Learner-Centered Education in Action

12/08/2015
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Ireland_LearningHub

In early November, a delegation of educators from across Ireland visited Ohio schools to learn more about the American education system and observe firsthand how teachers and leaders in these schools are using formative instructional practices (FIP) and student feedback to foster a learner-centered environment. The experience was part of a pilot project launched by Battelle for Kids and 10 Irish schools to explore how these research-based practices can be used to support student success in Ireland. 

“Visiting the various school communities, learning best practices despite cultural differences…was an experience that was truly rewarding,” said Niall McVeigh, Deputy President and Head of Boarding at Cistercian College. 

The four-day trip included visits to schools in CirclevilleIreland_LearningHub2 City Schools, Gahanna Jefferson Public Schools, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Upper Arlington City Schools, and Whitehall City Schools, a tour of COSI (Center of Science and Industry) in Columbus, as well as networking and professional learning opportunities focused on building Irish educators capacity to effectively implement formative instructional practices and The Student Experience® Survey, among other professional learning. 

“I found the positive energy and enthusiasm infectious,” said Dr. Pauline Logue, a lecturer at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. “This motivated me to implement FIP with greater enthusiasm upon return to Ireland.”

FIP are the formal and informal ways that teachers and students gather and respond to evidence of student learning. With these practices, teachers use tools, strategies, and resources to determine what students know, identify possible gaps in understanding, modify instruction, and actively engage students in their learning by providing feedback and fostering student ownership of learning. Irish educators are expanding upon their own professional learning by using the FIP blended learning solution, which includes access to online courses, study guides, resources, and supplemental materials. 

Pilot schools are also using The Student Experience® Survey to capture feedback at the classroom level around four key themes—Hope, Engagement, Belonging, and Classroom Management—to provide educators with a more complete picture of what students need to succeed, now and in the future. 

Several Irish educators shared their observations and lessons learned from the trip, including insights from the classroom visits that revealed the potential impact of FIP on student learning. 

Alan Cravan, a teacher at St. Mary’s College in Dundalk, spoke about the power of FIP to offer a highly structured, whole-school approach to teaching and learning. “Despite the variety of lessons observed, I was aware of the conscious building of the lesson around the learning target and how this was reinforced to students orally by the teacher, but also through many visual clues,” he said. “The level of student ownership of learning could have a major impact on Irish education.”

“Student engagement was very high as a result of FIP in classrooms,” explainedIreland_LearningHub3 Evelyn Concannon, a deputy principal at St. Mary’s College. “Students were actively involved in assessing where they are in their own learning, and it was evident that students had a clear understanding of where they needed to go to improve.” 

Similarly, Pat Hanrahan, director of the Clare Education Centre, commented, “Pupils took more responsibility for their learning. This was especially evident in the high school environment. The teacher was truly ‘the guide on the side’ as opposed to ‘the fountain of knowledge.’” He added, “Formative assessment is not a new concept in Ireland, but it is underdeveloped and underutilized.”

Mary O’Callaghan, assistant principal at Borrisokane Community College, reported that since launching the pilot, her school has prioritized the sharing of learning intentions/targets and success criteria. “Student feedback from the sharing of learning intentions has been positive and enables them to have clarity on lesson progression and context. Students are also encouraged to set target grades and reflect in their progress so that we as teachers can put formative instructional practices in place to meet their needs.”

Dr. Pauline Logue from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology observed “the maturing effect that FIP has on learners as they gradually come to take responsibility for learning.” 

Clear learning targets were visible in all classrooms,” added Caroline Carr, a teacher at Presentation College in Athenry. 

Niall McVeigh from Cistercian College said good work is being done in Ireland, but it needs to be “defined and identifiable in the context of the learning needs of the student.” He observed the buy-in at all levels in Ohio schools that have successfully implemented FIP, including school leaders actively reinforcing the initiative with their staff. 

Noel Duggan, managing director of EEC Direct Ltd. in Ireland, also noticed how “through the use of FIP, critical thinking was strongly promoted.” He said seeing these practices in action in the classroom “relayed very clearly how the power of one teacher can make such a difference to student’s lives today and for their future.”

The visit by Irish educators helped establish an international network of educators who can engage and collaborate around effective implementation of FIP and The Student Experience® Survey to move education forward for students across the U.S. and Ireland.