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.
- A strong Foundation where everyone knows what is expected and how to interact with one another.
- An empowering Atmosphere where everyone feels safe and supported, that they belong and are valued.
- A supportive Environment that uses the physical space to enhance learning.
- 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.
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.”
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 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)
Episode 2 (Learning which caters to every cookie mold)
Episode 3 (How superheroes learn)
Episode 4 (Learning happens any time, any place, anywhere)
Episode 5 (The student experience)
They are currently working on Episode 6, 7 & 8 for future release.
By Mark Reardon, Quantum Learning Lead Learning Consultant