“Know. Understand. Do.” Designing exceptional learning experiences

There’s an excitement in the air, one that can only be created knowing the school year is half over and the spring-semester sprint has begun. The voices and rushed activities of students fill the hallways and the faculty are newly energized after the winter break. Arriving back a day early, our teachers enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a full day of professional development led by Dr. Donnell Gregory, a member of ASCD’s Understanding by Design® and FIT Teaching™ Cadres.

Our parents and community members were given a sneak peek back in November when The Rev. Scott Brown, Headmaster, announced that Dr. Gregory would be working with the faculty in January as part of TMI’s commitment to professional development. Ensuring our faculty members have opportunities to continually sharpen their skills through collaborative workshops and guided-activities, enables them to continually seek new ways to develop engaging and innovative learning environments that set our students up for success.

As the faculty gathered in the Alkek Refectory on Wednesday, January 3, Dr. Gregory introduced them to the “Know. Understand. Do.” (K.U.D.) concept of planning with purpose and teaching with intent. Victoria Banks, Head of Middle School, said, “today’s professional development session introduced teachers to one of the most important elements of lesson planning, which in the world of education is called enduring understandings. Moving students into higher-order thinking skills and providing them opportunities to transfer their knowledge into other situations and make important connections means educators need to focus on the big picture and ask the question, ‘What really matters?'”

Answering that question is a part of what drives our faculty, who are committed to teaching students to be able to apply the knowledge they’ve learned in any situation they may face in life. As Dr. Gregory said, it’s about developing a real-world curriculum, not just teaching for a test.

Going through the K.U.D. process, Dr. Gregory explained that understanding is the target and the know and do are the daily tasks to achieve it. Know is the knowledge that students will gain to lead them to understanding, Do is the experience and skills students will practice, and Understand is when students can apply what they’ve learned and practiced to unique situations. Science Teacher Mark Philippi said it was both engaging and thought provoking, it “reminded us that we need to not only be clear in our expectations of students, but that they need to understand how those skills and pieces of knowledge fit within the broader framework of their understanding, inside and outside of our specific curriculum.”

Through multiple hands-on activities and small-group discussions, Dr. Gregory guided faculty in looking closely at their own curriculums to identify where their “understanding” moments are. Mathematics Teacher Phillip Kamau said he is eager to apply the K.U.D. framework to his curriculum, knowing that it will facilitate his students in learning by instilling long-term and enduring understandings in mathematics, statistics, finance, and problem-solving. Foreign Language Teacher Claudia Clark echoed Kamau’s enthusiasm, “personally, I will take what I learned today and examine my lessons so that I can be a better teacher, ensuring I am providing the best Latin education possible.”

With TMI’s Dean of Curriculum and Instruction, Jill Cross, focused on professional development for our faculty, Dr. Gregory’s session marks just the beginning of ongoing training and education that will serve as the foundation for future work in curriculum mapping, assessment and differentiation. “Earlier this year, we began a multi-year process of refining our curriculum…Our goal is to better articulate our learning goals in order to encourage interdisciplinary connections,” said Cross. “In addition to providing traditional professional development opportunities, the school strives to innovate in the area of teacher development, designing learning experiences for faculty that keep adult learners in mind and maximize impact for teachers and students.”

Constantly seeking new ways to bring fun, impactful, and meaningful ways of learning to their classrooms, our TMI teachers are highly skilled, motivated, and passionate about our students. Continued learning opportunities for our faculty will keep them on the cutting edge of teaching methods and raise the bar even higher for classroom instruction. Great teachers are the foundation of successful students and they are the heart of TMI’s excellent educational community.

Comment below and share a story of a teacher who made an impact on your life and made learning fun!

Contributed by Stephanie Livsey
Director of Community Relations, TMI

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