CLEARFIELD – At the Clearfield Area High School, the Lead to Learn program has brought the administrative staff, faculty and student body together with guidance from educational experts in order to produce “more than the average thinker.”
Principal Kevin Wallace said they’ve implemented the program in the core curriculum areas – science, social studies, mathematics and English. For the past two years, he said they’ve brought in two coaches who work side-by-side with them in a collaborative effort.
“(We’ve added) this outside voice to our team. It has confirmed that our school is providing superior educational opportunities to all of our students,” he said.
“Students are approaching me and saying it’s their best year at CHS. It makes me feel very proud and committed to continuing to push harder to ensure this positive direction goes even further.”
Lynn Hummel, assistant principal, said the Lead to Learn coaches have national expertise in education. He said they’ve incorporated learning strategies that will push both teachers and students toward school-wide educational goals.
“They’ve been very receptive. I believe it actually motivates them,” he said. Assistant Principal Tim Janocko said it’s beneficial to them for outsiders to come in and observe and or reaffirm their educational process.
Janocko said their coaches have equipped the faculty with alternative instructional tools. He said it helps the students to become better in each class throughout their high school careers.
Wallace said they’re encouraging teachers to move away from the “typical lecture.” In fact, he said they want the students’ thinking to be pushed further than simple memorization.
“We want to push the students’ thinking to a depth of understanding,” said Toni Hollingsworth, of the Lead to Learn program. “We want more than memorization for a test. We want sustained thinking.”
Janocko said they’d like to generate student thinkers who will impact the world. He said they’re pushing their students to break down and analyze information in order to solve problems.
As a result, Hollingsworth said teachers had to make some changes to their instructional delivery. She said they implemented strategies to facilitate the new way of thinking.
“Lecture is a part of instruction. But it’s only a part,” Janocko said. In order to retain information, he said students must be able to engage in class discussions and also teach the same.
Wallace said students only recall 20 percent of what they hear in class lectures. He said they must understand the purpose of the material for them to achieve understanding.
Hollingsworth said they focus on the educational process while working in the classrooms. She said they strive to facilitate the students’ thinking to be comparable to that of mathematicians, scientists and historians.
For instance in mathematics, she said they push the students to grasp the reason for the individual steps within problems. She said it then forces them to develop an understanding that stretches beyond their final solution.
Hollingsworth said they have already observed a difference in the students’ knowledgebase at the school. She said it is evident in their classroom interaction with both their teachers as well as fellow students.
“In a lecture, students are passive learners. But they need to be engaged in the instructional process,” she said. “We don’t want the students to sit.
“We want them interacting and pushing each other and the teacher’s thinking. They really don’t know their students’ potential until they’ve implemented interactive learning.”
Lee Newman, of the Lead to Learn program, said freshmen will benefit the most and become “real thinkers” by their high school graduation. She said the students further develop their thought process each year in the program.
“It’s an evolving process. The more practice, the better you get,” she said. Hollingsworth added the school’s staff is committed to and cares for the students. She said they push the teachers and students alike in order to reach higher learning levels.
Hollingsworth said the faculty – even the more experienced – has been receptive to new instruction styles. At the start, she said they always have a few teachers who immediately jump on board.
Among those teachers, she said they’ve observed collaboration and shared experiences of successful educational methods. She said they evolve into a “learning community.”
She said they don’t want faculty to become completely dependant on them as coaches, however. She said they like to equip staff with the abilities to teach each other.
Hollingsworth said their role isn’t to evaluate the faculty but to look at the bigger picture. She said they analyze and set future educational goals to facilitate continued higher learning once they have phased out of the school.
“It’s all about getting better. We can’t stay the same. We’ve got to get better. The world is in a constant change. We’re in a constant change,” Janocko said.
“It’s not a fad but about honing a craft. It’s about getting better. It’s about the teachers getting better. It’s about the students getting better. It’s about the school getting better.”