At this point, I’m now engaged in another MOOC, through edX (the University of Michigan is the organizing and teaching institution in this case). The title of the course: “Leading Ambitious Teaching and Learning.” Here is the link for information about the course as a whole: https://courses.edx.org/courses/course-v1:MichiganX+LeadEd501x+1T2017/info.
Here is my reflection in response to the prompt, which asks students to thinking about what “ambitious literacy instruction is.”
Ambitious implies high expectations of students. So it is not simply instruction that “settles” for achievements or effort that are “good enough,” but that shoots for something somewhat beyond that level. Ambitious literacy instruction pushes students or asks more of students than they are comfortable with. It seeks to exceed minimal standards in literacy, in reading and understanding and being able to respond to texts.
In short, in my view, it is instruction that — in the realm of literacy, of reading, understanding and responding to texts — asks students to stretch beyond minimal goals, that asks students to move somewhat beyond their comfort zone, to confront and to wrestle with texts that are difficult, challenging, and uncomfortable to process. It is literacy instruction that asks students to engage with the texts, that forces them to ask questions of the text, that expects them to do more than attain a superficial or facile understanding of the surface of the text. It is instruction that challenges them to go beyond the apparent meaning of the text, that seeks to understand — or that succeeds at nearly fully or fully comprehending — implications and consequences of the text’s ideas and arguments.
It is instruction that prepares students to read a particular text, but that also prepares them to delve into the depths of meaning, the implications of that text. It is instruction that engages with the main ideas of texts or that elicits many questions that one may ask of it. To be honest, it is “instruction,” that is teacher-generated frameworks or teacher-suggested questions that guide students to discern the principal ideas or the principal themes of the text in question, yet that leaves the bulk of the work of deciphering and interpretation and meaning-making to the students. In my view, excellent instruction is not just “ambitious,” but it is learner-centered, as well as ambitious.
In brief, that’s what I understand in the expression “Ambitious Literacy Instruction.”