Cynthia McCallister is Associate Professor of Literacy Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at New York University. Cynthia's field-based scholarship has focused on the development of social-constructivist approaches to learning.
Cynthia has worked extensively as a classroom teacher, staff developer, and school development consultant in elementary, middle, and high schools in New York City and rural Maine. She works in schools to help learners, teachers and school leaders learn the educational methods she has developed.
Cynthia is the developer of Learning Cultures® , a social-constructivist approach to education that has been successfully implemented in more than a dozen New York City public schools with dramatic gains in achievement in math and reading at the elementary and middle school levels and graduation rates at the high school level.
In A Pedagogical Design for Human Flourishing: Transforming Schools with the McCallister Model, Cynthia McCallister presents a revolutionary paradigm for education that is practical, conceptually convincing, and grounded in contemporary behavioral science theory. Beginning with the assertion that equality of educational opportunity depends on access to experiences that are sufficiently appropriate and rich to enable the achievement of diverse human potentials, she provides a comprehensive school design for intervention that demonstrates how to achieve it. Grounded in recent advances in learning science, McCallister asserts three necessary conditions for learning: the need for learners to have access to diverse, rich environmental experiences; the need for them to enjoy fundamental freedom and autonomy to direct their own learning; and access to full and free forms of association. In her model, these conditions provide what is necessary for learners to coordinate their minds with others to develop their identities, personalities, and talents. These conditions are animated in concrete procedures that can be adapted to a wide variety of populations in formal, informal, and remote educational settings. The procedures take the form of rules that learners comply with in the exercise of their freedom. When they are followed, the rules provide a grammar for the social norms that govern the moral worlds of learners and compel them to flourish. Tested over two decades in her work as a teacher, scholar, and school reformer in more than 20 NYC public schools, the McCallister Method has delivered an innovative and disruptive approach to schooling that has proven successful in finally transforming low-performing industrial schools into 21st-century learning organizations.
Here's what people are saying about Cynthia McCallister's, A Pedagogical Design for Human Flourishing
“In this work Cynthia McCallister draws from a rich palette of theory and practice, and with a fine bristle brush paints for us a detailed, rigorous, and coherent picture for designing schools as learning cultures. The emphasis on relational process in learning is particularly compelling, and the applicability of the design is impressive.”
Kenneth J. Gergen, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Swarthmore College
“Cynthia McCallister's original and widely tested design for classroom learning
activities, ‘Learning Cultures,’ meets the mandates of the school curriculum while allowing learners the freedom necessary for them to take responsibility for their own learning.”
David R. Olson, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto
“Dr. McCallister has designed an approach to literacy education that is highly effective and generating impressive results at the schools where it has been implemented. In her approach, Learning Cultures, not only do students do more reading and writing, they also learn how to collaborate and provide each other with constructive feedback. For educators and researchers who are looking for ways to enhance literacy and learning in schools this book will be a tremendous resource.”
Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D.
Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean
University of Southern California Rossier School of Education
“As a geneticist interested in education, I didn’t expect to like Learning Cultures. Genetics research shows that differences in the schools we have don’t make much of a difference in children’s achievement. However, I am impressed with Cynthia McCallister’s book because it fits so well with my findings on the genetic individuality of children in how well they learn. Based on McCallister’s extensive educational experience, Learning Cultures describes practical formats and social norms that give children the freedom they need to discover their appetites and aptitudes.”
Robert Plomin, Ph.D.
Medical Research Council Research Professor in Behavioural Genetics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience
Kings College London
"After more than two decades of action research in NYC K-12 schools, Cynthia McCallister now offers an innovative education model based on what is known about how children learn and how schools operate in large, bureaucratic systems. Her whole-school model, proven to raise achievement in multiple NYC schools, holds promise to address the urgent problem of substantive school reform."
Polakow-Shael Suransky, M.Ed.
President, Bank Street College of Education
Former Deputy Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
“Cynthia McCallister has achieved something very rare: a design for educational curricula (and their institutionalization) that is firmly grounded in research and theory from developmental psychology. She grounds her educational proposals in what is scientifically known about the nature of children's learning and cognitive development, especially the important role of cooperative social interaction and classroom culture. This book should be mandatory reading for all educators.”
Michael Tomasello, Ph.D.
James F. Bonk Distinguished Professor
Here's what people are saying about Cynthia McCallister's Cooperative Unison Reading...
"This book offers the promise of an effective approach to reading instruction based on sound theory and substantial research. It is a powerful antidote to the hyper-focus on low level reading skills." Curt Dudley-Marling, Professor, Boston College
“Cynthia McCallister reminds us to stop labeling children and to begin listening to them and learning from them. Above all, the author highlights the importance of camaraderie, respect and support as children learn to read in the company of their peers.” Shelley Harwayne, Author and Educational Consultant
"As the principal who collaborated with McCallister to pilot the implementation of Unison Reading on a PK-8 schoolwide basis, I have witnessed firsthand its true power to dramatically raise reading achievement. Growth of students in all grades outpaced the national norm, and our lowest performing students′ achievement rates have been even more dramatic. Unison Reading, if brought to a larger scale, can close the achievement gap.” Kerry Rutishauser, Principal, Jacob Riis School, NY, NY
“Cynthia McCallister’s Unison Reading boldly proposes and shows how to achieve a deep change of theory and practice in the acquisition and development of reading. It promises to live up to its subtitle and build socially inclusive classrooms producing equity and achievement. And, most exciting of all, this uncommon sense approach will banish boredom and bring joy and excitement back to the reading class." John S. Mayher, New York University Professor Emeritus
“Unison Reading enables educators to deliver the kind of attention to individual performance that is normally only attained through one-on-one instruction. As a science education researcher I′ve used Unison Reading to hear students co-construct and talk about scientific words, claims, and evidence and found it to be a powerful tool to design transformative instruction.” Susan Kirch, New York University Associate Professor, Science Education
“McCallister and her colleagues in schools have spawned an enormously generative idea that creates a lively and inclusive learning environment. This approach provides a remarkable opportunity for teachers who want a very rich context for observing students′ comprehension and interests." Susan Lytle, Professor of Education, University of Pennsylvania
“McCallister has developed one of the most exciting and important educational innovations I have ever seen. In an era where schools are forced into a Faustian choice between time spent on academic skills and time spent on social, moral, and character development, along comes this theoretical and practical breath of fresh air, which elegantly does it all at the same time. This book should be read by anyone interested in improving education.” Joshua Aronson, Associate Professor and Editor of Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education
“Thank you, Cynthia McCallister, for this remarkable contribution to practices of collaborative learning. The concept of Unison Reading reminds us that learning is fundamentally a social process. Most helpfully, we are introduced to the fine details of how this process can increase motivation, attention, mutually supportive relationships, and reading mastery. I am very impressed, and we should all be grateful.” Kenneth J. Gergen, Senior Research Professor and Author
"This could be the most innovative approach to reading instruction I′ve come across in the last 20 years. It has the potential to transform classroom practice, enabling students to meet the highest quality standards of reading instruction. A must-read." Susan B. Neuman, New York University Professor and former Assistant Secretary of Education
Reconceptualizing Literacy Methods Instruction: To Build a House That Remembers Its Forest is a personal narrative that recounts the author's uneasy beginnings as a college teacher. It is also a research text, an interpretive study of her teaching mentor's literacy education classroom, organized around the themes of classroom structure, course content, and classroom community. Dr. McCallister frames her study within the context of her own story as an emerging teacher educator, discussing the importance of powerful role models, the need for mentorships at the college level, and the importance of observation and demonstration in the development of the craft of teaching.
An Overview of the Learning Cultures Education Model, by Cynthia McCallister
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