Student Adaptive Pedagogy

When our Director of Research attended the Psychology of Mathematics Education – North American conference this year along with a couple of our Senior Researchers, they had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ron Tzur from the University of Colorado in Denver.  Like many others that we have now begun communicating with, Dr. Tzur studied with Les Steffe at the University of Georgia.  He too understands the continuum of learning that Dr. Steffe identified and is, like the AIMS Center, working to translate this understanding into practices and structures that classroom teachers can embrace.

We had the opportunity to talk with him last week about a project that he is heading up in Colorado focused on “student adaptive pedagogy.”  This is the term that I have been searching for!  This is what I was referring to in my January 10th blog post.  Student adaptive pedagogy is literally believing in children’s knowledge!  It is teaching by providing experiences that each child in your class needs, based on their understanding of the topic being taught.  It is understanding the progression of learning so deeply that a teacher is prepared to adapt their instruction, the experiences being presented, to meet a child at their level of understanding, in an attempt to move them along their individual path of learning.  This is teaching!  This is what I always tried to do in my own classroom but I never realized that it had a name.

At the AIMS Center, when we work with teachers to translate this knowledge that we have been working to understand, we will be very explicit in what a teacher should watch for, what those exhibited student behaviors mean, and how instruction might be adapted to meet each student’s individual needs.  We intend to be very explicit in our discussions about the what, why, and how of changing one’s practice to a student adaptive pedagogy.  We intend to be very transparent in our belief in children’s knowledge!

This will not be easy to do. This will be asking a teacher to take on the challenge of seriously teaching every child in their classroom. We have heard the phrase “differentiated instruction” for many years, but it has always seemed overwhelming to truly implement in a classroom. Really believing in children’s knowledge makes NOT implementing this daunting task of differentiation seem almost unethical. We believe that the main obstacle for teachers in the past has been a lack of knowledge about the progression of learning. We are preparing to walk alongside teachers to help them really embrace this knowledge and allow it to impact their pedagogy.

Dr. Tzur said that our real intent is “to get Les Steffe into the classroom!”  Dr. Steffe has spent over 30 years really documenting this progression of learning.  We are excited at the opportunity to help teachers use this new knowledge to change student’s lives.  We believe in children’s knowledge!  We believe in children.

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