Research shows that exceptional professionals in the field of education are those with the habit of developing and refining their craft (Darling-Hammond, 2017). Educators know that the field is a living, changing, vibrant place, and in order to serve all students, they must continue to strengthen their practice throughout their career through learning. To create lifelong learners in students, educators must model the habit of learning for them by discussing professional books, activities, or courses they are participating in. By doing so, educators create a channel of communication around the importance of ongoing development and learning, demonstrate important social and academic competencies such as perseverance, and create the conditions that lead to increased student achievement.
Sharing What We’re Learning
One of the guiding principles of the Responsive Classroom approach is that great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction. Having students share their learning in structured formats is critical to increasing students’ success in connecting with and retaining the acquired information. Another way that we can build in opportunities for students to learn through social interaction is by leading discussions about our own learning.
When choosing to share some of your information with students that is pertinent to what you are working on, you model for students that you too are continuing to develop and that you are also working on something. There may be instances when you can even enlist students to provide you feedback: “In a course I am taking, the importance of pausing before taking an answer was shared with me. This is something I want to work on, so I am going to ask a question and then pause for 10 seconds before taking a volunteer to share a response.” Then, at the end of the lesson you might ask, “Give me a thumbs up, sideways, or down—how did I do at remembering to pause after asking a question?”
Modeling Social Competencies
Students believe that their teachers are naturally good at everything they demonstrate during the day. Bringing in a book related to a content area or topic or discussing with students a course or book you are reading for learning purposes can model for students how you are tapping into your growth mindset and building competencies, such as perseverance. These discussions can encompass both professional and personal development, as is relatable and appropriate for your students. For example, explaining to students that you have been working on a new cake decorating technique that took you four times to get right highlights the importance of perseverance. Sharing what you did between tries to learn and practice provides a model for students to try when they experience a challenge and must engage problem-solving skills. Similarly, in telling students about how you researched, took a class, and practiced the technique (like writing multiple drafts), you are teaching students how you implemented learning strategies that they can immediately apply to their own experiences.
Creating Conditions for Increased Student Achievement
When applying your newly learned practices and strategies to the classroom or school setting, you are also creating conditions for increased student achievement by emphasizing the importance of ongoing learning. Students observe you learning about areas of interest in your personal life and honing your craft in your professional life, and that exposure illustrates for students that a career requires work and focus. In addition, you are modeling for students other important skills that they will need in school and in their own careers—speaking to others, answering questions, learning strategies, growth mindset, reflecting on progress, and persevering, and the list can continue on past those highlighted here.
To become contributing community members, it is critical that students understand that learning is essential to success. Taking time to nurture your own learning through professional development, and sharing it with the students you work with, will cultivate lifelong learners who will seek opportunities to expand their knowledge, skills, and mindsets for the better.
- Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Retrieved from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/effective-teacher-professional-development-report