Jan 04 2013

December Meet-Up: Research and Pedagogy

Connected Learning, Teaching Resources

Our last member meet-up of 2012!

A key question to consider for all the work we do is, “What are we doing in our programs to help youth move forward, take risks and learn?” This meet-up was an opportunity to explore research and pedagogy that help us get there. We met at Bank Street College to discuss some potential topics for future research as well as how we might align our work to progressive learning theories. We even wove a classroom-sized web of yarn!

The future of Hive NYC research
Rafi Santos and Dixie Ching kicked things off with a recap of their efforts to identify potential areas of research for The New York Community Trust, based on the interest of Hive NYC members. It was a bottom-up approach that sought to address the interests and needs of members for research that could/would improve their work and the work of the network as a whole.

We split into small groups to read and discuss the main research areas of interest that emerged, and then shared some initial reflections:

  • Some struggle with the purpose of gathering demographic data. Funders want to know whom programs are reaching, but there’s sensitivity regarding how and when those details are gathered.
  • There’s a difference between info gathering for funders and for the network. We know of anecdotes of youth moving through the network, but need to do better at understanding how they learn about other opportunities within Hive NYC, and what conditions make it possible/impossible for them to participate.
  • Macro vs. micro research–perhaps we start with topics that are immediate to the network (such as organizational participation patterns) that then help us articulate our understanding of the network from a macro level. For instance, first explore what it means to participate in a network culture before we begin to map youth trajectories within the network.
  • How can we access and leverage other information that’s available beyond Hive NYC? Research on in-school/out-of-school connections, external issues/problems we might be able to help address, and other relevant research or programmatic curriculum that already exists.
  • Finally, we discussed if and how youth might be involved in their own research. What can we learn from organizations involved in youth participative action – where students receive credit for college and/or become owners and designers of data.

A few next steps re: research
Some members may consider how they might base future projects on existing research to test theories in practice, vs. implementing their programs first and then considering assessment. Rafi will compile the key areas of interest into a document that members can review collaboratively, share further insight, and link to existing resources or research. Then we can review this new, crowd-sourced document to determine how it might be facilitated with further research resources supported by The New York Community Trust.

Examining progressive pedagogy
Next, we were led through a workshop and discussion around the Developmental Interaction Approach that underscores much of Bank Street College’s work. Simply stated, the idea is to be mindful of where learners are in their learning and to provide vehicles for interacting with other people (adults and/or youth) and with the environment to foster and grow knowledge. One goal for this meet-up was for members to begin to consider how they might build a bridge between this approach and our projects.

Bank Street College founder Lucy Sprague Mitchell discuss her views on teaching the whole child.

“We hope to imbue students with an experimental, critical, ardent approach to their work and to the social problems of the world. If we can do this, we are ready to leave the future to them.” – Lucy Sprague (1878 – 1967)

We had all read a chapter from Bank Street faculty member Sal Vascellaro’s book, Out of the Classroom and into the World, and also watched an interview with him in which he described in detail the experience of one teacher in her quest to teach her students about bridges, a topic for which she had no prior expertise. He explained how she wove together varied components to engage her students (and herself) in a connected learning experience.


Following this, each person raised their hand to 1) share a phrase or word from the interview that resonated with them, and 2) catch a ball of black yarn that began to trace the web of connections between us.

  • Interests of youth
  • Desire to be competent
  • Thrill of discovery
  • Become experts
  • Wonder
  • Context
  • How things work
  • Experiential
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Authenticity
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Risk-taking
  • Play
  • Learning by doing
  • Danger
  • Guided
  • Collaboration
  • Storytelling
  • Fun
  • Shared experiences
  • Tension
  • Agency
  • Design thinking
  • Reimagining

We looked at the list above, finding common ground and major themes. While there were very clear points of differentiation between this specific example and our work (out-of-school, with teens, etc), we began to talk as a group about what themes might be missing from the list above. How do we work with youth to explore what is new and different, what is real and needed? How can we take the lead from youth to explore what interests them most? How do we balance a maker ethic or exploration approach with a desire from funders to draw explicit connections to careers and higher education? When can learning experiences allow for experimentation even if there are high stakes for failure?

What’s next?
We want to recognize and share the innovative practices happening within Hive collaborations, and provide case studies and further context to Connected Learning principles. The example we dissected at this meet-up is a model for how we might workshop one of our own projects in the future–if someone offers to be the guinea pig! Members have already populated a new thread and started sharing resources in our online forum around assessment, specifically around Participatory Action Research. And the folks at Bank Street are of course available for follow-up, to further discuss how programs might intersect with developmental interaction and connected learning.

Thanks so much to the team at Bank Street (Bernadette Anand, Steve Goss and Jenny Ingber) for hosting and facilitating these important conversations!IMG_0505

All photos courtesy of Bank Street College of Education.

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