Process: It was easy to see, as I visited more than 100 classrooms, that students were learning the most where they had the most opportunity to process their thinking and work over time and in a variety of ways.  Process here includes learning by doing, trial and error, questioning and brainstorming, and receiving feedback for revision in an ongoing iterative process.

The classrooms where I learned the most were where we the students were given time, tools, and opportunity to try things, to experiment, to make mistakes. In the course of this “process,” teachers (and peers) give feedback and encouragement, and then students go back to it, trying again and again until they have figured it out for themselves.   During processing time, students also have the opportunity to develop their questioning skills, and can test ideas, debate with each other, and have  their misconceptions or assertions challenged.

Sometimes process is a little bit messy;  often teachers would apologize to me when I was visiting classrooms structured around the learning process; sometimes teachers feel like they are not doing their job the way they are “supposed to be doing” when their students are engaged full-on in a process.  Au contraire! (That said, I have seen, we all have, teachers who stay glued to their desk during process, and I also looked for, and in my narratives regularly praised teachers for, “circulating around the room.”)

In a drama class I observed at Crossroads School, a student learning the art of theatrical directing ran her actors through a scene a dozen times, experimenting, and thinking out loud things like “I am not sure this will work, but what if you tried kissing him first?”  Sometimes we see this process in the writing craft with multiple drafts, in science labs where students are trying multiple possibilities to solve a problem; often process can most beautifully be observed in art classes where students try many different iterations of a painting or sculpture before arriving at a satisfactory one.

Examples: Below are opening sentences, and in most cases, links to the full narratives,
of my live-blog observations of classrooms effectively using process as defined above to enhance student learning.   Please note: these narratives are written “on-the-fly” in the moment as I sit in classrooms observing and writing; they have a raw and unedited quality to them.

University High School History Class:   The kids are about to conduct a debate about slavery, adopting the thinking of the pro and anti slavery sides in the mid-nineteenth century.  Two students will moderate. More..

Urban School, English class:  This group is plumbing for what is the greater truth of this chapter– looking at the text closely.  ”There is all this imagery of the soul… Ishmael is so judgmental… Ishmael has the weight of the world.  That is kind of ironic, that the more that Elijah tries to push this message on Ishmael, the less he is interested.” More

Branson Art Class:   Students jumped right in to work when we arrived– taking out their projects, and beginning work. More

College Prep. School Math Class:  Math IV A.  College Prep has a distinctive math tradition, with students working in groups through complex problem binders.   More

Athenian School History Class: Today, one student is making a presentation on the technological innovations of the Mesopotamian civilizations, and he has a quite impressive digital presentation featuring images organized in an outlined version of the key innovations.   More….

Sonoma Academy Math:  Now she breaks us up into teams for whiteboard practice of topics for the test tomorrow.  ”2s or 3s,” she calls out, and when the kids say threes, she says “OK, but make sure that third person doesn’t slack off– I want everyone involved.” More

Crossroads Theater class:   Arriving in the theater class, I see some students are working on the blackbox stage, but the teacher is harder to find (which is a good thing– I love it when I see students fully on task, but don’t see the teacher). More

Wildwood School Drama Class:   A student does a very emotional gripping scene (Ibsen?), and the teacher gives him great, grounded, specific feedback. More..

Head Royce Science Class:   Here now in Neurobiology; great lab space with lots of room for both seats in front and plenty of working lab space. More

Tesseract School Science Class: A beehive of activity over here. Working in groups, moving around the room, often standing at their tables rather than sitting, enthusiastically exclaiming their observations, they are entirely engaged by the project at hand. I ask a student what the project is, and explains they are creating, in large ziplocks, the “perfect snack.” More

Drew School Philosophy: Five guiding questions: “what’s out there, how do I know about it, what should I do, what actions are permissible, what can life be like?” More

2 Responses to “Process”


  1. […] Process:  It was easy to see, as I visited more than 100 classrooms, that students were learning the most where they had the most opportunity to process their thinking and work over time and in a variety of ways.  Process here includes learning by doing, trial and error, questioning and brainstorming, and receiving feedback for revision in an ongoing iterative process. More… […]


  2. […] and Interact, or, in other words, provide regular, frequent, processing of learning in […]

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