Guiding Principle #3 of the Responsive Classroom®

SocialClassroomResponsive Classroom is an approach to teaching and learning that builds joyful, respectful and challenging elementary classrooms.  The approach is founded on 7 Guiding Principles that drive our 10 teaching strategies:

  • Morning Meeting
  • Creating Rules with Students
  • Effective Teacher Language
  • Interactive Modeling
  • Logical Consequences
  • Guided Discovery
  • Academic Choice
  • Classroom Organization
  • Working With Families
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving

Previous Blogs have focused on the Responsive Classroom® guiding principles 1 and 2, this blog post will focus on Principle #3: The Greatest Cognitive Growth Occurs Through Social Interaction.

According to the 2004 Presenter’s Handbook, NEFC.
“Social interaction does not provide the only cognitive growth.  Children are learning when they are reading a book, taking a test, or completing a worksheet on their own.  But children are learning the most when they are engaged with each other.  It is important, therefore, for teachers to know what children are doing and talking about in order to facilitate cooperative learning most productively.

This principle comes from the work of Vygotsky and from a study doen by Barbara Rogoff reported in Apprenticeship in Thinking.  The powerful idea from their work is that though children learn from doing work independently, from reading and from exploring on their own, the greatest cognitive learning comes when they interact with others about what they have experienced.  It is in sharing their thinking that children make their greatest learning gains.

The implications are powerful.  It means that it’s vitally important for children to talk with each other about their work, work cooperatively, teach others (either their peers or younger children), share work in progress, and discuss ideas. This kinds of interaction must take place in a balanced fashion throughout the day and as an integral part of every day, not just during the twenty minutes of “cooperative learning time” each day or three times a week!” (NEFC, 2004)

For me, this belief aligns well with the brain research that I have read by Eric Jensen.  Jensen’s findings suggest that in the classroom we need to get children moving more and talking more. It also aligns well with the work of Johnson and Johnson who are known for the work they did years ago with cooperative learning.   (In 1994 Johnson and Johnson published the 5 elements (positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face interaction, social skills, and processing) essential for effective group learning, achievement, and higher-order social, personal and cognitive skills (e.g., problem solving, reasoning, decision-making, planning, organizing, and reflecting). (Wikipedia

As a fifth grade teacher at East Hill Elementary School in the West Genesee school district, I was trained by OCM BOCES in the Johnson & Johnson / Spencer Kagan model of cooperative learning.  What was new to me at that time was how social skills for successful cooperative teams needed to be explicitly taught by the teachers.  For me at the time, this was an add-on to my teaching day.  When I first came to OCM BOCES and got trained in the Responsive Classroom.  I was taken by how in the Responsive Classroom, social skills of communication and collaboration are taught, modeled and learned throughout the day using the Responsive Classroom strategies of Morning Meeting, interactive modeling, guided discovery, and academic choice.  Cooperative Learning implementation would have been so much easier in my old 5th grade classroom had I been trained in the Responsive Classroom during my cooperative learning days.

Later in my tenure at OCM BOCES I have been involved with the Partnership of 21st Century Skills for Career and College readiness.  Within the framework, the 4 C’s (communication, critical thinking, creativity and COLLABORTION) are skills deemed important to prepare children to live and grow in the 21st Century.  Children need lots of time working with others collaboratively.  As Sir Ken Robinson says in his speech “Changing the Paradigm in Education” ..”collaboration is the stuff of growth”.

NYS is having us as teacher collaborate more and more around common core, common assessments, curriculum writing, and data analysis.  We are being challenged more and more to model collaboration for children as our school cultures begin to adapt to the educational reforms that are moving us more closely to professional collaborative groups as Rick and Becky DuFour envision in the professional learning communities.  See the Rick DuFour Video.

This social interaction with our colleagues, with our students and students to students can only lead to cognitive growth and high achieving schools.

Next month’s RC BLOG will focus on Principle #4.

Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw
Certified Responsive Classroom trainer through the Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of the Responsive Classroom
Staff Development Specialist – OCM BOCES – Syracuse, NY
(OCM BOCES is a licensed agency for Responsive Classroom training by the Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of the Responsive Classroom)

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