As a teacher it’s revealing to be a student. I was lucky enough to have that experience today when I did a First Aid course. This is by no means my first course and I was pretty much expecting it to be mostly mind-numbing. But it wasn’t, and I’ve come out feeling good about my learning today and far more interested and knowledgeable about First Aid than I was. There were a couple of things that stood out to me regarding what worked about the day:
- The trainer/teacher was engaged and engaging. He tried hard to keep the topic alive and interesting to us. He moved; he used his hands; he asked questions (quickly, by pointing and using names); he was funny. We were expected to know what was going on.
- We had the processes clearly modelled for us, often twice, before we were expected to perform the task.
- It was hands-on. We got to practice the task a number of times. We had peers help, assess and guide us, along with the trainer.
- Assessment was part of the learning and non-threatening. We needed to know this stuff, saving someone’s life is important right?! So, the assessment focused on making sure that we knew the material. We worked together, talked, argued and checked the right answers in our manual and with the trainer. The assessment became the learning. I’m sure I got far more out of the day/assessment because of this approach.
It is always useful to see things from another’s point of view. Today I learnt First Aid, but even more about learning. I think as teachers we should always be learning something, at least so we can remind ourselves about how hard it can be (I get this whenever I try and learn something new on a guitar) and what good learning feels like.
One of the teachers I work with came into the office last week as exclaimed “I just did the best lesson ever!”. We’ve been working on teaching reading with a strong focus on using the “Independent Reading” approach championed by Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller, Richard Allington, etc. The obvious focus is on developing students as productive, confident, engaged readers but always in the back of my mind has been the belief that teachers working in this way feel better about teacher reading when they work with this pedagogy and strategies. To hear this was one of the highlights of the year.
I am sitting here listening to the Angela Meires talk on Classroom2.0 about how we need to work with our students (and colleagues) as the geniuses they are. She argues, passionately, that all our students have something unique and wonderful to bring to the world. (One of) The important aspect of this is that we then expect each other to act in this way. Our students have a responsibility to acknowledge their genius – “YOU are a genius and the world needs your contribution“!
She says that when we do this it “feels like love and there’s something euphoric and energising” about this. Awesome. I’m not going to summarise the whole talk, you should listen to it – I found it, if not euphoric, definitely energising!
It resonated with something else that was knocking around in my head:
The nobel prize for medicine awarded for this year went to John Gurdon. According to the Guardian his school report for biology when he was 15 read:
“I believe Gurdon has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous; if he can’t learn simple biological facts, he would have no chance of doing the work of a specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who would have to teach him.”
Are you noticing the geniuses in your classroom/school/life?
Or: There are no 21C teachers, just good (and bad) teachers.
I was reading a post (http://bit.ly/ojd3qa) about what 21st Century schools and classrooms should look like. It scared me a little.
True, the focus needs to shift from the teacher to the student. And this was the thrust of the differences noted. We need to be careful though. In some schools the ‘discovery learning’ approach has resulted in poor outcomes for students (http://t.co/tj2suhO), and I see this research played out in schools where students have not had the opportunity to consolidate their ‘discoveries’.
A better model is the “guided release of responsibility” pedagogy where teachers are still empowered to explicitly teach, prompt, question and lead students. Students are also empowered to do these, as the model progresses. This means practice (and may even involve memorisation – gasp!). It means explicit teaching and teacher guidance. I don’t think that this idea is particularly “21C”.
What really frightened me was the shift to ‘multiple literacies’, away from reading and writing. I think technology has great potential in the classroom (and use and advocate its use), but it alone will not lead to improved outcomes. In fact, as the NYT recently pointed out (http://nyti.ms/nVQau0), it can lead to worse outcomes. The NYT quotes research that shows it magnifies the teaching pedagogy. That is: it makes good teaching better and poor teaching worse.
We have a responsibility to ensure our students can read and write, and do so passionately and effectively. That might sound obvious, but if we shift our focus to ‘multiple literacies’, it is possible we lose sight of this aim. The multiple literacies are secondary to being able to read and write. Without these elementary skills, our students will not be able to meaningfully engage with their world. Reading and writing is best taught explicitly and rigorously planned for using the guided release model.
Some final ideas:
- Use technology to engage students in reading and writing; don’t make it the focus.
- The idea of personalised learning (which may ‘define’ 21C schools) is important and technology can play a vital role towards this aim.
- Move the learner to the center of the classroom, but don’t stop teaching them.
Do you agree with the title?
I’d love to read your comments.
Why create a personal web presence (while creating a web presence, there’s some sort of meta happening here)? Because, as suggested by Steve Hargadon in the workshop I’m in, you already have one.
This is particularly relevant to those of us who are educating students on this matter. Do we really feel that we can teach – and often preach – to students about the online world without having got ourselves into the pool ourselves?
So how do we do this?
I teach reading to students and teachers, and the glib line I use on how to get better at reading is to read. The same applies to us with regards to online publishing. We have to just do it. And we don’t, not enough anyway.