At least one goal will be top of mind for the more than 400 educators, administrators and scholars descending on FIU this week for the V International Visible Thinking Conference: learning how to help their students perform better on state exams and in life.
“With the new common core standards and the Florida standards, children are expected to think more critically,” said early childhood education associate professor Angela K. Salmon, education chair of the conference and leader of the Visible Thinking South Florida Initiative. “This conference supports teachers and shows them how to offer the education that’s needed for the 21st century.”
Salmon and fellow organizer Daniela Foerch, an early childhood learning instructor at the College of Education, say today’s teachers cannot rely on the old ways of teaching because so much of that method focused on finding sources of information.
“We don’t need to teach people to teach the content because the content is available everywhere – it’s online,” Salmon said. “We need teachers to show their students how to think and use the content that’s available.”
A recent study of student performance in Michigan’s Clarkston Community School District, which lies between Flint and Detroit, suggests that incorporating visible thinking routines is helping students perform better on state tests, Salmon said.
Routines such as slowing the learning process, having students explain how they solved a problem and stimulating their curiosity have helped children in Clarkston outperform children in their home county and in the state in core areas of math, reading, science, social studies and writing, according to a 2014 Superintendent’s Evaluation.
To help South Florida’s students see improved performance, the College of Education and Visible Thinking South Florida are brining in visible thinking heavyweights such as Arthur Costa, Bena Kallick, David Perkins, Robert Swarz, Daniel Wilson and others to the Modesto A. Maidque Campus through March 14 to help their teachers update the way they teach.
“We speak of visible thinking and it sounds like a program, but it’s a loose, flexible approach,” said Perkins, a principal investigator at Harvard’s Project Zero, which helped to create the visible thinking approach. “It’s not cookie-cutter. Different teachers will apply different parts of it in their classroom. Teachers sometimes invent their own thinking routines.”
“It’s more of a broad approach,” he added. “We think that’s a good thing.”
Perkins will deliver a keynote address March 12 focusing on the questions that foster learning in children with developing minds and that draws from his recent book “Future Wise: Educating our Children for a Changing World.”
The following day, Costa, an emeritus professor at the California State University, Sacramento, and Kallick, a private consultant, will take the stage to show teachers how to incorporate the habits of successful people into their lessons to help students in the thinking process.
“What we see is that [teachers] are hungry for this thinking,” Kallick said of the approach, which is known to educators as Habits of Mind. “Like visible thinking, this isn’t a program. It honors teachers and their desires and produces something that’s individual and personalized…but you need time to think about how you introduce it to kids.”
If teachers successfully implement these concepts in their classrooms, it will eventually translate into their students’ success in college, and eventually, the workplace, Salmon said.
“We want children to become independent learners, to develop their own thinking strategies and learn how to learn,” Salmon said. “People who take the initiative are always curious. They find problems and they like to solve problems.”
Added Foerch: “Employers seek employees with these competencies because they want employees who can work with diverse people from different cultures and backgrounds.”
To follow the conversation taking place at the conference, search for #VisibleThinkingFIU on social media.