Tag Archives: collaborative learning

Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE)

My (Pooja) good friend and fellow educator has been traveling the world for a unique project. She is looking to get a global understanding of educational reform in the 21st century. On her blog this week she highlights the work of educator Felipe Spath from Bogota, Colombia. Spath is leading the SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment) initiative in Colombia. SOLE is a methodology developed by Sugata Mitra in collaboration with educators from various countries around the world, proposing self-organizing collaborative learning using the Internet spaces. Listen to what Spath has to say about collaborative learning in the 21st century.

To learn more about educational reform and this series, follow edumodels:



Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities | Edutopia

I (Clare) read this article and thought it had some really useful strategies.

Six key rules for student engagement include making it meaningful, fostering efficacy, autonomy support, collaborative learning, establishing positive teacher-student relationships, and mastery orientations.

Click on the link below for the entire article.

Source: Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities | Edutopia

Phenomenon Teaching: Finland’s New Approach


Much has been written about Finland’s exemplary education system (See:https://literacyteaching.net/2014/10/14/an-infographic-of-finlands-education-system/) They are often at the top of PISA rankings in both literacy and numeracy skills. Further, they boast small teacher to student ratios which allow for more individualized instruction. The teaching profession is also highly regarded; teachers are highly esteemed professionals like their peers doctors and lawyers. Now, Finland is reforming the way their classrooms run and everyone is talking about it. Teaching by topic (or phenomenon teaching) will replace teaching by subject throughout the country’s classrooms. This approach intends to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of the “real world” and encourage collaboration among students. The Independent, a UK based blog, provides some examples of how this would be done.

Example #1:

“a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.”

 Example #2:

“…pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

I like this approach because it allows students to experience subjects in a contextualized way. Phenomenon teaching makes school relevant again. I suspect much of the world, myself included, will be closely observing how this unique approach to teaching fares in Finland.

To read more from the Independent:


Giving Voice to All Students: Jigsaw

In an earlier posting I (Clive) DSCN0710advocated giving students a lot of “air time” in class, and outlined several techniques for ensuring that all students are heard. I’ve just (re)discovered a further technique – “Jigsaw” – and am using it in my summer courses. I can’t believe I took so long to see its potential! IMG_0038

In Jigsaw the readings for a class are assigned beforehand to different students, and when they go into small groups each has to speak to “their” reading. This reduces the reading load and gives each student a chance to speak to their item. It also decreases the likelihood of one student dominating the small group. Moreover, it takes some pressure off the teacher to expound all the readings themselves.

I used to employ Jigsaw but stopped because it seemed as if I was forcing students to read the articles; also it seemed to require having the same groups for every class, a practice I’ve moved away from.

What I do now is give every student a permanent Jigsaw number – either 1 or 2 – and assign just 2 articles for small group discussion. This means I can form new groups each class. Another advantage is that with more than one student speaking to an article, the pressure on individual students is reduced and the discussion becomes more collaborative.

As with any group work, of course, the topic has to be interesting to the students so they approach the discussion with enthusiasm rather than just going through the motions. So far, it seems to working!

Back to Values Education

WClive Becke recently had postings from Shelley on fostering student “well-being” through “mindfulness” and Yiola on “mental health” education. Both these topics are increasingly prominent today. In Ontario character education has been stressed for several years, and currently mental health education is an MOE emphasis.

I (Clive) did my PhD in moral philosophy and researched, wrote, and Lydia and Shelleytaught in values or “way of life” education for a couple of decades. I even developed grades 1-12 learning materials in the area. But finding that teachers had very little time for separate values instruction, I broadened my work to teaching and teacher education in general – and haven’t regretted the shift.

However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that teaching well requires a sound set of values and approach to life, society, and the world. Educational issues are ultimately life issues, and we can’t resolve one without the other.

Fortunately, the scope for addressing life issues in subject teaching is enormous. In literacy/literature, for example, a large proportion of the discussion and project work could be on values related matters. What is needed is for teachers and teacher educators to take up this area in a systematic way in the context of promoting subject learning, which is our main occupational mandate.

This in turn requires a much deeper understanding of the nature and importance of values, and the need to have an articulated approach to life. We’ve been used to leaving values up to philosophy and religion, or to saying (especially since the 60s) that it’s just a personal thing. But the task is extensive, fundamental, and something we must all engage in – together. Each person will have their own way of life but there are important general elements, and teachers and students should work together on both.