Delaware Goes To Harvard: Interview with Kimberly Neal

December 22nd, 2016

Category: News, Policy and Practice, Student-Centered Learning

kmIn July 2016, Rodel Teacher Council member and secondary English teacher Kimberly Neal attended Project Zero with 15 of her Brandywine High School (BHS) colleagues. The Harvard Club of Delaware graciously provided the group with a full scholarship to attend the three day workshop.

Kimberly and her colleagues spent their time rotating through a myriad of plenaries, classes and one on one breakout sessions with Project Zero leaders. We recently interviewed Kimberly to learn more about her experience at Project Zero.

Rodel: What is Project Zero?
Kimberly: Project Zero is an educational research group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Founded by the philosopher Nelson Goodman in 1967, its mission is to study and improve education in the arts. Goodman believed that arts learning should be studied as a serious cognitive activity. Over the years, Project Zero has maintained a strong research agenda in the arts while gradually expanding to include investigations into the nature of intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking, and ethics.

What was your biggest take away?
Kimberly: Personally, my biggest takeaway was from the “Making Learning Visible (MLV)” project, which centers on the concept of creating strong learning cultures in schools using documentation as a tool to deepen and extend learning. Though the project focuses on using documentation as a central pillar of group learning, MLV is ultimately a project about democracy. By learning in groups, we were able to learn about the cultures and values of others as well as how these unique perspectives influence the learning process. Ultimately, we gained a greater understanding of what we learned as well as each other.

Would you suggest this program to other teachers? Why?
Kimberly: Regardless of the content or the age group, all educators can benefit from using arts and the documentation of democracy in their lessons and classrooms. This experience provided me with new resources and ways of looking at what I do in the classroom and how I do it. And, more importantly, what the students do in the classroom and how they do it!

Why should districts invest in this opportunity for their teachers?
Kimberly: Because it works, and you hear from some of the best. We had the opportunity to hear Howard Gardner speak about how the arts can be applied to all intelligences. We heard David Perkins speak about how to “wild the tame” meaning how to take what we do and make it just messy enough that the students have to be creative in their problem solving. We worked in small groups of awe-inspiring educators from all over the world! It was really a “tingle-down-the-spine” kind of week!

If other teachers are interested in Project Zero and their work, how can they learn more?
Kimberly:  I suggest that those interested visit the Project Zero website for more information. There you’ll find the different projects and research the organization has released as well as the various workshops and professional development opportunities they offer.

What are the next steps for you and your colleagues?
Kimberly: We shared out with our colleagues at a faculty meeting and we were able to thank Mr. V. Eugene McCoy for his support and the support of the Harvard Club of Delaware. We are diligently working on trying to apply the knowledge gained to our students’ lives and education every day.

Kimberly Neal is an English teacher at Brandywine High School, where she has taught for 13 years. She is active in her school community as the ELA department chair, AVID coordinator, a member of the BRINC Consortium, and the former new teacher mentor. Neal was the Brandywine High School Teacher of the Year in 2013, as elected by her peers and students. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from Shippensburg University, and she holds a master’s degree in education media design and technology from Full Sail University. This is Kimberly’s first term on the Rodel Teacher Council.

Rodel Foundation of Delaware



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