When we talk about best practices in education, we can’t ignore context: who the students are, what conditions we teach in, what resources we have to work with, et cetera. But if we let context serve as an excuse for not innovating, for not trying out research-based approaches to teaching and learning, we more than likely will miss opportunities to reach every child and to be effective educators.
Our view is that best practices are undergirded by constructivist learning theory, the Piagetian view that as human beings we construct our knowledge of the world through an interplay of ideas and experience. Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky posited that this construction of knowledge happens in social situations—that we do not learn in isolation but instead with and among others.
Through the work of the Professional Development Collaborative, we explore with educators ways to adopt and adapt pedagogical tools, frameworks and ideas developed at Project Zero, as well as research-tested practices stemming from other venerable institutions. These ideas and practices are steeped in constructivism and have applicability across age groups, subject areas and types of schools.
All of our efforts are guided by the belief that when we engage in professional development together, we leave our politics at the door and dive deeply into pedagogical practices that can help every child succeed. We see this belief play itself out at our summer institute, WISSIT, where teachers from all corners of DC come together to learn; at our DC-Project Zero free professional development events, held across the city throughout the academic year; and in our research initiatives that involve educators from all types of schools and museums.