Liberating Teaching and Learning
Available Now on Amazon! Liberating Teaching and Learning
Turn it Upside Down and Watch African Americans (All Learners) SOAR!
Our Schools are the most racist institutions in our society
Liberating Teaching and Learning (LTL) provides a protest tool for “learner- led classroom reform” – moving classrooms from a controlling, white, male supremacy model, to a 21st century, learner-centered, all ethnically inclusive model.
To educate the Negro, we must find out exactly what his background is, what he is today, what his possibilities are, how to begin with him as he is and make him a better individual of the kind that he is. Instead of cramming the Negro’s mind with what others have shown that they can do, we should develop his latent powers that he may perform in society a part of which others are not capable. — Carter G. Woodson, 1933
In a 10th-grade geometry class whose teacher collaborates with students to decide about curriculum and grades, a student explained to me that being able to make such choices “leads to learning rather than just remembering.”
The truth is that, if we want children to take responsibility for their own behavior, we must first give them responsibility, and plenty of it. The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions. Constance Kamii
When teachers of inner-city black children were trained in a program designed to promote a sense of self-determination, the students in these classes missed less school and scored better on a national test of basic skills than those in conventional classrooms.(23)
When second-graders spent the year in a math classroom where textbooks and rewards were discarded in favor of an emphasis on “intellectual utonomy” – that is, where children, working in groups, took an active role in figuring out their own solutions to problems and were free to move around the classroom on their own initiative to get the materials they needed – they developed more sophisticated reasoning skills without falling behind on basic conceptual tasks.(24)
An intrinsic value. Finally, it needs to be said that allowing people to make decisions about what happens to them is inherently preferable to controlling them. It is more respectful and consistent with basic values to which most of us claim to subscribe. Apart from the skills that will be useful for students to have in the future, they ought to have a chance to choose in the present. Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously. Put it this way: students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.(30)
Effects on teachers. Despite attitudinal barriers to creating democratic classrooms and schools, which I will discuss later, educators who are willing to share power may well find that they benefit directly from doing so. One’s job becomes a good deal more interesting when it involves collaborating with students to decide what is going to happen. As one fifth-grade teacher in upstate New York explained.
I’ve been teaching for more than 30 years, and I would have been burned out long ago but for the fact that I involve my students in designing the curriculum. I’ll say to them, “What’s the most exciting way we could study this next unit?” If we decide their first suggestion isn’t feasible, I’ll say, “Okay, what’s the next most exciting way we could study this?” They always come up with good proposals, they’re motivated because I’m using their ideas, and I never do the unit in the same way twice.(28)
Choices for Children
Why and How to Let Students Decide
By Alfie Kohn
Liberating Teaching and Learning (LTL) requires a paradigm shift in the educational experience. LTL is an instructional strategy where teachers and learners share equally in creating and executing the learning experience. LTL incorporates educational philosophies that support a variety of researched teaching and learning models proven to be effective in increasing achievement for African American learners and others.
The pillars are as follows. LTL is:
Teachers Don’t Know It All and Can’t Do It All!
What if teachers allowed learners to coplan and teach? When we teach, we learn! The more the teacher teaches, the more the teacher learns.
Our classrooms are extremely diverse.
Reflect different levels of academic readiness in various subjects.
What if learners were allowed to dovetail their diverse knowledge, perspectives, and experiences with school knowledge?
Learners would feel valued and motivated. When we endeavor to educate vs. train our citizens, we want to bring out of them what is already there, in order to empower them, to change their lives and society.
Teacher is Only ONE; She or He Has Twenty-Five to Thirty Potential Partners
What if learners and teaches worked together—co-planned what and how each learner learns her tasks?
Teachers and learners negotiate what (curriculum) and how (activity/instruction) of the learning experience, thereby creating relevant, an interesting curriculum and instructional strategies that eliminate boredom.
A Rich, Dynamic Classroom for Teachers and Learners
Learners Learn To:
This simple technique is powerful and far-reaching. It can be used in all subject areas, with all learners. With each assignment, give choice. Read more in book, "Liberating Teaching and Learning".
The second part of LTL is cooperative learning (CL)/ academic teams—I call CL Academic Teams (ATs). No other instructional strategy has been researched as much as CL and it consistently proves to be effective for ALL children, especially, African Americans and Latinos.
CL is a cooperative interactive learning environment where students work together, contributing equally, in small heterogeneous groups, on academic tasks. Within such groups, students are encouraged to:
CL/ATs satisfy the learning needs of those who need to interact—talking, moving about, making decisions about assignments, supporting each other (the affective part)—while completing an academic task. It bridges the affective and physical to the cognitive.
Research on CL suggests, overwhelmingly, that when students work together in small groups, the following happen:
You will have fun with the many different ways to use CL/ATs.
One of the most important findings to come from the cooperative learning research is the strong achievement gains among learners of color in cooperative classrooms.
Additionally, students who are struggling with anger, social or family issues would have a safe place to discuss these struggles and develop ways to address them. Strong teams of learners support each other, lessening feelings of loneliness, and exposure to bullying.
Teachers and Learners Plan and Teach Together
Teachers, when you are to receive PD that deals with concepts and skills you are expected to learn and teach to your learners, then select some learners to go with you or have PD presented to your entire class- applies to K-12th graders. The more eyes and ears, the better. They will help you take the information and make it suitable for themselves, teach it to their peers, and you will have built-in coaches all year.
Teachers, I have provided professional development for you many, many times, and taught you at colleges and universities around the world. Yes, I and others have expected you to be able to come to a class or professional development sessions, receive information, and use it immediately in your classrooms. Some of you are able to do that, and many others are not. I remember when we expected you to plan a lesson to include all of these strategies:
That’s a lot. However, when teaching and learning are liberated:
When students have choice, they bring out the diversity in the class and contribute to a rich, dynamic learning environment. You learn so much about your learners and gain new knowledge as well.
You and your selected helpers learn and teach the learners what new strategy or information you want them to learn. Do it with them, rather than to them.
You and your learners list the benefits of this method of professional development for yourselves. You are partners. Customize your classroom experience.
Sign up for teacher and learner PD for implementing "Liberating Teaching and Learning".