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The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) is a place where educators can turn for assistance, inspiration and information about teaching and student achievement.

Our purpose is to help teachers and administrators develop the competence, commitment, and courage to do whatever it takes to improve student learning.

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Good to Great to Innovate: Up-Shifting Our Teaching and Leadership
January 19, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer

When I was in school and needed to do some research, I turned to two things: the World Book Encyclopedia and the card catalogue. The encyclopedia, neatly arranged A to Z, offered a publisher's selection of facts about a limited number of topics.

The card catalogue held more promise of "knowledge," but if it led me to sources that were in the “Research Section” where books could not be checked out but only used inside the library, I had to either read the source there or hope to find a photocopy machine to capture the pertinent material for later reference.
Because this hunt-find-copy cycle was cumbersome and time-consuming, my focus was often more on obtaining the physical artifacts than thinking deeply about the actual research content and its implications.
Things have certainly changed dramatically when it comes to accessing information. Yet too many schools still seem to operate as if that pair of “go-to sources” from my youth were still viable. Students still spend too much time learning dates, facts, formulas and formats, but don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about how this information can be connected and applied in creative and purposeful ways.
Clearly, we need to make a shift, and Alabama’s College and Career Standards provide the impetus for that change by challenging us to promote deeper thinking and more real-world application in our classrooms.
An idea-filled roadmap to better schools
The vast majority of educators want to innovate and change, they just need some help figuring out how to strategically change in ways that improves teaching AND learning.
That’s where the new book by Lyn Sharratt and Gale Harild can help. Good to Great to Innovate: Recalculating the Route to Career Readiness, K-12+, provides a roadmap to help districts and schools embrace innovations that improve teaching and learning.
In his foreword, education thought leader Michael Fullan says "the book is crystal clear on charting the course, showing how leadership matters, bringing all children into the picture, closing the gap of learning, positioning choice of pathways, and being explicit that skilled teachers matter a great deal."Read More
John Hattie: "Do We Really Know the Impact of Our Teaching Practices?"
January 4, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer

“Success is all around us!”
These encouraging words kicked off the keynote presentation by author/researcher John Hattie at the Learning Forward conference last month. As many of the educators in our networks know, Hattie is a professor and director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
He's also author of the international bestsellers Visible Learning and Visible Learning for Teachers. The Visible Learning findings and recommendations result from Hattie’s review of more than 1,100 meta-analyses (that involved 65,000 studies and 250 million students), probing the impact of various teaching strategies.
Despite Hattie's opening exclamation, he was quick to note that almost everything tried in the classroom is successful at some level. “[Almost] everything works…all it takes is a pulse!” But which practices are worthy of the time and effort invested?Read More
Walking the Talk: Reflective Coaching and the Center for Authentic Intellectual Work
December 30, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer
The presentation title, "Walking the Talk," and the name of the "Center for Authentic Intellectual Work" were intriguing and interesting enough to encourage me to select this concurrent session at the recent Learning Forward Conference in Nashville.
Before attending, I glanced at the Center’s website and learned that there are three criteria for “authentic intellectual work.”
The first is the Construction of Knowledge, which requires applying one’s knowledge and skills to a new situation or problem. Harvard’s Ron Heifetz calls this adaptive expertise.

According to the Center, to “reach an adequate solution to new problems, the competent adult has to ‘construct’ knowledge because these problems cannot be solved by routine use of information or skills previously learned. Such construction of knowledge involves organizing, interpreting, evaluating, or synthesizing prior knowledge to solve new problems.”
The second criteria is Disciplined Inquiry, which requires the use of current knowledge, the quest for deeper rather than “superficial awareness,” and the ability to effectively develop and communicate what one is learning.
And, finally, the final criterion relates to building knowledge that has Value Beyond School. When we think of how many times students ask, “Why do we need to know this?”, we realize that addressing this criteria is essential to student motivation and understanding.Read More
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