Learning in Mind

Rethinking the Purpose of Education

About the Author

D

uring my 20+ years of teaching in middle school and high school, I became increasingly interested in the relationship between the brain and learning. As a result, I took a sabbatical and completed my doctoral coursework at the University of Illinois in a combination of biopsychology and education. Soon after, I took early retirement from teaching to travel around the country presenting workshops entitled Learning from the Inside Out. My goal was to help teachers understand the process of learning and provide them with brain-compatible approaches to teaching and learning.

In their reviews of the workshop, many teachers mentioned how much they had learned about themselves. I realized that, in all of the professional development available for teachers, their own uniqueness wasn't recognized. Of course! We talk about individualized instruction for students, yet treat teachers as if they were shaped from the same mold! I spent the next two years researching studies on effective teachers, as well as how individual beliefs, values, and even the metaphors we use to describe our work, influence our perceptions and behaviors. The result of this research was compiled in my book, Teaching in Mind: How Teacher Thinking Shapes Education, first published in 2002 with a second edition in 2010. Many of the ideas from that book can be found on our sister site, Teaching in Mind. (I'm presently working on a completely updated edition of Teaching in Mind.)

Now out of the classroom, I found that my experience served me well in the field of curriculum writing. At that time (before the era of standards and standardized testing), educational publishers focused on unique content, such as fresh stories for reading, creative ways of exploring history, interesting ways to introduce a math of science topic, and yes, the inquiry approach to learning. I found a home as a freelancer, working for many of the "big names" in educational publishing. But after NCLB and the obsession with standards and standardized testing, I quickly found myself writing nothing but test questions, or textbook copy that "aligned" to standards! I finally stopped accepting any work involving assessments and gradually backed away from education because I found the direction too depressing. However, my work on the "dark side" has given me considerable insight into how standarized texbooks and testing are constructed.

In early 2015, I was contacted by a gentleman who had read my book and was interested in my views about education. Within a few months of that contact, at his encouragement, I attended my first AERO conference (AERO is the Alternative Education Resource Organization.) Keynote speakers included Sugata Mitra, the winner of the 2013 TED prize for his work on schools in the cloud; Yaacov Hecht, founder of a network of democratic schools in Israel, and convener of the first International Democratic Schools Conference (IDEC) and Debbie Meier, a proponent of learner-centered education and founder of the modern small schools movement. Suddenly, I understood the difference between the "knowledge-centered" education, whose purpose is to "give" all students the knowledge and skills that adults believe they will need in the future, and learner-centered education, which focuses on facilitating the unique growth and development of each individual.

Later in 2015, I had the opportunity to drive 9,000 miles around the United States, visiting a variety of learner-centered schools. During the trip, I looked for common factors that contributed to the effectiveness of learner-centered schools. You can find a report on that trip here.

The articles on this website include a collection of reports that I wrote during and after that trip, as well as many other articles that examine the relationship between one-size-fits-all standardized education and authentic learner-centered education.

If you'd like to discuss any of these topics further, or there are any others that you would like to see addressed, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Judith Lloyd Yero

Judith Lloyd Yero

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