Upper Canada College Prep faculty members Tina Jagdeo and Lara Jensen have written a new book that highlights the work of several colleagues. They hope will it will act as a practical guide to educators looking for concrete examples to promote critical, creative and compassionate thinking skills in classrooms.
Bold School: An Inquiry Model to Transform Learning was published by Portage and Main Press, a company with which the two women had previously edited and designed problems for six volumes of its “Hands-On Problem Solving” series.
“As we worked on this we realized that it was both fun and helpful to uncover the math found in everyday life and write problems to reflect this,” says Jensen, UCC’s Primary Years Programme information and communications technology integrator. “We piloted several of the problems with UCC students who often asked us to include their names in the problems.”
That math writing experience prompted Jagdeo and Jensen to try their hand at writing an original piece of work, and they approached Portage and Main with an idea. The publisher felt that a step-by-step book would go a long way to alleviating the challenges that teachers have with incorporating inquiry into their daily teaching.
“Over the past 15 years, we have had the opportunity to work with exemplary educators who know what ‘good’ looks like in the teaching and learning department, so we talked to these educators to capture what exactly happens in their individual classrooms so that students think deeply about real-world issues and know that everyone has a voice that can affect change,” says Jagdeo, the Primary Division coordinator for UCC’s Wernham West Centre for Learning.
Jagdeo and Jensen interviewed 21 UCC teachers from the Prep and seven more from the Upper School, along with 14 from other schools, for the book. It took them two-and-a-half years to write and edit Bold School over weekends and school breaks.
“For us, the most powerful and thought-provoking learning comes from experiences where teachers and students are working together to collaborate on common goals,” says Jensen. “We want students to experience how academic skills are actually used in the real world.
“We want them to develop critical thinking skills, empathy and learning-to-learn skills to use for the rest of their lives, not just for a test. Students need to know that they can make a difference as part of a local and a global community. We want to create similar immersive, open-ended experiences for students that are rooted in empathy and grounded in real issues.
“We want to help teachers let go of elements of traditional schooling that are no longer appropriate in this age of information and incorporate what we now know about how we learn to create a bold school.”
Jagdeo and Jensen are in talks with several universities to see if Bold School can be used as a core text in pre-service and masters of teaching programs.
“We believe it has applications whether you are teaching critical, creative and compassionate thinking, empathy, concept-based learning, solving real-world issues with students, design thinking or risk-taking,” says Jagdeo.
“We hope that it is written in a way that teachers can also pick it up and refer to individual sections to help them plan what to do next in their classrooms. We have had the pleasure of workshopping our book with current teachers and we hope that they use it as a reference guide to refine their practice.”
Jagdeo and Jensen presented their research to 200 educators at the IB of the Americas Conference last July and received positive feedback from teachers of all grade levels. They were thrilled to find out that many of the themes and concepts related to trends in education discussed at the conference matched the key messages in Bold School.
As a result of that experience, they’ve since led professional development workshops at several Ontario schools.
Portage and Main will formally launch Bold School on Feb. 23 at the Reading for the Love of It Conference at Toronto’s Sheraton Centre Hotel.
The two authors aren’t content to rest on their laurels, however, and are already laying the groundwork for another book titled Bold Citizen.
“Our plan in writing this next book is to support the notion that students should not pass school and fail life,” says Jensen.