Monday, November 28, 2011

Global Competence: A Visionary Framework for Students and Teachers

Dear Friends,

     Recently, I attended the Project Zero Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  The conference was hosted by the Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education (CASIE) with Project Zero and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  

     While there, I had the very good fortune of attending many sessions with speakers such as David Perkins, Ph.D., Howard Gardner, Ph.D. and Veronica Boix Mansilla, Ph.D.  Their topics supported the conference theme of, “Educating for Today and Tomorrow; Arts, Ethics and Learning in the 21st Century.”

     Among the sessions I attended was a plenary session on “Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth for Today’s World,” by Veronica Boix Mansilla, Ph.D..    In her book, “Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World,” written with Anthony Jackson (2011), she offers several reasons for why our students need to be prepared to be active participants of positive change in the world.  She also talks about the four competencies that we can offer our students to empower them to be this agent of change.

     In this blog post, I will offer just the basics of this visionary framework that will shape our curriculum on the local, state, national and global levels.  I will share her insights on the three “forces” that are leading to a shift in how we prepare our students as well as the competencies themselves.  To learn more about her work and to download a free copy of the book, you can go to:

     Mansilla and Jackson, (2011), point to the following “forces.”  These are taken from, "Educating for Global Competence, Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World."  This report was also written with and for the Council of Chief State School Officers EdSteps Initiative and Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning, Copyright 2011 by the Asia Society.  

     The “forces” Mansilla and Jackon’s report (2011) include that contribute to the need for Global Competencies include:
1.  The flattened global economy and changing demands of work.
2.  Unprecedented global migration.
3.  Climate Instability and environmental stewardship.

     From this, Mansilla shared with us, the "Global Competence Matrix" offering the four skills that students need to be effective agents of positive change in the world and how these skills filter throughout the curricular areas of school.  The "Global Competence Matrix", was created as part of the Council of Chief State School Officers’ EdSteps Project in partnership with the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning in 2010 by the Council of Chief State School Officers, in Washington, DC.  They define Global Competence as, “the knowledge skills and dispositions to understand and act creatively and innovatively on issues of global significance” (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010).

     The four skills noted in the Council of Chief State School Officers report (2010) are:
1.  Students investigate the world beyond their immediate environment.
2.  Students recognize their own and others’ perspectives.
3.  Students communicate their ideas effectively with diverse audiences.
4.  Students translate their ideas and findings into appropriate actions to improve conditions.

     This framework is visionary because it takes character education to a new level and standard.  The elements of this help us to empower students to know that they can help to make a difference not only in their local community but in the world too.  It helps them to have a greater compassion for the needs of themselves and for others and to see how they can work together to help the world.  It allows the skills of the classroom to be integrated and applied for good.  It also helps students to not only think about ways to help but encourages them to take action and to bring solutions to life, whether they are in Kindergarten or Graduate School.

     In this post, I have offered a very brief introduction to the Global Competency framework.  It is a small but important step in continuing to broaden the horizons, conversations, and teachings we offer our students.  I am encouraged by teachers and students that allow learning to go well beyond the walls of the classroom into the hearts of the world.  Wow!

Thank you,
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, November 21, 2011

Social and Emotional Learning

Dear Friends,
     One of the frameworks for understanding the emotional needs of children (and all of us) was created by Maurice Elias, Ph.D.  He, along with others, have defined Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).  Below is a simple framework, created by Dr. Elias, of the tasks that children need to allow them to feel successful personally, socially, academically too.  Our children and our students take their cues from us too.  As we learn so do they.
     In this overview of five basic categories and strategies, I have used some of the words from Dr. Elias as well as from his work in the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.  I have also been lucky enough to learn about this topic from Dr. Joanne MacLennan from the College of Saint Elizabeth.  She works closely with Dr. Elias to infuse the elements of SEL into teacher and counselor training programs.
     I have added some tasks that I see as important in my work with students who are in Pre-School as well as those in Graduate School.  Of course, there are many more tasks for children and for all of us, but this simple framework offers a good stepping stone from which to begin.

Best Wishes for a Great Day!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Social and Emotional Skills Include:

Ability to recognize an emotion as it is happening
Ability to recognize the emotion before it is happening and be able to label it
Ability to recognize that several emotions can take place at once and to know how to see help to understand them and define them
Ability to label the emotion itself (anger, sadness, jealousy, happiness) and to not label it as “good” or “bad”
Ability to monitor the emotion(s)
Assertiveness and being able to voice one's opinions, wants and needs
Maintain a healthy self-respect and positive self-image

Self-Management (Managing Emotions)
Ability to regulate one’s emotions
Ability to "self-soothe" and choose healthy options for feeling better
Ability to delay gratification and work towards a goal
Ability to control impulsivity, acting out, etc.
Ability to choose tools that will help them to face, express, regulate and attend to their emotions
Optimism to know that they have the ability and the tools to change how they feel
Self-efficacy and responsibility to make the right choices
Ability to be resilient in difficult situations

Social Awareness (Understanding Others)
Ability to recognize and label emotions in others through verbal and non-verbal interactions
Ability to understand reasons for emotions in others
Empathy and compassion for others – ability to validate others’ emotional experiences and respond appropriately
Ability to have empathy but not take on the emotions of others
Navigating individual friendships as well as group situations

Relationship Management
Ability to establish rapport
Cooperation and the ability to compromise
Trustworthiness and respect for others
Leadership being able to lead in a positive way and to understand one's own style of leading
Ability to resolve conflicts in a positive manner
Infusing elements of Character Education that lead to positive and healthy relationships.
Understanding their ability to have a positive impact and that their presence matters

Problem Solving and Decision Making
Ability to understand emotional states for problem recognition
Ability to identify the consequences of one’s actions
Ability to use problem-solving steps.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning - Tools for Families -
Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning - What is SEL? -
Helping Children Cope with Stress -
Educators for Social Responsibility -
21st Century Skills

Monday, November 14, 2011

Developing Resilience

Dear Friends,
     Christine Gorman, in an article in Time Magazine (January 17, 2005) writes, “Psychologists use the word resilience to describe the ability to bounce back from adversity.”  We know that sometimes we are able to cope well with change, tragedy or stress while at other times we struggle and may need to strengthen our skills of resiliency.
     The new field of Positive Psychology encourages us to develop and strengthen these particular skills.  Resiliency helps us to have an easier time in school, on the job, at college and dealing with the uncertainties of life.  When we are resilient we can adapt to the many demands of life and trust in our ability to be successful.  I have learned a great deal about resiliency from the
website.  They even have a perfect little video to explain it.  Be sure to check it out!
     Below are some simple definitions of these elements of resiliency.  There are many more but this is a good starting place.  When we (and our students) strengthen and practice these elements in our lives we become confident in all that we do - and we can help others too.

1. Social and Emotional Awareness – It is important for everyone to be able to identify their feelings, understand how to express them and to learn to ask for help.  People who are resilient express a wide variety of feelings and learn how to talk about them, understand them and gain support when they need it.

2. Self-Discipline – It is important to learn how to control our impulses and modulate our needs and wants.  Self-discipline skills are transferable so when we learn to be disciplined for sports we can also learn how to be disciplined for academics.

3. Staying Positive and Hopeful – Having a positive and hopeful attitude can help us stay strong in trying situations.  This can also help us to think of new solutions and use our creativity.  It is important to believe in yourself and to know that your presence makes a difference to everyone.  Trust that you matter and that you can bring about positive change in your own life!

4. Self-Care - When we take good care of ourselves we have more energy to think clearly and to take the appropriate and positive action we need to achieve our goals.  It is important for everyone to give themselves proper rest, nutrition, hydration, playtime and stress relief.  Everyone needs to know also how to ask for what they need and to be aware of their needs throughout the day.

5. Using Creativity and Thinking Outside of the Box – Being creative allows us to be flexible in many different situations.  Things will not always go our way and so it is important to know how and when to bend, compromise or just “go with the flow.”

6. Celebrating Our Strengths and Talents – Everyone can shine because of their strengths and talents.  It is important for students to know the skills, talents and gifts they have and that those skills can make the world a better place.  We also want them to trust in their ability to learn new things too.

7. Compassion for Others – When we take time to explore the feelings of those around us, we know better how to offer the help and care that they need. When we can help we also begin to understand our ability to serve others and how we can be connected to others locally and globally too.

8.     Celebrating and Accepting Ourselves as We Are! - This is important too.  We need to accept where we are in this moment, good, bad or otherwise.  When we and our students learn to accept themselves and forgive themselves as well, they are able to accept others too.  And P.S. it is a good start to world peace!

     In a guidance lesson I created with our school librarian at a different school, we talked about the definition of each of these elements and how we develop them.  We also read the book Owen and Mzee, which explores resiliency and friendship. We also highlighted experiences that have helped us to become stronger, more flexible, and more capable.
     We also asked students to write a positive statement about their ability to be resilient.  We wanted to affirm that they have the ability to continue to develop skills that will help them throughout their life.  We asked them to complete the sentence, "I am resilient because........"  Of course, we had many brilliant and beautiful answers about their strengths on every level.  All of the drawings went onto a big bulletin board for everyone to see - even the teachers contributed too.  It was terrific!  You may want to check out some of the resources below:

Some helpful resources for you on resiliency:  - Great articles and videos on resiliency. - Dr. Robert Brooks is one of the leading authorities on Resiliency.  His book, “Islands of Competence” is well known in counseling circles and explores how people become resilient.  His website has many informative articles and power point presentations you can download – one powerpoint, in  particular, “Raising Resilient Children and Adolescents: The Search for Islands of Competence” offers good information.
Owen and Mzee by Isabell and Craig Hatkoff – This beautiful book explores the amazing friendship of a baby hippo with an Aldabra tortoise.  The books reveals the strength of the baby hippo – who had been lost after the Tsunami.  It also explores the possibilities of friendships and the hope that they offer.  You can go to: where you can download a discussion guide for the book Owen and Mzee.  This guide is wonderful for teachers, parents and students and discusses more elements of resiliency and how to use the book as a way to teach this important topic.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss – A great book about the journey of life and all of the places it takes us – like being left “in a Lurch, “in a slump” or getting stuck in the “waiting place.”  This book presents the tough parts of the journey in such a playful and encouraging way.  It reminds all of us – that we will get to where we are going.

Best Wishes to You!
Celebrate Your Strength!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ten Things We Know From Brain Based Learning

Dear Friends,
     I recently signed up for a free handout from Eric Jensen’s website, .  The free handout is called, 10 Most Effective Tips for Using Brain Based Teaching and Learning, by Eric Jensen, copyright 2010.   The website and the handout offer simple straightforward information about Brain-Based teaching and learning strategies. 

     What I found most helpful about the handout, was that it offered a simple framework for understanding the vast amount of knowledge that informs this teaching science.  He offers information but also how to apply the strategies in the classroom in small, manageable ways.  The information about teaching applies to our work with children, adults, and those with memory or learning issues.  The strategies are applicable for teaching in the school classroom, the corporate training room, hospitals, day care centers, and more.

     I have summarized some of the information below from the handout.  The titles of each of the ten tips are mine, but the information belongs to Eric Jensen.  I hope that you will find this helpful in your work and in your teaching too.  It would be helpful to go to the website directly and sign up for the free handout as Jensen offers many valuable resources and citations of the most recent research.  Below are the ten tips that he offers for teaching and learning.

1.  We Must Move! – Brain based learning has affirmed for us that we must move!  We must infuse movement, recess, play, and physical education into our learning.  Moving, breathing well and having fun allow us to grow new neurons, integrate and retain information and strengthen our ability to focus too.  We know that exercise helps us to be more awake, have more energy, and release stress so that we are more available and present to learning.

2.  The Social Scene Matters – Eric Jensen writes, “Social conditions influence our brain in multiple ways we never knew before.” (Jensen, 2010).  This is true.  What we know is that when students feel accepted and affirmed in school, they are able to learn more and retain more too.  This concept pertains to friendships in and outside of school, family relationships, teacher relationships and more.  Students need to feel safe, loved, cared for, and free of stress in order to focus on learning.  This also lets us know that mentoring, buddy systems, and extra support, go a long way in helping students to feel successful.

3.  Neuroplasticity Rules – We know that the brain changes, adapts, and helps us learn in new ways.  Jensen reminds us that nature (genetics) and nurture (environment) matter as we train ourselves to develop our memory, processing, attention, and behavior.  It is important to trust the brain and the body’s ability to learn in new ways and to continually improve.  Jensen offers some helpful websites that strengthen memory and attentional skills.  These websites are helpful for learners of any age.  They include:

4.  Breathing Easy Helps Us Learn Easily – The research shows that stress gets in the way of our immune system, our friendships, and our learning too.  When students understand how to access relaxation skills and how to calm themselves down, they gain skills for life that enhance what they do in and outside of the classroom.  Students, like professional athletes, need to learn, practice and integrate skills like breathing, progressive relaxation, visualization, affirmations and more.  The key to being able to employ these strategies is to practice them often until them become automatic.

5.  Our Brains Are Differentiated, So Differentiated Learning Matters to Everyone – In schools we often hear the word “Differentiation.” This term refers to taking assignments and learning and differentiating them in the classroom to meet the needs of different learners.  Lessons can be differentiated by one of the multiple intelligences, interest, ability, learning styles, and more.  We often think that there are only a few students who benefit from differentiation while everyone else can learn in one particular way. 
      Jensen shares results of recent research that remind us that, “…almost 90% of human brains are atypical…”  This means that we all learn differently but have found strategies to adapt and compensate for learning in ways that might not come naturally for us.  This information is new and relevant as we learn how to differentiate for everyone.  I would like to add, that this is very challenging and work intensive for teachers.  Many teachers teach in this way and it requires more time, more patience, more creativity, and a dedication to new ways of teaching and learning.  Teachers should be applauded for reaching their students in new and nourishing ways!

6.  Smaller Bits of Information Are Better – We know that the brain learns better with smaller chunks of information.  When students are exposed to a huge quantity of information, or information that is complex, new, or irrelevant to their everyday life – it is harder to absorb.  The brain prefers small bits of information over a longer period of time with repetition in between.  The more complex the information, the smaller the amount of information there should be and the more it should be reviewed before being tested. 
      We often encourage students to study for several minutes every day instead of a few hours the night before.  The brain learns and retains more when given small amounts of information, several times over.  This also helps reduce stress as students won’t be procrastinating and staying up late too!

7.  The Arts Help with Smarts – Neuroscientists are studying the impact of the arts on the brain.  It is clear that arts such as visual and performing arts, music, drama and more, enhance not only learning but social and emotional intelligence, our sense of compassion and more.  Howard Gardner, Ph.D reminds us that when we strengthen any of our “intelligences” including those that involve the arts, we strengthen all of the other intelligences.  To learn more about Dr. Gardner’s work you can go here:

8.  Social/Emotional Learning Inside and Out Helps Us to Be Smarter – Howard Gardner, Ph.D. talks about Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligences.  Maurice Elias, Ph.D., teaches us about Social and Emotional Learning and Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. talks about the concept of Emotional Intelligence.  All of these famous researchers in education highlight the importance of students being able to manage their own emotional states and to understand and work with the emotional states of others.  
     For some students, this information comes naturally and for others, it must be spelled out and practiced.  Some of the programs for schools include, “morning meetings,” guidance lessons, and in-the-moment teachings to help students understand social situations and how to engage in them effectively.  When students are confident and successful in their ability to understand their own emotions and engage socially, they are then able to focus on learning.  Their confidence in the social realm carries over to their confidence in learning.

9.  We All Can Improve – We have learned a great deal about how the brain can recover and be rehabilitated.  The information we have gained about traumatic brain injuries, learning disorders, strokes, and more, offer encouraging hope.  We have come to understand that the brain is capable of healing, growing, and learning in miraculous ways.  This helps us to know and celebrate that we all can improve and heal much more than was realized.  We can extend this hope to our students to affirm that they can learn in new ways and that they have an unlimited capacity to grow as a student.

10. Memory is Malleable – Jensen offers this information, “Every time you retrieve a memory, it goes into a volatile flex state in which it is temporarily easily reorganized.” (Jensen, 2010).  This lets us know that as students review information for tests and more, we need to make sure that they are reviewing properly and preparing with the proper information that will be tested.  It is important for students to review small bits of information, several times, but it must also be the correct information.

      Kimberly Borin
      Learning Specialist