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Learning, collaboration increasingly important for educators: Beerens

Written on June 27th, 2011

People are seeing the potential in learning communities and the value of collaboration around curriculum, making it a “fantastic” time for education, says Dan Beerens.

Beerens, an author and education consultant, presented at an Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) forum last year as the organization developed its collaborative eCurriculum site.

He has been working in the U.S. getting a program called Curriculum Track into schools. There are now more than 35 schools that are using it as a tool, both for their own school and to view work from others.

This kind of collaborative, transparent platform is different from prior days when schools wanting to do a curriculum review would have to contact other schools and ask for their written curriculum.

“Teachers very quickly see the value of collaboration around curriculum,” says Beerens.

With so much information online, schools now have more resources quickly and readily available to make decisions.

“We can be learning as we go and tweaking things,” he says, adding he finds this “very exciting.”

For Christian school teachers, learning is not just about what they can deliver in the classroom but also what is the quality of the curriculum they are designing, how engaging is it for students and does it get at the Biblical perspectives, says Beerens.

He notes he is encouraged to see these elements being incorporated in the teacher evaluation process, as well as how teachers contribute to the group and student learning in the school.

It’s important leaders send the message “we’re in the learning business, it’s not optional,” he says.

The best thing that learning communities offer is individual excitement and motivation, Beerens says, noting that teachers need a sense of connectedness.

“Remaining learners themselves is critical,” he says. “You have to be a reader and you have to be a learner.”

When you find something you are passionate about, then it’s your turn to start contributing in the learning process, he says, such as commenting on a blog or sharing the knowledge with others.

He says everyone has different perspectives and gifts to bring to the table, and the beauty of the Christian community is to respect those gifts.

Beerens points to the book Mindset by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, and the idea that learning goes back to how you view your life. Depending on the person, learning could be fear-based and resistant, or open to learning from everyone.

He says the most exciting people he knows are in their 70s and 80s, still learning and vitally engaged in life with the perspective they can learn from everyone, regardless of age.

“Our learning has just really begun. We are just teaching kids some basic things and some basic tools but it’s the tip of the iceberg by the time they graduate from high school,” says Beerens.

“It’s going to be a continuous journey into the next life where we continue to learn and try to make sense; we are people who are made by God to be sense-makers, to think how things fit together.”

Now more than ever, educators know how children learn and the importance of student engagement.

“I feel like this is an incredible time for us to work together and to sort these things out and to make the changes that are going to help kids the most,” he says.