Monday, February 18, 2019

Students' perception of school well-being is important!

An important, yet often ignored factor of the learning experience, is school related well-being.  (Bradshaw, Keung, Rees, & Goswami, 2011).  This school-related well-being is a subset of the general framework of human well-being which, conceptualized by White (2010), emphasizes three components: “the material, the relational, and the subjective” (p. 161). Considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it seems obvious that students’ well-being needs must be met before higher-order thinking can occur. 

Students’ perception creates the emotional learning environment of the classroom or the entire school. Please note, though, that I am not talking about entertaining students. My intention is to describe a learning environment where students cooperate and are accountable for their own learning. In Finland one measurement for successful education is “kouluviihtyvyys”, which approximately translates to school enjoyment, or school satisfaction, but actually has some deeper connotations of a place where one feels safe and welcome[1]. School satisfaction is seen to be built of several components where school conditions create one part, social relationships another part and means for self-fulfillment in school the third crucial part – following the categories of having, loving, being by Erik Allardt[2]. These are quite similar to material, relational and subjective.

Classroom management and curricular choices belong to having (the material, school conditions), in addition to the buildings and equipment, and often are the most emphasized component in student success. However, no matter how great the learning conditions are, the two other components of well-being must be present to complete the picture of successful learning experiences.

Cooperation falls into social relationships/loving – part of school enjoyment, and it covers school climate, teacher-student relationships and all interactions – also those with students’ homes and family members. Cooperation increases students’ success in all levels starting from informal peer tutoring among classmates, covering anything and everything that happens during a school day, but also reaching to professional collaboration between education professionals. Loving is a strong word for me to use about social relationships at school, but I do see how well it fits here.

Being/the means of self-fulfillment cover many important areas: value of work (no busywork!), creativity (students and teachers are so much more than parts in a machine), encouragement (feedback about learning process), and having opportunities to practice making good choices. Knowing how I learn is essential for becoming a good learner, and this is why metacognitive tools should be an essential part of each and every teacher’s toolbox. This is also why I am so sceptical about standards – when learning is an individual process, how could it be measured with standardized testing?

The reality of testing is to provide information to the stakeholders (which is the basic idea in summative evaluations). To increase school well-being we should use lots of informal and formative assessments to support students' learning process.

Having, loving and being were in my mind when I creatd the 3C Framework:

The cognitive approach creates the foundation, because students' thinking needs to change - not just their behaviour.

Cooperation guides the classroom management decision and help students engage in their own learning process.

Constructive tools focus on supporting students' learning process to make learning meaningful and increase motivation to learn.

3C framework also emphasizes using students' self-assessment in order to build feedback loops that support deeper learning. The underlying principle is to empower students to become independent life-long learners.

Bradshaw, J., Keung, A., Rees, G., & Goswami, H. (2011). Children's subjective well-being: International comparative perspectives. Children and Youth Services Review33(4), 548-556.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Instruction doesn't necessarily mean that students are learning

Learning and teaching are two completely different things. 

They are not the two sides of the same coin! They are two different processes that are often put into the same frame of reference (education) and sometimes even happen in the same physical space (classroom). 

Learning can be defined as the processes of acquisition and elaboration (Illeris, 2003), and what is referred to teaching often is just delivery of information (a monologue, for example lectures, either in class or online), and measuring memorized pieces of that information (tests, exams). Teaching becomes learning facilitation when the teacher and the student engage in a dialogue.

Teaching should not be force-feeding facts to students, but helping them to understand bigger entities and how the details connect to the higher level concept.  Usually people are curious, and learning is a survival skill we all were born with and used freely during the early childhood. When learning is seen as an in-built force within your students, the teacher's job just became much easier in an instant.  By remaining as a facilitator for learning and supporting students when they are constructing their own knowledge, the teacher has taken a huge step towards utilizing the learner's autonomy. Helping students to learn requires a dialogue, because learning grows in interactions. 

Students are led into the learning process and given freedom to choose (within pedagogically appropriate boundaries) how to construct their own knowledge and which learning activities and strategies to use in order to reach the mutually discussed learning goals.  Ideally, students are also allowed to choose the assessment methods most suitable for their needs, but the teacher should lead the students utilize wide selection of assessments.

In such learning environment students' learning is effective and authentic, building on higher level thinking skills and linking new information into already existing structures of personal knowledge and understanding.  This is what deep learning looks like. 

Thinking from the viewpoint of teaching being equal to learning, things appear to be very different.  

It seems inevitable that the teacher must somehow capture and keep the attention of the students, in order to engage them in learning materials. Rewards, points, grades and penalties are utilized to focus students' attention towards the desired learning objective, and students are led through an instructional sequence with the hope that it would change also there thinking and not just their behavior. Rote memorization is the most commonly used learning strategy so learning loss becomes a real problem after a while.

Student motivation is one main contributor to students' educational success. From a pedagogical point of view students are either seen as intrinsically motivated learners and subjects of their own lives and learning, or as objects of teaching and extrinsically motivated into performing tasks that the formal education provides them with and expects them to pass.

Autonomy, competency and relatedness - the three principles of self-determination theory - are also are basic human needs. Providing ample opportunities for students to choose, grow and relate makes learning easier and teaching more successful.

Let me help you choose better learning/teaching strategies!

This blogpost talks about interactions that support learning


Illeris, K. (2003). Toward a contemporary and comprehensive theory of learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 22(4), 396-406. doi:10.1080/0260137032000094814

Niemiec, C. P., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice. School Field, 7(2), 133-144.