|Nine Principles of Learning|
Lillie Pang, principal
Longfellow Community School, Minneapolis
One of the many hats we wear as principals is that of Instructional
Leader, and one of my goals this year is to be in classrooms more
often. I know it’s hard to pull away from putting out those little
fires in our buildings and get into classrooms, but we must. As the
instructional leader of my building it is my duty to: ask the questions
that lead teachers to reflect on their practice; help teachers to be
purposeful and rigorous in their teaching; and provide resources,
training, coaching, and best practices differentiated to help teachers
meet the needs of all their students.
Currently I have the opportunity to be a member of a Leadership
Team (principal and two teacher leaders) at a school that is
implementing the Principles of Learning from the work of Lauren
Resnick, professor of psychology, founder of the Institute for
Learning, and director of the Learning Research and Development Center
at the University of Pittsburgh. As a Leadership Team, we attend
monthly staff development opportunities to learn how to implement the
Nine Principles of Learning. Our goals this year are principles
#2--Accountable Talk and #3--Clear Expectations.
Nine Principles of Learning
Organizing for effort
Fair and credible evaluations
Recognition of accomplishment
Self management of learning
Academic rigor in a thinking curriculum
When we use Accountable Talk students: actively participate in
classroom talk; listen attentively; elaborate and build on each other’s
ideas; and work to clarify or expand a proposition. Students learn
accountable talk by hearing the teacher model such phrases as: Say more
about that; I wonder; Help me to understand; I agree; I disagree; I
would like to add.
If we maintain the principle of Clear Expectations,
expectations are posted at the beginning of each lesson. Students then
should be able to clearly tell you the focus of the lesson. Having
students articulate learning expectations, tells you they understand
what the class is about.
A mathematics lesson in accountable talk
At one of our
in-services, the facilitator led our team through a mathematics
problem-solving activity, during which she modeled the principle of
accountable talk. Each group had to solve the problem, and then have a
representative present the group’s work. During the presentations the
facilitator asked key questions to coach the “student” in better
explaining the process his/her group used to solve the problem.
Throughout this dialogue between facilitator and “student”, we as the
class learned more about math vocabulary, functions, problem-solving,
analyzing, and judging: all higher level thinking skills. The dialogue
was rich in mathematical terms, concepts, and applications -- from
simple addition to adding fractions and mixed numbers -- that had to be
defined and explained. The interaction between facilitator and class
kept the group engaged. The learning that was taking place was evident
by the explanations and input that came from the student presenting and
the students in the class, all via the questioning of the facilitator.
The role of instructional leaders
Which of the following are we doing as instructional leaders?
- Are we focused on learning?
Do we build and maintain communities of learning in our building?
Do we often monitor teaching and learning?
Do we acquire and allocate resources to empower parent leaders?
Do we maintain a safe and focused learning environment?
Are you able to break away from your office to go into classrooms
daily? Yes, daily. The expectation of the Institute for Learning for
true instructional leadership is to be in the classroom on a daily
basis. Where else would the instructional leader be?
When you are in classrooms making your observations ask students: What
is this lesson about? What are you expected to do/learn? What is the
work you are expected to complete?
Then return in ten minutes and ask students: Please show me your work.
How do you know if you are working hard enough? How do you know if your
work is good enough?
What is rigor?
Rigor is not a canned program, or a genie in a bottle. The Nine
Principles of Learning give me tools to be an effective instructional
leader. I can identify what curriculum rigor looks and sounds like. It
is the result of skilled questioning that a teacher provides as she/he
brings students into meaningful discussions about what and how they are
learning. And now it’s time to push away from my computer and get into
We hear that teachers are to provide
students with a curriculum of rigor. What is rigor? The rigor of a
teacher’s lesson is not measured in how much time a teacher stands in
front of a class lecturing or by how many projects are completed. It is
measured by the discussion that takes place between teacher and
student, and between students and their peers. Rigor is what I observed
taking place in that mathematics in-service while we tackled the
problem-solving lesson. Rigor happens when teachers help students
reflect on their work and articulate their learning. The students are
providing teachers with immediate feedback on who understood the
concepts being taught and who could apply these concepts to their
(Published in the MESPA Advocate, October 2006)