Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What is whole person learning?

Whole Person Learning
A Framework for a Life Journey Rooted in Judaism

The Goal of Congregational Education
The long term goal of congregational education is for learners to grow into adulthood constructing their own meaningful, purposeful life rooted in Judaism. Because the life process is ongoing with unexpected turns and twists, we think of it as a journey.

To accomplish this long-term goal, leading educators focus on structuring learning that immerses children in meaningful Jewish living and learning now. This involves providing learners with Jewish life experiences where they participate actively and make choices. Deep and repeated experiences of applying Torah to daily life, mending the world, being on a spiritual quest, or being connected to the Jewish people/Israel shape these journeys.

Educators frame experiences with reflection and scaffolding to enable a young person to articulate values and beliefs, a sense of belonging, and knowledge necessary to construct one’s own Jewish journey.

Whole Person Learning Aligns to the Goal
Supporting life journeys is no small task for a part-time model of Jewish learning. All educators want to avoid just covering material or just offering interesting experiences. Educators want to create learning that makes a positive measurable difference in the lives of learners. Therefore, leading educators use the whole person learning framework. This frameworks nurtures the head (Knowledge acquisition), the hand (Doing/action), the heart (Beliefs and values), and the feet (Belonging, i.e. engage where and with whom we stand).

Whole person learning assures learners experience and educators measure Jewish experience (D), with others (B) enabled by rich content (K) and resulting in meaning (B). It also respects personal alchemy. Each person has their own unpredictable chemistry of making meaning. More knowledge matters for one learner while relationships matter more to another. Whole person learning allows for the unquantifiable serendipitous connections necessary for an individual’s unique journey.

Based on research in day schools, colleges and businesses, the whole person learning framework has been adapted for congregational education. Steven M. Cohen points out that “sociologists of religious identity speak of the three B’s: Belief, Behavior, and Belonging” (Cohen, 2008). Knowledge surely is integral to bringing the three B’s to life.

Whole Person Learning KDBB
Knowledge K
Names the essential knowledge and skills that learners will acquire in a unit of learning so they can participate in a real life Jewish experience or practice. Educators ask:
What are the knowledge and skills needed to participate in a real life Jewish experience or practice?

Doing D
Names the authentic Jewish life experience or practice.
Educators ask:
What are the real life Jewish experiences that learners will actively participate in and shape?

Belief/values B
Names the core belief and/or values that students will be able to explore, and articulate their own perspectives and understandings.
Educators ask:
How will learners use their knowledge and reflect on their experience to articulate emerging beliefs and values?

Belong B
Names the opportunities for caring, purposeful connections to others, to God, and to Am Yisrael.
Educators ask:
How will learners build long lasting and caring relationships throughout the community/with God?

KDBB Guides the Actions of Educators

KDBB enables teachers, in conversation with one another, to name outcomes of learning experiences that speak to the whole of the learner. It also helps teachers make critical decisions about what kind of learning experiences will reach those outcomes. And lastly, it enables teachers to collect data on how well their learners are growing toward those outcomes/noticing targets. With data, teachers can know how to adjust learning to best meet the stated outcomes. With data, students can mark and celebrate their own growth.

Whole Person Learning Framework KDBB Enables Educators to:

1. Name success in the whole of a person
Enables educators to name outcomes/noticing targets for units of learning.

Educators ask:
• What are observable indicators of progress/success?
• What are the indicators of success in knowledge, action, belonging, and believing?

2. Direct and design learning experiences for the whole of a person
Enables educators to make decisions about what kind of experiences should happen.
Educators ask:
• What kind of experiences throughout a unit of learning will help the whole learner grow toward these outcomes?
• What are the best experiences to enable the whole of learner to progress?

3. Collect data on the growth of the whole of learner
Enables educators to measure growth in learners over time.
Educators ask:
• What questions will prompt learners to express how they have grown?
• What tools are best suited to collect change over time in learners?
• How does the data about learners impact the design of learning and assessment?
• How can learners see their growth over time?

Whole person learning is a framework, a way of thinking, about creating and measuring learning that supports educators in fulfilling their deep desire to make a positive measurable difference in the lives of learners. It enables educators, within a part-time Jewish educational experience, to immerse learners in a Jewish journey now that nurtures the whole of a person. Whole person learning supports learners growing to adulthood with the will and the way to construct their own life journeys rooted in Judaism.