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Learning is everyone's job!

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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Dispelling the Myths: The Truth about Student Engagement
September 4, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer
Student engagement has become an education buzzword. As important as student buy-in to the learning process is, how many teachers really grasp what engagement looks like and, most important, how we can best craft a classroom culture where engagement is the norm, not the exception.
Jennifer Fredricks, in her book Eight Myths of Student Disengagement: Creating Classrooms of Deep Learning, paints of picture of authentic student engagement by tackling many of the misconceptions that, for some educators, make student engagement elusive.

Fredericks, a professor of human development at Connecticut College, is currently working on a three year grant on student engagement in math and science classrooms, funded by the National Science Foundation.
Engagement through the eyes of six students
Throughout the book, the author tells the story of student engagement through the eyes of six different students. While these students are all created in her mind, they are based on Fredricks' experience and research.Read More
Reflecting on "Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling"
August 27, 2014

by Cathy Gassenheimer

We live in a world that believes our role as professionals is to “fix and tell” rather than “listen and inquire.” This is one of the key premises in the book Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, by Edgar Schein.
Schein, a lifelong student of interpersonal dynamics and a professor of management emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management, begins the book by defining what he means by humble inquiry:
“Humble inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions, to which you do not already know the answers, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”(p. 2)
Schein suggests that even though this type of behavior “runs counter to some important aspects of U.S. culture,” he believes that to successfully interact with people with whom we are interdependent, we need to make the shift from mostly “telling” to becoming better at asking (p. 3). He reminds us that “the missing ingredients in most conversation are curiosity and willingness to ask questions to which we do not already know the answers.” (p. 4)

We all know how challenging interpersonal dynamics can be at times; we all need to “save face” and from time to time we expect deferential treatment. Combine those needs with the pace with which the world operates, and one can begin to see how challenging humble inquiry can be.Read More
How We Went About Revisiting Our 1-Page Instructional Target
August 21, 2014
Many schools who participate in the Instructional Partners Network develop a one-page instructional target through a powerful collaborative process proposed by Jim Knight. In this recent post in the IPN virtual community (at Ning), Courtney Horton highlighted the steps she and her colleagues took to revisit and revise their target three years after it was first created. We thought we'd share her report, and wonderful pictures, here! – Cathy Gassenheimer

by Courtney Horton

Instructional Partner
Liberty Middle School
Madison City (AL)

Last May, my principal and I decided it was time for a target re-visit. We had used our schoolwide instructional target for 3 years, and realized neither one of us were at the school when it was created. Not to mention, we have added quite a bit of new staff.  

I wanted to share with you our process. We didn't really know if there was a "correct" way to re-visit the target, so we did what worked for us! Hope this helps anyone who is thinking about this next step.  
1. We had our faculty create an affinity map of what good teaching and learning looks like during a faculty meeting. We of course discussed our results.

 Read More
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