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Capacity Development

Posted Jan 07 2009 6:27pm

One of the current trends or drivers in the shift we are experiencing in education is around the concept of the new economy shifting from products to people and what they know, more specifically human capital. (see: Ten Trends: Educating Children for Tomorrow's World- Trend 3)

Capacity development reclaims the importance of people, rather than products. In a 21st Century world,  where globalization drives the economy and what we can create becomes as important as what we know, helping children to realize their full potential- beyond being an industrial worker, will mean providing a wider range of learning options for our students.

Building capacity is all about:

  • a shift from compartmentalized courses or streams of thought to integrated units of study that have more meaning and purpose in terms of educating the whole child and valuing the experiential base teachers bring with them to the classroom.
  • taking a proactive and positive approach to learning- with teachers (in their professional development offerings) and students (in their self-directed learning aspirations in the classroom).
  • establishing balance and seamless integration in individual's lives between work, learning, and knowing.
  • recognizing and celebrating all learner expertise in the classroom and school as being of value and a legitimate part of the core curriculum.
  • commitment to the idea of self-directed, organic learning by both the learner and those creating the environments that support the learning.
  • passion - in becoming confident, connected, learners (or learning ecologies/communities in terms of classrooms) whose sense of wonderment serves as the catalyst to mastery of wisdom and success in both work and home.

I love this quote from Konrad Glogowski

I wanted to show that teachers need to redefine themselves as individuals and not automatons that focus on outcomes and expectations. I am passionate about human rights. I spend a lot of my own time reading about human rights and human rights abuses around the world. What I do in my classroom, how I do it, and who I am as a teacher is based to a large extent on my passion for social justice.

Want to see a beautiful example of this in action?  Thanks to Erin Ells a member of the Western New York Powerful Learning Practice community I was pointed to this excellent description from Anthony Chivetta who recently experienced his teacher's passion first hand.

Rather than have 6 classes per day, rather than divide learning into 45 minute blocks, we opened the schedule and challenged teachers to engage students in their passion.

Mini-terms were taught by teams of two or three teachers. These teachers were encouraged to teach their passion and were free to design their courses around topics of their choosing, with an emphasis on cross-departmental work. The only guidelines for teachers were broad such as a required reading and writing component. The classes ranged from 18 to 25 students each from all four grade levels and met all day, every day for a four-day week. Students selected their top 6 choices, and were sorted into classes accordingly. Teachers were encouraged to take field trips, and engage in hands on projects.

The student goes on to describe his personal experience in the “Zen and the Art of Furniture Design”, it was taught my his science teacher (Mr. Skinner) who has an independent passion for carpentry and an art teacher (Mr. Huber) with years of experience in scenic design and construction.

I will be posting a lot about this idea in the coming weeks. In the meantime, brainstorm with me. What is building capacity in children or their teachers all about for you? How do you do it? How would you want it  done with you? What does capacity building look like in your classroom and in your home with your own children?

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