Lakshmi Nayak from the SABES PD Center for ELA shares her thoughts on the COABE Conference in the following article.

It’s exciting to be at a national conference just for the adult education world, to be in a workshop or share a meal with people who share the same concerns, work with similar populations, have similar struggles, and bring different perspectives and strategies. I’ve already had conversations with educators from Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Virginia, New York, Iowa, Ohio, and Illinois.

One common theme has emerged so far, with variations depending on the focus of the person I am talking to. I hear, “We should be teaching all our students to think like mathematicians!” “To think scientifically!” “To think like a historian!” “To be in charge of their own learning!” (Or, to think like a life-long learner.) And while I don’t hear “to think like a linguist,” another common theme is that of being able to communicate our thinking in clear language.

So what does it mean “to think” in these various disciplines? The contexts and specific knowledge bases may be different, but are there common ways of thinking across them?

Recalling people I know who are mathematicians, scientists, engineers, historians, or anthropologists, or who trained in those fields and do other kinds of work, I notice that they all come up with questions and follow their curiosity. They observe patterns and then try to connect or make sense of those patterns. Depending on their focus, they could be observing plants, animals, weather, sounds, words, photographs, maps, numbers, expressions, emotions, texts—the list goes on.

They all attempt to support their observations, opinions, and conclusions with some kind of evidence and ask others to do the same. “That’s interesting; where did you hear that? Why do you think that? What do you think that means?” They see not knowing something as an exciting opportunity to seek out new information. And, they try to minimize their impatience or frustration with “wrong answers” or seeming dead-ends, knowing from experience that they all add to one’s knowledge and understanding. These thinking patterns can benefit all of us, regardless of our professions.

Massachusetts is such a tiny state, way up in the corner of this huge country. Being here, it’s inevitable to compare ourselves to adult ed in other states. I see that there’s a lot we can learn, and a lot we can share. Many of the ideas that I hear for good practice, whether in teaching or in professional development, are already being implemented in Massachusetts. For example, one way of making learning stick and making learning last is through professional learning communities, or PLCs. Our new ELA PLC recently had a robust beginning. Please let us know if you would like to join this discussion and sharing group facilitated by Dr. Amy Trawick. Do join in!

PD Center: 
ELA