Conceptual Framework for Putting Thinking at the Center of Learning
AAA Standards for Authentic Instruction/Pedagogy
RRR # 8
Each RRR is an opportunity to take time to review and reflect upon the details and important concepts that remind us of the essence of things we know. By doing so, we continue to fine-tune and deepen our understanding. In RRR#6-#10, we will be addressing a series of essential questions (E.Q.) to build a conceptual framework for why, how and what we need to do to support students in developing the kinds of thinking that will prepare them for success in and out of school. We will be relying on the works of Newman and Wehlage and Ron Ritchhart and Colleagues.
Background: In RRR # 6 we asked, “ What is at the center of learning and achievement?” We noted that the distinctive purpose of school is to promote the intellectual/cognitive development of students that results in increased achievement for all. We concluded with Ritchhart and Colleagues that complex and challenging mental activity/ thinking is at the core. In RRR# 7, we asked, “What kind of mental activity are we trying to encourage?” We concluded that the criteria or standards of Authentic Academic Achievement (AAA) describe the kind of mental activity we are trying to encourage. AAA is defined as “construction of knowledge, through disciplined inquiry, to produce discourse, products and performance that have meaning/value beyond success in school.” (Newman and Wehlage, p. 11)
The essential question for the current RRR is as follows:
E.Q.: What are the standards for instruction that support student learning when putting rigorous and creative thinking at the core of learning and achievement?
In our schools and classrooms we communicate what is important to learn through two approaches: 1) The content and process for our assessment and testing and 2) The instruction we use to prepare students to be successful. According to Newman and Wehlage, these two parts of teaching practice are considered pedagogy. They developed standards for Authentic instruction that guide putting rigorous and creative thinking at the heart of learning and teaching for conceptual understanding as well as having value beyond school. When instruction, over the course of a unit meets these standards, it supports students in increasing their understanding & achievement. Around 1996, the State of Michigan adopted the AAA model of instruction as part of the State’s Curriculum Frameworks. These standards are aligned with the Common Core Curriculum also. Authentic instruction meets the following standards:
- Construction of Knowledge: Standard 1. Higher Order Thinking: Instruction involves students in manipulating information and ideas by synthesizing, generalizing, explaining, hypothesizing, or arriving at conclusions that product new meaning and understandings for them.
- Disciplined Inquiry: Standard 2. Deep Knowledge: Instruction addresses central ideas of a topic or discipline and explores connections and relationships to help students generate complex insights and understandings. Standard 3. Substantive Conversations: Instruction structures the learning setting so students engage in extended conversations with peers and/or the teacher about subject matter in a way that deepens and builds shared understanding of the essence of the topic.
- Value Beyond School: Standard 4. Connections to the World Beyond the Classroom: Instruction helps students see the relationship between classroom learning and issues or topics beyond the school.
Instruction is a dynamic process and teachers will find that these standards overlap and support each other. For students to be involved in the construction of knowledge, the teacher must structure the learning situation for disciplined inquiry. For students to appreciate the meaning of their learning, they need opportunities to connect it to their life beyond the school.
The purpose of laying out the standards for AAA instruction is to provide a conceptual framework for developing a culture of thinking. Teachers, who are familiar with the thinking routines in Making Thinking Visible, will recognize how these routines support these standards. We will develop that relationship further in the next RRR where I will share a graphic of an instructional model that illustrates the relationship between the standards for authentic instruction and the Making Thinking Visible Routines.
For more information on this topic, see:
1. Successful School Restructuring, A Report to the Public by the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools, 1997. Fred Newman and Gary Wehlage. WI Center for Educational Research.
2. http://www.ronritchhart.com. (COT Resources) and 3. R. Ritchhart, M. Church and K. Morrison. (2011). Making Thinking Visible. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass.