online, n.p.)

Lozanov believed there was no neutral, only positive or negative. Teachers have the responsibility of making a concerted effort to create as many positives as possible in a comfortable, safe, and fun learning environment.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, p. 88)

Summary
At Quantum Learning we believe that those comfortable, safe and fun learning environments referred to by Georgi Lozanov are what effective teaching and learning are all about. And we know from our 35 years of inspiring and teaching educators to create them that mindful environments work!

 QLEBlogMindfulEnvironments1 QLEBlogMindfulEnvironments2

Being mindful of your classroom environment can start small or you can go all out as did Kelli Myers, a QL teacher in Tennessee, who greeted her students at the start of the year in a beach-themed classroom.


Summary of Research Findings about Mindfulness and Quantum Learning Environments

Benefits Mindfulness Quantum Learning
Attention improvements in attentiveness increased ability to interest self in class; enjoyed learning more
Compassion improved respect for others better relationships with peers and family
Calming less hyperactive behavior;
stress relief
increased ability to access optimal states for better performance; better behavior
Atmosphere enhanced school climate made the classroom an enjoyable place for students and teachers
Self-efficacy greater well-being develop emotional and physical trust

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/research_round_up_school_based_mindfulness_programs
http://quantumlearning.com/research_and_results.aspx


3 Steps Toward a Mindful Environment

  1. Know and orchestrate optimal learning states. We can orchestrate the conditions that optimize learning. One condition is state. State is one’s emotional/psychological/physical frame of mind. When students access a relaxed yet alert state of being, they are more focused. Their attentiveness heightens and receptivity increases. Ask yourself: What state of mind do my students need to be in to be successful? Your answers most likely include, focused, curious, open, attentive, willing. Now ask yourself: In what ways can my classroom environment elicit those optimal states for learning? Perhaps you’re thinking about lighting, temperature, seating, sounds. Since state has a powerful influence on the development of working memory, comprehension, and retention, take the time to know and orchestrate the conditions that elicit students’ optimal states for learning.
  2. Model the mindset you want in your students. You impact the attitudes and mindsets of your students. Your frame of mind (your emotional/psychological/physical state) is a multisensory cue that elicits a mirror response from your students. Ever stood before your class feeling passionate about the content and excited to share what you know? It’s not long before you see bright eyes, smiles and students leaning forward in anticipation of what’s coming next. Powerful, right? This works in reverse, too! A student shares exciting news about something they did or an insight they had about yesterday’s lesson and the class feels and responds to their excitement. Choose your state as you begin a lesson—be wondrous, curious, excited about the topic. Shift your state throughout the lesson. Be reflective during question and answer times. Be calm yet direct when addressing behavior issues. Be friendly as students enter and exit class.
  3. Maintain a constant awareness of the messages you’re sending. This ability begins with the undeniable fact that everything in the environment sends a message—positive or negative. At Quantum Learning we say everything speaks. Look around your room. What messages are you sending? What message does a disheveled desktop send? What message does warm lighting and greenery send? Everything, always, sends a message that either promotes or undermines learning. What messages are the walls sending? Take a moment to define what messages you want your physical environment to send. Perhaps you’re thinking along the lines of cooperation, growth, curiosity, and orderliness. Whatever the messages, be sure your classroom space always supports them.