In previous posts I (Clare) told you about my new position as Director of JICS. It is an amazing place because it is a Lab school, teacher education program, and research centre. We have put together a lovely brochure that includes info about the Tripartite Mission of JICS with little blurbs about some of our initiatives and summary of some of the research being done (e.g., Dr. Kang Lee’s research – Little liars and social perception; the importance of a Lab school). Attached is the brochure which I think you will find very interesting. JICS Brochure – March2016
In lab schools, learning in classrooms benefits students and researcher
In the Globe and Mail, our national newspaper in Canada, David Israelson wrote an article on the Jackman Institute of Education. I (Clare) found it captured the spirit of ICS. It would be great if every child could have an education like ICS. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/in-lab-schools-learning-in-classrooms-benefits-students-and-researchers/article26498016/
The Salamon sisters, in Grade 1 and Grade 4, respectively, are part of a bigger learning experience. Their school is the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, at the University of Toronto, where educators study how children learn by using the school’s classes as living models.
“When we looked up the school, we thought it sounded fantastic,” says Tracy Pryce, Anna and Sophia’s mother and a student at the University of Toronto.
“It’s in line with our educational philosophy. I compare it with my own experience when I went to school. Seeing my kids and what they’re getting from what they’re learning is such a difference from what I feel I had as a child.”
At a laboratory, or lab school, there are almost always visitors in the classroom, says Jackman’s principal Richard Messina. He laughs at the idea of his school’s 200 students being the educational equivalent of lab rats.
“It does conjure up images of mazes and exercise wheels,” he admits, “but our children become quite desensitized to having adults in the room.”
In September, for example, the school, which runs classes from nursery to Grade 6, was visited by a delegation of 24 educators from Kobe, Japan. “We have had 700 and 1,000 visitors per year,” says Principal Messina. “The children just continue with whatever they are working on and they’re used to speaking with adults about learning.”
The concept of a lab school comes from the work of educator and philosopher John Dewey, who set up the first lab school in Chicago in 1896. Prof. Dewey believed that the best way to train teachers was to have them teach and to accumulate new research and knowledge directly from the classroom.
The Jackman lab school, a few blocks from the U of T’s main downtown campus, is one of only a handful of schools of this type in North America.
The best-known lab schools in the United States are at Columbia University in New York and the original at the University of Chicago.
“Just as the physics department or the chemistry department have labs, the education department has a lab,” Mr. Messina says.
Being a lab school fulfills three functions, he adds. It produces research that can be applied to public education, it’s a forum for teachers to further their knowledge, and “we provide exemplary education to the children we are fortunate to have with us.”
“I feel very fortunate that we’re there,” Ms. Pryce says. There are 22 children in each class – half boys, half girls – and the school is committed to diversity.
To help ensure diversity in its enrolment, 13 per cent of the students receive tuition support, Mr. Messina says.
In addition to its teachers, each classroom has two Masters of Education students who are pursuing two years of graduate work while teaching.
“Almost all teachers in the school are involved in research that’s going on in their classroom,” says Julia Murray, a Grade 5-6 teacher at the school who is now on maternity leave and did her Masters at the Institute several years ago.
“The research going on is often cutting edge, and it’s about best practices in education,” she adds.
For example, Mr. Messina says scholars are researching the emerging concept of brain plasticity: “Think of the brain as a muscle that can be developed, metaphorically, so that errors should not be considered embarrassing but a natural and necessary part of learning.”
The Jackman lab school was also one of the major providers of research for developing play-based kindergarten programs and full-day kindergarten, he adds.
Ms. Pryce says she likes the school’s inquiry-based learning approach – encouraging her children’s natural inquisitiveness while maintaining classroom structure.
“There’s a strong philosophy of teaching children to ask questions, not for children to get information but to develop their own theories,” she says.
“It’s a secure environment socially, mentally, intellectually so they develop the confidence to speak out.
“The benefits for my children have really been clear.”
The school has a waiting list that parents sign up for when their children are born, he says. “We seem to draw applications through word of mouth. Many people seem to know about us even though we don’t advertise,” Mr. Messina says. Jackman evaluates its programs to make sure that students are being well educated and finds that they do well as they move toward higher education.
“We hear that our children seamlessly move on to Grade 7 and beyond, that they’re very comfortable with the inquiry process, stating opinions and knowing that these may change,” Mr. Messina says.
I (Clare) blogged in a previous post that I am incoming Director of the Jackman Institute of Child Studies. http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/ics/ JICS includes a lab school, teacher education program, and research centre. It is truly an amazing place!
Last week I had an opportunity to attend the Lab School teachers’ faculty meeting. They had a week of PD and central to their activities was reading and discussing the text Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchhart. http://www.amazon.ca/Creating-Cultures-Thinking-Transform-Schools/dp/1118974603/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442084403&sr=8-1&keywords=Ron+Ritchhart
The teachers had read the book over the summer and were reporting on chapters, selecting key quotes, and discussing implications for their practice. This was truly PD at its best – the teachers were thoughtful, involved, and relating theory to their practice. Under the leadership of the principal Richard Messina so much learning occurred and the community was strengthened.
Below are a few quotes they selected from Ritchhart’s text which I found very inspiring:
“…when both teachers and students have the expectation, or mindset, that one gets smarter through one’s efforts, then challenge and mistakes can be embraced as learning opportunities.” p. 7
“…traditional academic skills…do not adequately define the kind of students we collectively hope to send into the world. Nor do they define the kind of employee [skills] businesses are looking for…professionalism, work ethic, collaboration, communication, ethics, social responsibility, critical thinking, and problem solving…” p. 17
“…in a learning-oriented classroom, teachers and students focus their attention on the learning as a priority, letting the work exist in context and serve the learning.” p. 45
“…lots of new teachers, and perhaps some experienced ones, struggle with learning to listen, yet listening is one of the powerful ways we show respect for and interest in our people’s thinking.” p. 82
“for classrooms to be cultures of thinking for students, schools must be cultures of thinking for the adults” p. 102
Being part of a school where teachers are decision-makers, expert educators, treated as intellectuals, and work collaboratively is a true honour. I suspect there are going to be many more blogs about what I am learning at JICS.
On this site we have shared many of our stories. I (Clare) am happy to share some exciting news. I have been appointed to be the Director of Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Studies at the University of Toronto.
ICS has a tripartite mission to bring together graduate teacher education in a 2-year Master of Arts Program, exemplary educational practices in the Laboratory School, and leading multidisciplinary research in child development at the Dr. R.G.N. Laidlaw Centre.
Faculty, lab school teacher-researchers, and staff are dedicated to setting the highest standards for children’s education and development. By connecting research, training, and practice, Jackman ICS leads the way as Canada’s foremost teaching and learning environment, with an international reputation for leadership.
Housed in an old mansion on the university grounds ICS is an outstanding educational institution. There are so many outstanding educators/researchers at ICS including Yiola who is a regular contributor to this blog. By coincidence the principal of the lab school, Richard Messina, is a former student teacher of mine. My appointment begins November 1, 2015.
Here is a link to the site: