Calling all Neurons: Achieving deeper learning through purposeful practice

SmartLearning practices have been developed by teachers for teachers through classroom based inquiry using research findings and thinking on cognition, the brain and learning. SmartLearning practices use the social construction of knowledge and powerful strategies as tools to harness the full mental resources of all learners, stimulate deeper thinking and scaffold learning in ways that develop concepts and competencies – across the curriculum. ​

SmartLearning provides a framework for planning and learning that guides learners to build deeper, more connected knowledge and skills. We explicitly build competencies, concepts and community. Learners develop agency as they gain independence, stay cognitively engaged and are accountable for their learning.

Join us from September 24, 2017 to December 8, 2017 for ten weeks of interactive teaching and learning that aims to develop an online community of professionals working together to increase our connections and capacity. This cohort will focus on the implementation of SmartLearning practices in grades 4-12.

The course will open a week early so you can familiarize yourself with its layout, preview materials, introduce yourself to the group and get a sense of how we will learn together.

In this section we will expand on how structured talk builds student belief, community, creates ownership and accountability and develops collective understanding and achievement. Structured talk has become a foundational practice and is a valuable starting place. We have started with this element of SmartLearning as nothing else works without it. We will also describe specifically how to create the routines of structured talk, brain research to share with your students and parents on the significance of talk and how to troubleshoot your implementation.​

Text and tools: In this section we look at the expanded definition of text and how layering texts is a key step to achieving deeper, more sophisticated understanding. Through classroom-based inquiries and research SmartLearning has developed a wide range of effective learning processes or strategies called SmartLearning tools. The tools have been designed to develop deeper learning while advancing specific skills and competencies. Through use of the tools over time learners develop cognitive fluency.

This section focuses on developing authentic tasks. High inference, open-ended tasks invite learners to enter into a problem solving mindset where deep motivation can be inspired.

This segment considers how we shift from assessment of content to skills, competencies and concepts using assessment as learning. We will explore how to support students in their awareness and assessment of their competency development. We will examine why metacognition is so important and how to embed it in our classroom practice and culture. We will also use assessment as a tool to inform planning, teaching and one-to-one coaching.

In our final weeks we will design lessons that integrate all aspects of SmartLearning. We will build, implement, share, give feedback and celebrate!

Tammy Renyard, Heather Brown & Susan Close

Susan Close: Finding and inventing strategies that make a difference to learning has been a driving force throughout Susan’s extensive career. She intentionally sought teaching experiences across the grades, and has led classroom-based inquiries and action research projects as a teacher, administrator, district coordinator, director of instruction, assistant Superintendent and as a consultant. The work included leading classroom-based learning rounds to showcase new practices ‘live’ with students. In 2008, for her multi-district work with evidence-based learning, Susan was awarded the Todd Rogers Award for building networks of educators focused on using evidence to inform teaching and learning. In 2007 Susan formally founded the SmartLearning approach, a system of learning that incorporates the best we now know about the brain and learning. Today Susan heads the SmartLearning training group, a team of K-12 educators dedicated to supporting the implementation of SmartLearning -- an approach that fosters deeper learning through the development of concepts, skills and competencies across the curriculum.

Tammy Renyard is a principal in SD 61, Greater Victoria. Prior to becoming an administrator in Victoria, she was a District Literacy Support Teacher in the Cowichan Valley. She is passionate about side-by-side work with teachers. Together they implement lessons designed to deeply engage learners in the learning process -- lessons that guide learners to know what to do on purpose to develop powerful thinking and deep understanding. Tammy has been working with the SmartLearning team for more than thirteen years. Tammy has worked with students at Vancouver Island University, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. She has led workshops and classroom-based learning rounds for educators in B.C., Alberta, the Yukon, and in the Northern Territories. Tammy is committed to collaborative learning models for educators that encourage and support increasing collective expertise.

Heather Brown spent ten years teaching junior and senior science in SD 6 (Rocky Mountain) before joining SD 61 (Greater Victoria), as a teaching vice-principal in a large secondary school. She has a focus on using SmartLearning practices to build conceptual understanding and competencies using content as a vehicle. Heather firmly believes literacy skills are the collective responsibility of all educators. Heather has experienced the power of SmartLearning for more than ten years as a classroom teacher, facilitator and presenter. She remains committed to the work because it builds efficacy in students and makes the learning process explicit to guide learners to know what to do on purpose to develop powerful thinking and understanding.

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