Evolving Learner: Shifting from Professional Development to Professional Learning From Kids, Peers, and the World by Lainie Rowell, Kristy Andre, and Lauren Steinmann

Evolving Learner

Evolving Learner: Shifting from Professional Development to Professional Learning From Kids, Peers, and the World (©2020) by Lainie Rowell, Kristy Andre, and Lauren Steinmann focuses on how teachers need to learn from their students, their peers, and the world at large. They also need to be allowed to have a voice and choice when it comes to their professional learning rather than be exposed to old school one-size-fits-all professional development.


  • The main idea is to move from traditional one-size-fits-all seat time professional development to innovative learner-driven personalized deliverables. An organization called Learning Forward developed Standards for Professional Learning and this book is a practitioner’s guide to mastering them. As you learn there are things that you have to unlearn, which is difficult. You also have to change your role from expert to learner and to not fear failure. Andragogy deals with the methods or techniques used to teach adults. 1. Adults should be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction. 2. Experience, which includes mistakes, provides the basis for learning activities. 3. Subjects should have immediate relevance and impact on their job or personal life. 4. Adult learning should be problem-centered rather than content-oriented.
  • While there are many cycles of inquiry with similarities and differences, the authors decided to create their own. Their essential pieces are Focus, Learn, Refine, and Reflect. This cycle is revisited throughout the book. This book is about relationships for learning through a cycle of inquiry. Teachers who have experienced online and blended learning have higher aspirations for leveraging technology. With technology, it is much easier to differentiate learning. Social-emotional learning should also be integrated rather than separated from any learning.

1. Learning from Kids: Honor the Learner

  • We need to shift from teacher-driven to learner-driven and by learner, we mean kids and adults. While students are engaged in the learning cycle of focus, learn, refine, and reflect based on content, teachers are engaged in this same cycle regarding their practice. Students should be seen as clientele. (Doug: I prefer customers.) Teachers need to respect each student’s ideas, experiences, and perspectives in order to serve them better. In other words, they need to constantly learn from the students.

Leveraging the Most Abundant Resource in Our Schools

  • Students are the most underutilized resource in a classroom. They are critical to personalized learning for teachers. To learn from kids probably requires a change in mindset for most teachers. One survey of middle school students that asked “how do you feel in school each day” gave the top three responses as tired, bored, and stressed. The authors think that this may be because they don’t feel seen and heard. Making learning truly reciprocal may solve this problem. There an extended response here from Adora Svitak. She gave a TED Talk at the age of twelve on the topic of what adults can learn from kids that now has over five million views The response here was given when she was twenty.

What Are They Thinking? Making THinking Transparent to Tailor Instruction and Promote Teacher Inquiry

  • Thanks to tech tools it’s possible for a teacher to ask a question and see everyone’s answer. This can greatly aid the ability to do formative assessments. Without such tools, you are likely to get the same kids answering all of the questions. When using these tools be sure to put lesson design first and not the tool. This approach will also give students more processing time as it lets the teacher assess prior knowledge.
  • As students go through the grades they ask fewer questions. One way to fight this is to use the 5E’s approach. Here we start with Engaging students by asking an open-ended question. You can use a Word Cloud tool to create an illustration that students can use to Explore the topic further. The Explain part of the lesson can address unanswered questions. Further Elaboration comes next followed by Evaluation. Since learning is messy don’t be surprised if you move back and forth between these steps.
  • Next the focus in on students formulating questions. First, the teacher comes up with a question focus contained in the curriculum. Students then independently produce questions without initial judgment of a question’s quality. They prioritize closed-ended and open-ended questions, plan the next steps, and reflect. Questions can even be used as part of assessments as creating questions is a higher-level thinking activity than answering them. The nature of the questions can help the teacher spot misunderstandings and provide opportunities to improve instruction. Peer instruction can also help as the teaching peer is dealing with something recently met. By circulating during this process teachers can learn new ways to explain concepts. You can even have students take tests in pairs after they take them as individuals and compare scores.

Ownership of Learning for All: Shifting From Students Who Consume Content to Learners Who Create Content

  • Here we encounter the concepts of miinimally invasive education (MME) and self-organized learning environments (SOLEs). They are based on the work of Sugata Mitra who set up computer kiosks in poor neighborhoods starting in New Delhi, India. When he returned he was amazed at what the children had taught themselves with no help. Certainly these children owned their learning. We then hear about High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego, CA that accepts students via a lottery. They operate on the principles of equity, personalization, authentic work, and collaborative design. The only tech-based question they ask prospective teachers is “Are you willing to learn from your students?”
  • One author tells a story of how she took over a kindergarten class and gave each student a computer tablet. She gave them four minutes to figure out the features of the drawing app and then teach them to the rest of the class. Then they had to show a number using manipulatives, take a picture of it, bring the picture into the drawing app, and annotate it. The vast majority had no trouble and those that did watched a peer and completed the task. Their teacher was amazed. This activity leveraged the learners in the room and produced artifacts that could be used to analyze the progress of each student. Students enjoyed the challenge, the chance to be creative, learning something new, and collaborating as they overcame their fear. Note that students here had voice and choice.
  • Now we look at a number of specific learner-driven practices. Included are project-based learning, competency-based learning also known as mastery or performance-based learning, blended learning, and universal design for learning. There is an interview with Eric Marcos, a math teacher from Santa Monica, CA who’s website is MathTrain.Tv. He started making video tutorials for his students who soon wanted to make their own. In a way, they put him out of business. Among the many benefits are other family members learning math at home from student-generated tutorials.
  • The rest of the chapter focuses on social-emotional learning (SEL) with short interviews of two teachers who use InspirED to help their students with this important learning. In the end, there are resources that help you internalize the key concepts as well as resources you can read, watch, listen to, and explore.
Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter Share this page via Google Plus
DrDougGreen.com     If you like the summary, buy the book
Pages: 1 2 3