The advantages of understanding the teaching and learning journey

06/ 28/ 2017

What lessons do we want students to retain from their time in high school? This question is a reflection of a quest toward “knowing what to do, when you don’t know what to do.”Kevin Mattingly, PhD, (Riverdale School and Teachers College Columbia University) and Nicole Furlonge, PhD, (Holderness Schools and Teachers College Columbia University) are both leading the quest to integrate best teaching practices with the science of learning and are consequently informing the important intersection between teaching and learning. large_photo392640_4456711.jpg

Kevin, a long-time educator, is a thought leader on how cognitive science informs how we learn. He also helped start The Mountain School, has worked with dozens of schools on curriculum design and teaching strategies, and is currently serving on the Holderness Board of Trustees. The language of learning has changed from “listen to me, read that, and go there” to learning how to learn and, as Kevin calls it, “knowing what to do, when you don’t know what to do.” The skills that are important today are based on inquiry—learning how to ask effective questions and being able to find out things. When they graduate from high schools, students need to know how to collaborate, problem-solve, and think creatively.

In other words, today’s successful students need to learn how to learn. Kevin stresses two notions:

  • Reflecting on experience
  • Understanding the science of learning and pairing that understanding with the art of teaching

He argues that it is at the nexus of the art and science where endurable learning takes place. He also emphasizes that cognitive science is revolutionizing the educational field. 

As the first director of teaching and learning at Holderness, Nicole Furlonge has spent a great deal of time considering how to turn these ideas into practice. As Nicole sees it, learning changes the brain and she sees teachers as brain changers.

How should teachers design learning opportunities with purpose for all students, and how will they cultivate endurable learning that is deep and transformational? She suggests a model that integrates:

  • Overarching learning outcomes
  • Discipline learning outcomes
  • Socio-emotional and systems of belief
  • Learning and cognitive neuroscience

She also argues that being disturbed or struggling can lead to disruptive thinking and taking notice. Listening more and reflecting often will also play a role in creating enduring learning.

The process toward improved learning is multi-faceted, and the work in the Center for Teaching and Learning at Holderness is just beginning. Recently neuroscientists visited the school, sharing information and research on memory and brain wave activity. They will come again next year, as well as other educational partners. Nicole says, “We are a school that is committed to learning, both for faculty and students. With the addition of the Center of Teaching and Learning, there is a formal and intentional commitment to growth, to finding ways to individualize learning, and to connecting Holderness to a larger conversation about learning.” 

Learn more about individualized learning at Holderness School