Sunday, March 18, 2012

Struggling teen brains

On the subject of Parenting a struggling teen – Thinking beyond the crisis 

 Dr.  F. Reamer argues parents to look beyond the quick fix. He rightly says that these kids have skill deficits particularly  in the area of ' executive functions '.

'Thus, an important task with struggling teens is to place them in protected, supervised settings that can contain their inappropriate, impulsive, destructive, and counterproductive behaviors, keeping them safe during this critical period of brain development. As the brain matures, many struggling teens show evidence of improved judgment, better impulse control, more stable moods, and more appropriate behavior.  '

My question to Dr Reamer – why do we have to wait for the teen's brain to mature , why should we not act according to neuro-science and brain plasticity that CPS – the collaborative problem solving approach promotes brain development ,helps teens acquire ' executive functions ' and addresses their pile of unsolved problems in a realistic and durable way.

The high rates of recidivism in Juvenile Detention system prove that unless teens essential needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness are addressed by using collaborative problem solving , teens brains won't mature and be skilled over time.

CPS in Maine's Juvenile Detention System

Rod Bouffard, Superintendent at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, Maine, speaks about his experiences in implementing CPS in his facility.

Scroll down to the video clip

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Personalization and Differentiation in Learning – A SDT, CPS , Constructivist view

On the 7th March, 2012 Alfie Kohn twittered   '2 Ed Week essays warn that “personalized learning” may be impersonal & behavioristic:  ' ,

Some schools today seem to be moving away from the classical Skinner models of learning in both the academic and socio- moral ( behavioral ) areas of learning. The PBIS  - positive behavior al interventions and supports approach appreciates that kids behavior can be explained in terms of lacking skills and modern technology supports ' personalization and differentiation '  in academic subjects.

When we look at PBIS and personalized learning through the eyes of  Constructivist and The Self Determination theories , the approaches tend to be impersonal and behavioristic.

These approaches focus on ' competence '  and not only  don't address the needs for autonomy and relatedness  but limit their expression.

PBIS teaches lacking skills in a direct top-down way. The CPS – collaborative problem solving approach mainly teaches skills in an indirect fashion through the process of cps. The kids concerns and the kid participating in the defining the problem and finding the solution are central to CPS. In PBIS the process is not collaborative, kids concerns are ignored, and solutions are top-down. CPS addresses the needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness and are active in constructing meaning and reflecting on what they are doing. PBIS in a way addresses the need for competence or in other words the ability to comply.

When it comes to learning ,  cutting –edge developments like personalization and differentiated instruction  may be in fact the same old learning by transmission style  pedagogy where the student is conceived as a passive receptacle just receiving information in a different way.

The fact that the internet provides multiple resources at great speed changes exactly nothing in terms of the pedagogical approach. Collecting facts from the internet is no different from pulling them from the World book encyclopedia.

The constructivist approach kids learn by talking and constructing meaning from their learning.

'Teaching is mostly listening, and learning is mostly telling '  Deborah Meier

An Oregon teacher in her 50’s once summarized her professional growth to me in one short sentence:  “The longer I teach, the less I talk.”  She’d come to realize that only by making sure she didn’t monopolize the classroom was there a real chance for her students to talk – and therefore to learn.   Given how much silence (that is, student silence) is valued in the Old School, that last idea may be counterintuitive, but, as a British educator explained, “Talking is not merely a way of conveying existing ideas to others; it is also a way by which we explore ideas, clarify them and make them our own.” Every minute a teacher is doing the talking is a minute this isn’t happening.    – Alfie Kohn   - The schools our kids deserve

'If we are genuinely concerned with students' intellectual development (as opposed to their scores on standardized tests), then it makes sense to do all we can to help them focus on effort rather than ability, to become absorbed with the learning itself rather than being preoccupied with their performance. This, in turn, can be facilitated by what I have elsewhere called the "three C's of motivation": collaboration, choice, and content (of the curriculum).

Collaboration involves more than occasional cooperative learning activities; it means that students feel connected to their peers and that they experience the classroom as a safe, supportive community -- not a place of isolation and certainly not a place where they must compete against each other. Choice means that students are brought into the process of making decisions about what (and how and why) they are learning -- as well as other issues of classroom life. Finally, to raise the question of content is to challenge the assumption that students are indifferent about their schoolwork because they are not sufficiently "motivated" (or, from another point of view, because they simply have low self-esteem). The real problem may be that the work itself is not meaningful, engaging, or relevant.'   - Alfie Kohn article , The truth of self –esteem

Constructivist learning addresses the needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness for kids in school.