For teachers looking to infuse creativity into their classroom, Wendy Ostroff's Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms offers numerous, bite-sized ways to do this. Organized around seven major concepts, including "Allow Autonomous and Effortless Learning," "Embrace Intrinsic Motivation," and "Bolster Imagination and Creativity," Ostroff's work draws extensively upon research into behavior and motivation to provide a fact-based context for her suggestions. Ostroff's book is, in many respects, a compilation of many of the best ideas emerging today about what best practices in classrooms should look like. For example, in her chapter "Allow Autonomous and Effortless Learning," Ostroff makes the case for allowing more voice and choice and greater independence, arguing that this will increase student motivation, curiosity and agency. She also makes the case for learning being more collaborative, noting that this helps develop students communication and listening and leadership skills. Embedded within each chapter are multiple instances of curiosity techniques for teachers to try in their classroom and Ostroff also helpfully offers a Quick Recap summary of main points covered every few pages throughout the book. Ostroff's book is an excellent choice for teachers who want a snapshot picture of current best practices and useful practical suggestions on how to implement these practices in classrooms. Who should read this book: teachers who believe that curiosity has been summarily executed by standardized testing.
Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry
Pahomov, L. (2014). Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
In 2005 Larissa Pahomov was hired to help conceptualize and bring to fruition the Science Leadership Academy, an inquiry and project-based school based in Philadelphia that took a very different approach to how students should be educated. Pahomov's experiences at the SLA are at the center of this guidebook on how to harness the power of technology when undertaking authentic learning. Pahomov's approach is post-knowledge - it's not what students know anymore so much as it is how they acquire knowledge and what they are able to do with it. She presents a framework for how to implement an inquiry-based education into a high school classroom that is based on the five core values at the heart of learning at the SLA: inquiry; research; collaboration; presentation; and reflection. At SLA, technology is understood to be a force multiplier, and Pahomov offers useful insights on the transformative effects of technology, including how you can use it to shift the emphasis from content to skills, allow for constant engagement, democratize learning and connect to the real world. For those concerned that basing a school on project-based learning might negatively impact on student achievement, Pahomov boasts that their model has reduced the achievement gap between black and white students, the school has a 99% graduation rate, and 98% of their students continue on to college, many earning lucrative scholarships. Pahomov helpfully includes "Making the Shift" suggestions at the end of each section that will facilitate introduction of this model into a classroom. She also offers anecdotal comments from students who attended the school that offer insight into how they benefitted from the school, as well as advice from experienced teachers who have implemented the framework and are able to offer suggestions about how teachers can proactively avoid the most common problems that arise when making the shift to an inquiry-based classroom. Who Should Read This Book: Teachers with a sense of adventure who are ready to let go of the reigns of the educational process and become learning facilitators and co-constructors of their students' education.
Learning to Choose Choosing to Learn
Anderson, M. (2016). Learning to choose, choosing to learn: The key to student motivation & achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Anderson's work offers an insightful exploration of the topic of choice in classrooms. Drawing on the work of Vygotsky and Pink, Anderson provides a number of compelling benefits to offering students more choice, arguing that by allowing for greater differentiation there is a higher likelihood of individual engagement, and that greater choice can help to overcome student apathy. To foster choice in the classroom, Anderson notes the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment, in which students will feel comfortable taking risks, through purposeful teacher-student and peer relationship building, creating a positive tone in the classroom, encouraging collaboration and creating an egalitarian classroom in which all students feel equally valued and in which all space is shared. Anderson makes an interesting argument against competition, which can lead to resentment between students and inappropriate task choices due to a fear of embarrassment. Another important element to making good choices, according to Anderson, is student ownership of work; moving away from choices that a student thinks will make a teacher happy and towards choices that the student finds intrinsically rewarding will boost learning. To this end, he makes the case that extrinsic incentives such as gold stars do not have a place in the classroom, and he makes a compelling case for grading less or not at all. Teachers will appreciate the hands-on, practical advice that Anderson offers and those willing to throw off the shackles of traditional educational practices should expect to see a meaningful transformation in their classroom through implementation of Anderson's ideas. Who Should Read This Book: Teachers who hate grading, decorate their classrooms with maps and charts instead of student work, and are interested in exploring a more student-centric pedagogical approach.
Teaching 21st Century Skills: an ASCD Action Tool
Beers, S. (2011). Teaching 21st century skills: An ASCD action tool. Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.
Beers' highly practical book is rooted in an understanding that we must be teaching our students 21st century skills if they are to be successful in college, career and life. Beers draws heavily upon the work of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, using the Partnership for Learning framework as the inspiration for the ideas she shares in this book. For those new to the work of P21, Beers kicks her book off with a detailed explanation of the framework and the 4Cs skills that teachers should be working on developing in students. Beers offers a succinct but helpful guide to designing instruction for 21st century learning, which she claims should include learner components such as: learner attitude and motivation to learn; thoughtful engagement; and effective use of technology, including information, media and ICT literacy. Beers offers lists of helpful tips about how to teach the 4Cs, then devotes the bulk of her book to tools which teachers can use to design and implement instruction that employs the 4Cs; these tools can be accessed online through the use of a code provided with the book. Who Should Read This Book: Teachers who are ready to dip their toe into the water of teaching the 4Cs and want guidance and practical tools to help them scaffold their practice.
Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action
Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension & collaboration: Inquiry circles in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.