The following Galileo Educational Network guiding principles focus the selection of and work within the educational community.
Principle 1: Stewarding the intellect through inquiry-based learning
We promote inquiry as the stance that is foundational for all aspects of life of a school community. It is based on the belief that understanding is constructed in the process of people working together to solve the problems that arise in the course of shared activity. Organization of time, classroom resources, resolution of interpersonal disputes, planning of field trips, as well as curriculum-based activity, are all approached in the same open-ended and exploratory way in an inquiry-oriented classroom. A learning community dedicated to robust inquiry strives to foster intellectual habits of thought, meaning-making and discourse in all students, rich and poor, gifted and severely ordinary. These communities are about developing teachers’ and students’ talents and gifts.
- They engage students in meaningful, inquiry work.
- They respect and cultivate the dispositions that all children bring with them when they first walk through our doors: imagination, curiosity, persistence, and the drive to understand the world.
- They respect and cultivate the ability of all children to think-with their words, their drawings, their bodies, their heads and their hearts.
- They help students engage with, and understand, difficult matters.
- They help students uncover things that have been hidden, and bring to life brand new questions, ideas and abilities.
- They make school an intellectually exciting place to be, a place where learning is fun especially when it is hard and challenging.
- They steward teachers learning and efforts.
Principle 2: Infusing digital technologies
Knowledge within every discipline is either created or furthered with the use of digital technologies. Digital technologies are used to explore and discover new frontiers and at the same time they are the source of new discoveries. When we take the stewardship of the intellect seriously as an educational charge, students are given the opportunity to think differently each time they use digital technologies. Teachers need to use technology in their professional lives. Students need to have access to a variety of technologies at every stage of their work.
Principle 3: Providing high-quality assessment
The primary purpose of assessment is to improve student learning. As such, it must be tied to meaningful, authentic tasks and activities. The intent of high-quality assessment is to improve, not just audit, student performances of learning and understanding; therefore, a range of authentic formative practices, as well as summative assessment, are needed to develop a personalized learning picture for each student. Structures need to be in place to draw students into the question of what high standards, engaged learning and quality performance entail. Within high quality assessment:
- Students need to be taught about how assessment works.
- Students need to be actively involved in creating rubrics by helping to set the assessment criteria.
- Students are provided with the strategies, skills and opportunities to assess their own learning.
- Students are provided with the strategies, skills and opportunities to provide meaningful feedback to their peers.
- The broader school community participates in assessment. There are opportunities for other educators and peers to be involved in the assessment of the work.
- Communication about assessment is regular and clear.
- Students set goals, next steps and develop strategies to improve learning and understanding.
- Procedures are in place to regularly review and improve summative and formative assessment.
Principle 4: Honoring collaboration and teamwork
Learning collaboratively is a complex process that requires learners to understand themselves, their motives, and their thoughts and beliefs, as well as the motives, thoughts, and beliefs of others. It also requires merging of individual interests into a collective aspiration. Equally important is the dialogic mode of interaction that is pervasive in the life of such a learning community. Dialogue necessarily plays a central mediating role since it is the principal means of arriving at a common understanding of whatever question or problem is at issue. Finally, it requires a group “work ethic” or way of behaving that creates a bond of trust, belonging, and purposefulness among group members. People need time to build relationships and plan a method for learning together in order to address the complexities involved in collaborative learning. Through this process they will adopt processes that support generative thinking and reflecting. Administrative structures of the school make it possible to:
Observe and interact with others with relevant expertise and experience in their inquiry.
Collaborate with one another on the design and assessment of inquiry work.
Acquire and use competencies expected in high performance work organizations (eg. Team work, problem posing, problem solving, communications, decision making, project management).
Principle 5: Fostering scholarship of teaching
Galileo Schools are committed to developing and maintaining high quality ongoing professional learning as an aspect of the school culture. Teachers are immersed in job-embedded learning experiences that:
- Improve student learning.
- Are planned collaboratively with participants and occur over a sustained period of time.
- Provide access to alternative ideas, methods and opportunities to observe these alternatives in action.
- Involve direct mentoring in curriculum content, instructional strategies and uses of technology.
- Support ongoing professional conversations.
Teachers systematically inquire into various aspects of their teaching. They meet regularly with each other to critically examine, question and discuss various aspects of teaching. Through this process teachers develop an understanding of “knowledge-practice relationships as well as how inquiry produces knowledge, how inquiry relates to practice, and what teachers learn from inquiry within communities”1. Teachers in Galileo Schools have a commitment to making teaching public by publishing and presenting.
Principle 6: Providing practical thought-provoking preparation for pre-service teachers
Galileo schools are elementary, middle, or high schools that work in partnership with a university to develop ways to bring pre-service teachers into the teaching profession through an inquiry stance. Significant numbers of teachers participate in pre-service teachers’ preparation by serving as mentors, co-teachers, and colleagues in study groups, seminars, committees, and other professional, collegial activities.
University faculty share their expertise, skills, and knowledge to support school improvement through direct and active participation in the school. Galileo mentors, university faculty, teachers, and pre-service teachers work as a team to support the learning of K–12 students.
Cochran-Smith, M. & Lytle, S.L. (2001). Beyond certainty: Taking an inquiry stance on practice. In Lieberman, A. & Miller, L. (Eds.), Teachers caught in the action (pp. 45 58). New York: Teachers College Press.