Promising School Practices: How Many are a Part of YOUR School?

Author Thomas Armstrong, probably best known for his book Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, has written a new book called, The Best Schools: How Human Development Research Should Inform Educational Practice. He draws from the work of Montessori, Piaget, Freud, Dewey, Elkind, Gardner and Reggio to talk about the most promising and exciting practices in today’s schools — and what needs to go. He has lists by age, which I thought others might find useful in looking at what MMSD is doing now and where it wants to go…

AGES 3-6:

Developmentally appropriate: open-ended play; short school day; nap time; informal learning all the time; parent involvement at school; moving and learning most of the time; careful documentation of children’s play and what they reveal about their world (play-based assessment); child-centered program; multi-sensory experiences; frequent opportunities for spontaneity and fun; letting children choose their own activities.

Inappropriate: long school day, instruction in formal academics; homework; long periods of seat work; standardized tests; teacher-centered program; scheduling “classes” into short time units; division of day into “courses”; creation of instructional objectives for children; requiring all children to engage in the same activities at the same time.

Appropriate: classroom that opens to the real world (literally and figuratively); reading, writing and math in relationship to real-world discoveries; authentic learning materials that are part of the real world (internet, literature, art supplies,science tools); some explorations of the real world guided by teachers; learning based on encounters with the real world, resulting in ideas, insights, reflections, observations.

Inappropriate: artificial classroom environment; overemphasis on reading, writing and math; textbooks, worksheets, workbooks; scripted teaching programs; fact-based learning programs.


Appropriate: safe school climate, small learning communities; personal adult relationships; engaged learning; positive role models; metacognitive strategies integrated into all courses; expressive arts activities for ALL students; health and wellness focus; emotionally meaningful curriculum; student roles in decision making; honoring and respecting student voices; facilitating social and emotional growth.

Inappropriate: unsafe school climate; large, impersonal schools; impersonal adult relationships; fragmented curriculum; metacognitive strategies limited to math and reading; no significant arts program; no meaningful health/wellness program; emotionally flat learning experiences; teacher and administrator controlled learning environment; student voices not listened to or respected; total focus on academic learning to the neglect of social/emotional development.

Appropriate: Small learning communities; theme-based magnet/charter schools; career academics; internships; entrepreneurial enterprises; apprenticeships; democratic communities.

Inappropriate: Large, impersonal high schools; “shopping mall” high schools; tracking; too much time sitting in classrooms; excessive academic pressure; impersonal student-teacher relationships; zero-tolerance policies.

Ideas on how we can move even further toward appropriate practices in ALL MMSD schools?

— Beth Swedeen

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Filed under AMPS, Best Practices

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