A conversation with Winsome Waite
When I came to Winsome Waite’s office at the Alliance for Excellent Education, she immediately pulled out a recent research paper on the science of learning. She wanted to walk me through the details of some of her recent work, and she told me about how the paper outlined the science of learning and how it applies to the teenager years.
This sort of dedication to the science of learning is typical of Waite. She is currently the Vice President of Practice at the Alliance for Excellent Education, an organization dedicated to ensuring that high school age students graduate and are ready for post-secondary education and life.
Previously, Dr. Waite led various federally funded tasks on centers such as Regional Education Labs and National Content Centers. She has managed state and district funded projects in school improvement, state systemic plan development, educator evaluation and leadership development. Waite has also served in many instructional leadership roles at the district level in K-12 education, mainly in the Maryland Public School System.
Social and emotional learning. During our meeting, Waite and I discussed the importance of social and emotional learning. She argues that we shouldn’t try to separate social, emotional and academic development - that they’re all realms of life that are interconnected. As she puts it, “The more connected students are emotionally - to a topic - to a teacher - to a content area - the more invested they are going to be to that topic, and the more they’re going to learn.”
“It’s a way of connecting feelings, if you will, interests and academics,” she says. In this regard, she argued for adolescence to be viewed as an opportunity rather than a deficit.
Winsome also explained the notion of helping students develop a sense of agency. She explained that agency is the feeling that we can act on our own behalf, that we have a sense of what might work for us, and we have supports or guardrails, as she calls them.
“As much as students want agency, especially in the adolescent period, we also know that they’re actually still looking to adults for guidance and support. They might say they don’t but the research says they actually do.”
Quizzes. We also discussed quizzes and how they can help--rather than--hinder learning. Tests have a bad reputation, she notes. But low-stakes tests should be part of the teaching process, and help students understand what they know, what they need to know more of, and where they might need more help. If students understand that about tests, quizzes, and assessments, she says, they can use them as a tool.
“Assessing for learning is what I call it, not assessing learning,” she says.
Self talk. Finally, Waite told about how she herself engages in self-talk. We all have potential, she says, no matter where we are, each of us has the ability to grow, learn, compete and succeed. She sees self-talk as very centering in that it helps us understand and identify that “this is what I need to do,” and then to develop a strategy or plan. It can be a quiet time, a reflective time, but it can also be out loud, sometimes at the mirror.
“For me, self-talk is really grounding oneself in the reality of who he or she is and aspires to be,” she says
Image source: Winsome Waite - Google+