The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

July 19, 2013

GISD to use library to train students to think critically

By Joseph Hamrick
Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — The Greenville High School Library will look more like a corporate coffee house where executives brainstorm ideas than a traditional library this upcoming semester.

Don Jefferies, superintendent of Greenville Independent School District, is implementing “Advanced Academic Work Teams” for the high school’s juniors and seniors.

According to Jefferies, the new program is based off of the global design company IDEO, which has been featured on news programs such as “60 Minutes” and “The Economist” for the company’s emphasis on a collaborative team format.

IDEO has won awards for their creative design on such ideas ranging from designing a new visitor pavilion at the Boston Harbor Islands National Park to working with the Wrangler Jeans Company in Wrangler India’s marketing campaign called Wrangler Moto, which markets specifically to the 70 percent of India’s citizens who use two-wheeled transportation.

“It is an extremely productive method that teaches problem-solving,” he said. “We will train our teachers and students how to work in a cooperative team format.”

The style often gets confused with group projects that are used in the classroom, Jefferies said, adding that the style is mirrored after various workplace scenarios.

“That’s a misnomer,” he said. “Each student has assigned responsibilities. They have to learn their part of the project and teach it to their fellow students.”  

Instead of meeting in a classroom every day, Jefferies said students would report to their classroom only on Monday, then throughout the week during class time they would meet in the school’s library to discuss their assignments in the library’s coffee shop and WiFi work center.

“The teacher will be in and out of the library and be there to supervise,” he said, adding students must check in and out with the library’s two staff members, who will ensure the students are working on their assignments. “You’re going to see more activity in the library in the next year than you’ve seen in the last 10 years.”

Jefferies said this style of learning helps prepare Greenville students to meet the growing need for critical thinking in the workplace.

“The kids that go through there learn analytical problem solving and working as a team,” he said.

Next week, Jefferies said members of GISD administration will meet with executives at the Fossil Watch Company to learn how the company uses design implementation in its business.

Jefferies said by meeting the executives and discussing their ideas, they will be able to further refine the school’s new teaching style before classes begin in late August.

“I’m very excited about this,” he said. “We think we have a good year in front of us.”