We’ve been working with John Antonetti this year. He is the co-author, along with James R. Garver, of the professional text 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t be Wrong: Strategies that Engage Students, Promote Active Learning, and Boost Student Achievement. He has been talking with us about moving our focus from teaching to student learning, and pushing us to consider cognitive engagement and rigor in new ways. Cognitive engagement, he says, includes personal response, clear/modeled expectations, emotional/intellectual safety, learning with others, a sense of audience, choice, novelty, variety, and authenticity. Rigor, according to Antonetti, occurs when we have engagement (cognitive, intellectual, and academic) and when children make meaning in unique ways. He encourages us to design tasks that lead to divergent thinking and push children to make unique meaning. We have started to do some interesting work with students as we grapple with these ideas and work to design more rigorous and engaging tasks.
As I’ve been working with teachers and students to try out some of John’s ideas, I’ve also been thinking about how this might apply to my coaching work. After all, in some ways the teachers are my students. When I design coaching cycles, professional development or grade level planning sessions, I’m starting to think about how I might include these ideas of engagement and rigor. Are the tasks I ask teachers to do cognitively engaging? Am I pushing teachers to consider divergent ideas, find patterns, build meaning, and apply their learning in different settings? Am I giving teachers enough choice, time for personal response, emotional and intellectual safety, and authenticity?
As I design my coaching cycles, professional development, and grade level planning sessions, I’m going to try to design tasks that infuse some of John’s ideas into my coaching work. I’m hoping this will lead to higher engagement, active learning, achievement, reflection, and some powerful professional work for all of us!