Information

Developing Advanced Performers

 

Project leaders

 

Prof. Mary Grosser and Prof. Mirna Nel

 
Description

High Performance Learning (HPL) theory suggests that most learners are capable of achieving high levels of academic performance once seen as the domain of the very few.School play an important role to help learners make this a reality. In collaboration with Prof. Deborah Eyre, Proff. Mirna Nel and Mary Grosser conceptualized a research project, entitled Developing Advanced Performers that will be built on the following research premises:

  • All learners can learn and succeed. Encouraging excellence among all (human capital approach).
  • Belief in the optimal expression of the potential of all human beings.
  • Positive belief in the cognitive modifiability of human potential (growth mindset).
The main aim of this project is to enable schools to become thinking communities, where the teaching of thinking (skills and dispositions) forms the heart of the school. The project aims to train and support South-African pre-service and in-service teachers to apply and infuse well-established approaches to the teaching of thinking skills and strategies as well as dispositions to learn and think across the curriculum. This is done to enable learners to develop the propensity of skillfully and mindfully applying cognitive tools when confronted with general and academic-related problems and challenges.

The aim of the research project is operationalized in the following objectives:

  • Developing learners who are Advanced Performers that can cope with the challenges of the 21st century.
  • Raising the overall performance of learners in a way that would include and support all learners, and provide opportunities for all learners to achieve advanced levels of performance.
  • Nurturing advanced performance by promoting a pedagogy of play through the Six Bricks teaching tool among young learners (Grades R – 3).
  • Nurturing advanced performance through the application of a variety of teaching strategies (eg. Six Hats, Thinking Maps, Habits of Mind etc.) (Grades 4-7).
Two sub-projects form part of the Developing Advanced Performers research project:

  • Developing Advanced Performers Through Play (Grades R-3)
  • Developing Advanced Performers Through Teaching (Grades 4-7)
 
Sub-project 1: Developing Advanced Performance through Play 

Learning and development through play relate to a new research angle, which the sub-programme Holistic Learner Development in Diverse Contexts, aims to explore in future (2017-2019). In particular, the merits of play for unlocking potential to promote Advance Performance, among young learners (Grade R-3) by using the Six Bricks as a teaching tool, will become the focus of this research project. As high-level cognitive abilities already start to develop in young learners and teachers need to promote self-regulated learning from a very young age, the nurturing of cognitive potential is crucial during the early years.  In this regard, play could be regarded as an effective tool to employ, as it is an enjoyable activity for children, for which they are intrinsically motivated (Bredekamp, 2014:127).

Research demonstrates the value of play for the development of language, self-regulated learning, attention, cognitive skills (creativity, problem-solving), social and emotional skills as well as literacy and mathematics skills (Bodrova & Leong, 2012; Diamond & Lee, 2011; Ginsburg, 2006). Despite the plethora of research that supports the merits of child-initiated play, it is becoming less valued, due to many factors such as digital media, lack of safe playgrounds and the overemphasis on structured, direct teaching in schools (Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2009). Play creates opportunities for manipulation of objects, the creation of something new, pretending, and following rules, solving problems, strategizing and setting goals, which are all activities with a cognitive focus.  Given the aforementioned, it is clear that play becomes a valuable tool to enhance learning and in particular to unlock the cognitive potential of the young learner. Research efforts that advocate the merits of play in the South African context are therefore imperative, and teachers are trained in interactive workshops to use the Six Bricks tool in the classroom.

Reading Material

Cultures and creativity by David Gauntlett and Bo Stjerne Thomsen -  Read

Learning through play by Stef Esterhuizen - Read

Videos

Watch the video "Back to the basics with six bricks"

Project Team

Researchers involved in research to investigate the pedagogy of play include:

Prof. Mirna Nel at Tsoelopele Primary School Sharpeville
Prof. Mary Grosser at Tsoelopele Primary School Sharpeville, Laer Volkskool, Heidelberg, and Primêre Skool Fonteine, Sasolburg
Dr Stef Esterhuizen at Roshnee Pre-School, Vereeniging
Dr Magda Kloppers at Laerskool Vaalrivier, Vanderbijlpark
 
References

Bodrova, E. & Leong, D.J. (2012).  Scaffolding self-regulated learning in young children.  Lessons from tools of the mind.  In  R.C. Pianta, W.S. Barnett, L.M. Justice, & S.M. Sheridan (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood education (pp. 352-369).  New York: Guilford Press.
Bredekamp, S.  (2014).  Effective practices in early childhood education.  Boston: Pearson.
Diamond, A., & Lee, K.  (2011).  Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old.  Science, 333 (6045), 959-964.
Ginsburg, H.P.  (2006).  Mathematical play and playful mathematics: A guide for early education.  In D. Singer, R.M. Golinkoff, & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.).  Play = learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and socio-emotional growth (pp.145-163).  New York: Oxford University Press.
Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R.M., Berk, L.E. & Singer, D. (EDS.).  (2009).  A mandate for playful learning in preschool: Applying the scientific evidence.  New York: Oxford University Press.
Lombard, K. & Grosser, M.  (2008).  Are the ideals of OBE failing us, or are we failing the ideals of OBE?  South African journal of education, 28:561-579.


Sub-project 2: Developing Advanced Performers through Teaching
 

As the world becomes more complex and demanding, educationalists recognize that to prepare learners for life after school in the new millennium they require an education, which develops knowledge; creative problem solving; cognitive processes as well as intellectual dispositions and attitudes necessary to engage in lifelong learning.  The “knowing of knowledge” is no longer enough to succeed in the rapidly changing world in which we live. Cognitive skills and dispositions that will always be in demand and valued,  namely clear and convincing writing and speech; productive collaboration; analysis, synthesis and evaluation of continuous growing amounts of information;  solving challenging and complex problems and focusing on and performing tasks with persistence and accuracy, need to be taught. There is not a computer in the world that can teach any of these skills.  Good teachers need to impart and model these skills and dispositions and provide opportunities to learners to develop effective thinking skills as part of a well-rounded education.

The main aim of this sub-project is to train and support South-African pre-service teachers to apply and infuse well-established approaches to the teaching of thinking skills and strategies as well as dispositions to learn and think across the curriculum. This is done to enable learners to develop the propensity of skillfully and mindfully applying cognitive tools when confronted with general and academic-related problems and challenges.

Some of the strategies applied during the research are the following:

Researchers involved in research regarding the development of advanced performers through teaching include:
 
Prof. Mirna Nel at Tsoelopele Primary School Sharpeville
Prof. Mary Grosser at Tsoelopele Primary School Sharpeville, Laer Volkskool, Heidelberg, and Primêre Skool Fonteine, Sasolburg
Dr Stef Esterhuizen at Roshnee Pre-School, Vereeniging
Dr Magda Kloppers at Laerskool Vaalrivier, Vanderbijlpark 
 
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Research Project is also part of this subproject. The main objective of the research project is to train in-service teachers in the theory and application of Cognitive Education (as contained in the Short Learning Programme (SLP) in Cognitive Education), and based on the findings to make suggestions and recommendations to enhance the teacher education curriculum for pre-service teacher education. The project aims to collect data by means of questionnaires, reflections and interviews in order to establish to what extent the SLP could enhance teachers’ knowledge and understanding of as well as their skills to apply cognitive education. Based on the findings, the SLP will be adapted, extended and restructured and its merits assessed in future research projects in wider contexts. The first training session started on 10 March 2017 at the North-West University, Vaal Triangle Campus, Vanderbijlpark with a group of 21 teachers. Click here for more information on the SLP in Cognitive Education.

Project leader of the SOTL research project: Dr Magda Kloppers