Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2014 Issue »

    Symposium

    Thinking and Learning

    This symposium, which we have titled Thinking and Learning, continues a thirty-year tradition of featuring practitioner and student voices on the pages of the Harvard Educational Review. In this collection, we present the experiences of educators who, when reflecting on their work, focus on the ways students’ thinking and inquiry shape their pedagogical approaches. In the essays that follow, Jessie L. Auger and Naomi Mulvihill, both early childhood teachers at a bilingual public school in Boston, and Nicholas Bauch and Christina Sheldon, co-instructors of an undergraduate cultural geography course at the California State University, Los Angeles, share vivid accounts of their students’ approaches to engaging with new material. Their illustrations suggest that student-centered learning not only provides opportunities for authentic peer collaboration, but also facilitates students’ expert-like engagement in the production, rather than the mere consumption, of knowledge. By this we mean that these authors empower their students to invoke and explore lived experiences as generative forms of knowledge.

    While these essays portray distinct classroom contexts, they share a common focus on what it means for students, whether in elementary school or in college, to be both beginners and experts. Auger, Mulvihill, Bauch, and Sheldon describe their decisions to provide more than basic skills and foundational concepts to their “novice” students. They express a commitment to helping students develop “intellectual autonomy,” a concept that Auger discusses in her exploration of Buddy Editing as one in which students “take the reins of their own learning.” Thus we learn in each essay that fostering intellectual autonomy means allowing students to identify their own learning interests, obstacles, needs, and goals; it also requires restraint from instructors who feel pressure to take over decision making for their students in the name of academic progress.

    The educators featured in this symposium also strive to create opportunities and environments for students to safely share what Bauch and Sheldon call “tacit information literacies,” unspoken knowledge of how to seek information that is rooted in lived experience. Further, as they describe their construction of interactive learning activities that scaffold and support student agency, these educators emphasize the importance of meta-cognition; they have developed classroom cultures in which it is standard practice for students to ask one another to reflect on and explain their choices and to hypothesize about and question the rationales behind the status quo.

    At the same time, it is notable that the contributing authors’ emphasis on the learning process does not appear to diminish their commitment to learning outcomes. These essays reveal both implicit and explicit standards for students’ work. Through written assignments, presentations, or participation in discussions, Auger, Mulvihill, Bauch, and Sheldon challenge students to rigorously connect their learning to the context of their own lives, to articulate the relevance of connections across domains, and to wrestle with the “why” alongside the “what” of learning. Mulvihill refers to this wrestling with the “why” in her bilingual elementary classroom as students’ negotiation of “productive disequilibrium,” a process she believes encourages deeper learning among her students.

    In a field in which externally defined best practices and accountability standards are undeniable forces in reshaping schools and classrooms, the educators in this symposium illuminate the often-overlooked power of student knowledge and inquiry; they serve as a primary resource for growth for teachers and students, who are both learners in the classrooms. While their schools are miles away and their students are years apart in age, these authors offer a symphony of voices that remind us of the common possibilities inherent in education. They prompt us to reflect on how far we can go when we meet students where they are and journey together as thinkers and learners.
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    Fall 2014 Issue

    Abstracts

    Perceiving Learning Anew
    Social Interaction, Dignity, and Educational Rights
    MANUEL luis ESPINOZA AND SHIRIN VOSSOUGHI
    How Do You Say Twos in Spanish, If Two Is Dos?
    Language as Means and Object in a Bilingual Kindergarten Classroom
    NAOMI MULVIHILL
    Tacit Information Literacies in Beginning College Students
    Research Pedagogy in Geography
    NICHOLAS BAUCH AND CHRISTINA SHELDON
    Symposium
    Thinking and Learning
    The Challenge of Holistic Student Support
    Investigating Urban Adolescents’ Constructions of Support in the Context of School
    GRETCHEN BRION-MEISELS
    To Charter or Not to Charter
    What Questions Should We Ask, and What Will the Answers Tell Us?
    HARRY BRIGHOUSE AND GINA SCHOUTEN
    The Author Has the Last Word
    Buddy Editing in a First-Grade Classroom
    JESSIE L. AUGER

    Book Notes

    The Time Is Now
    Louie F. Rodríguez