February 1, 2013 by

Giveaway: Mark Barnes’ Guide to Creating a Results Only Learning Environment

Role Reversal by Mark BarnesTwo copies of Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom by Mark Barnes, 20-year classroom teacher and creator of the Results Only Learning Environment, are up for grabs.

After 16 years of “droning at students about classroom rules and the fundamentals of writing,” Barnes transformed his classroom into a Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE). Here students outperform peers in traditional classes and yearn to learn as they are immersed in the methods that, when combined, create a ROLE classroom: autonomy, collaboration, elimination of rules and consequences, narrative feedback, and project-based learning.

For a chance to win, answer Mark’s prompt in bold at the end of the post in the comments section by 12:00 noon eastern time on Tuesday, February 5. Two winners of the author’s choosing will be announced here the next day. You may instead e-mail your entry to Mark. Click here for full giveaway rules.

Mark Barnes, ASCD AuthorLearning Should Be a Circle, Not a Cliff

I call my classroom a Results Only Learning Environment or a ROLE. The foundation of the ROLE is what my students come to know as the learning circle.

The idea is that learning should be something that has neither a beginning nor an end. I teach my students that learning begins with instruction or discovery. This is followed by production; the creation of something that demonstrates the acquisition of knowledge. Next in the circle is narrative feedback from the teacher or from a peer. Often the feedback instructs the learner to return to a lesson or model because a concept may have been missed. Then, the learner is asked to resubmit the activity for further feedback. This circular method of teaching and learning gives students the opportunity to master skills and concepts.

In most traditional classrooms, students reside precariously on a cliff rather than safely in the circle. On the cliff, learning is compartmentalized into units, composed of lecture, worksheets, homework, tests, and grades. Once this archaic prescription for education is finished, the teacher moves to the next unit.

The problem with sending students on this narrow path of learning is that they often end at a cliff never having learned anything. Rather than revisit lessons, activities, and projects, students accept their poor scores and ultimately feel like failures. Eventually, after repeating the journey down this dark path, many students jump off the cliff and drop out of school.

Students in a ROLE steer clear of the aforementioned cliff because the learning circle turns them into independent learners who are encouraged to demonstrate mastery. With narrative feedback that focuses on what has been accomplished and how a product can be improved to demonstrate learning, students become eager to revisit lessons and projects in order to improve them. They take pride in learning for learning’s sake.

In a traditional classroom based on the lecture-worksheet-homework-test-grade model, students typically feel either punished by poor performance or disregarded by a meaningless “A” or “B.” Yet these old-school methods continue to rule the school.

Why do teachers continue to push students toward an educational cliff, where learning falls into an abyss? Is the aforementioned circle of learning realistic for today’s classroom, which is often driven by standards and high-stakes testing? If it is, why aren’t more teachers putting their students inside the circle?

Editor’s note: Catherine T. and Janis F. have been selected as the book giveaway winners. Thanks to everyone who entered to win!