Friday, February 3, 2012

John Horn talks about engaging students in higher levels of learning

This year’s TASA Midwinter conference lined up some excellent speakers.  I had the pleasure of sitting in on Dr. John Horn’s presentation “Engaging Students:  The Essential Strategy for Creating Higher Levels of Learning." 
Horn spent 15 years spent as superintendent of Mesquite ISD.  He was named superintendent of the year in 1995 and was chosen as one of the top five superintendents in Texas in 1993. In 1999, Horn was the recipient of the Golden Deeds for Education Award.  
Horn now works as a Senior Associate for the Schlechty Center.  The Schlechty Center partners with schools and school districts and focuses on enhancing student engagement and helping to transform schools into learning organizations.  
Horn believes in order to transform your school into a learning organization you must understand:
  • Why compliance is not enough
  • The role of student motivation in learning
  • The essential nature of designing student work that results in engagement
  • The importance of system transformation
  • The relation of this focus to the Texas Visioning Network
When students are engaged, they are attentive, persistent, and committed.  Students value and find meaning in the work and learn what they are expected to learn.  In order to engage students, you must find their motivation.  Why do students do the work they are asked to do?  How does why they do the work impact what they learn from the work?
In the Past
We worked on:
  • The kids
  • The teachers
  • The principals
  • The curriculum
In the Future
We must now focus on:
  • Working on the work we give students to get them engaged.
  • Working on the relationships we have with the students.
  • Working on the systems that support engagement. 
Redefine Your Core
Horn believes most schools need to redefine their core business. 
“Where we live today has us basing our core values as a factory organization instead of the learning organization,” he said.
Horn believes  “teaching just to compliance levels won’t work for our students.”  Students must learn past rote memory in order to reach profound learning, where learning is retained and can be applied.  
Horn has spent the past four years helping East Central ISD transform into a learning organization.  Dr. Patti Birney, assistant superintendent for ECISD, spoke on behalf of the work they are doing in her district. 
“Change is messy and engaging students is not easy,” she said.  Their teachers now design lessons for engagement and have seen a tremendous positive change in their schools.  
One of the most important things to take away from Horn’s message is to get to know your students.  Get to know the who, when trying to engage and motivate.  
You can contact John Horn at 972-965-7501 or for more information.  To read more about engaging your school, check out Phil Schlechty’s books  

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