By Margaret Glick, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)
“We are teaching kids to live on a planet we’ve never seen.” - Mary Catherine Bateson
This quote is as true now as it has ever been, but how are we to do this? By developing students’ abilities to think critically, creatively and empathically. How do we manage that? By embedding three qualities—connection, purpose, and mastery into our classrooms.
Brain research has given us a few solid principles in the past decade. One is the concept of plasticity. Plasticity is the ability the brain has to change with experiences. Basically, our brain becomes what it does. This is great news (or bad news, depending on what our brains are doing). This means teachers can promote patterns of thinking that benefit students, and these patterns can become neural networks that assist whatever kind of thinking you’re after. Another brain research principle is that emotions impact learning. When we feel connected and safe in a classroom, a staffroom, or a boardroom, we are able to think in productive ways that might elude us otherwise. Lastly, we know that when work is viewed as purposeful and relevant, the tracks of learning, inquiry, and motivation are greased.
So how do we get there in classrooms? How do we take some of the principles that have surfaced in brain research and apply ...