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Commander Chris Hadfield In My Classroom

Two weeks ago I came upon a wonderful idea at Pedagoo. Very simple, as many wonderful ideas usually are. I resolved to bring a specific teaching strategy to my classroom. I wrote about it here a little while back, In fact, it was my first post on this new Irish blog from Dungarvan, in County Waterford, Ireland. To summarise: rather than ask a question for pupils to answer, I turn the tables and provide the answer. The pupils’ task is to research in order to find a suitable question for the particular answer.

I certainly am delighted with the results. Yesterday’s answer was “Commander Chris Hadfield”. Immediately, to my shock and amazement, one of my pupils stood up, stretched herself tall and raised her hand. When asked for her question she replied “Yes, who was the first Canadian to walk on the moon?” (This was news to me!) The following morning several of the girls had similar questions. Currently, Commander Hadfield is orbiting the earth on the International Space Station. I know this because I’ve tweeted him twice recently. He’s got multi-thousand followers, so I really don’t expect a reply. However, the power and the reach of blogging will likely mean that this blog post will arrive on his laptop screen pretty soon now…fingers crossed here in Stradbally. The world is a small place.

The answer, and several subsequent questions opened up a wonderful lesson and a very lively discussion, including speed of orbit, general onboard tasks, lots of “I wonder how do they ….?” type questions. But the one that really was the icing on the cake concerned a tweet about an annual overhaul of the urine hoses.  “Space Plumber – annual overhaul of the urine hoses, valves and sensors. After I was done, it worked.” Here’s a link to the tweet. Shrieks of “O my God” and such like, further questions about the mechanics of body waste in space, and much smirking and inventive querying (I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of the matter, pardon the pun) brought this unplanned lesson to a wonderful conclusion. Thank you Chris Hadfield.

It was a good, unplanned geography / science lesson, one that I will not forget in a hurry. Sometimes the best lessons are unplanned. Well, unplanned in the sense that I certainly had not anticipated the outcomes. I had planned the ANSWER. And I want to thank Pedagoo and the #PedagooResolutions Document for inspiring my new teaching strategy.

Time now methinks for my morning exercise. Walk to town, and my weekly opportunity to undo it with hot chocolate. My chance to read the weekend Irish Times. Who knows, there may be more answers?

Going SOLO – Part 2 : Hexagon Alley

I don’t know how well my overall approach to SOLO is going to go — it’s still too early to tell — but what I can say after my first week trying to apply some of the ideas in my classroom is that hexagons are amazing. No argument, they make a profound difference to how I approach delivery, and more importantly, how learners engage with what they are doing. Read on to find out how my #pedagooresolution is going.

Before talking about my week, I do want to just take a second to reply to this tweet that I received:

TweetGrab

I will be honest that I make no claims to being expert in using it… or even, necessarily particularly competent. That will require time and repetition (and how often do we say that to our classes?), but the early signs are very encouraging. As I interpret it, SOLO is a means of giving learners the tools by which they can ask their own questions, and drive their own learning. If this sounds like the Holy Grail of education, then you already appreciate that the fundamentals of teaching learners how to actually learn is one of the most important skills they will need as they grow and develop.  As I mentioned in part one of these reflections, SOLO describes 5 stages in the development of understanding: Prestructural through to Extended Abstract. These recognise the 5 stages of learning from knowing nothing through to being able to taking knowledge and hypothesising or creating in an abstract way based on what has been learned. What follows is my somewhat enthusiastic approach this past week… I have made a couple of mistakes as I progressed, but my classes and I have learned a lot!

Hexagons

SOlo HexagonAs I was reading through the reflections of other teachers who use SOLO, I recognised a common technique that many use when teaching: hexagons. As best as I can tell, these originated with Damian Clark on his In Visible Learning blog, though I first encountered them from David Didau’s Learning Spy. In simple terms, they are a physical/concrete means of encouraging learners to move beyond Unistructural and Multistructural knowledge to Relational understanding. In other words, they are used to take statements of facts and basic knowledge of the text/topic/subject/theory/etc, and to ‘see’ the relationships between them. As I have found, they are an incredibly powerful enabler for most learners.

Using Hexagons – The methodology bit!

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 11.22.44I had started by giving the class a sheet of A4 with blank hexagons (click the picture to the right to download the pdf for yourself) and simply asked them to write down a fact about the text they had been studying. Then, once I had done a quick visual check that they had done this (“Class, hold up your sheets… er, David, you’ve gone over the lines… have a new sheet and try again!” {tip: have spare sheets!}) , I asked them to add another couple of facts. I then threw in a couple of single words (basically the theme[s] or some key concepts from the text) for them to write in a hexagon, then asked them to write 3 or 4 statements about the characters, and finally, to fill in the rest of the hexagons with interesting lines/quotations from the text. In doing so, they were essentially moving from Unistructural (knowing one thing) to Multistructural (knowing lots of things). Next came the scissors!

Paired Hex Working

Two of my learners sorting their hexagons based on Cathy MacPhail's novel "Tribes". They responded magnificently to the challenge and surprised themselves almost as much as they did me!

 

I provided a pile of scissors and asked the class to cut out the individual hexagons (Learning point: ask them to put their name/initials on the reverse of each hexagon! I found out the hard way). Once we had a delightful mess, I tasked them with putting the hexagons together, the only criteria being that they had to explain why they had them touching — in other words, what the relationship was between them.

What followed was absolute magic. The class grasped what they had to do, and became thoroughly engaged. My role changed in that, rather than directing them to ‘the’ answer, I became a challenge agent. I could see at a glance what they were trying to put together, and could simply ask them to justify their decisions. And what decisions they came up with! The simple act of moving pieces of paper around, but with a reason, became really involving. I was finding genuine engagement and genuine responses in a way that way surpassed my hopes for the lessons. Before long, every desk was a mosaic of hexagons and a lot of learners were very evidently beginning to grasp the key concepts and relationships in their texts.

The next step was to pair them up with their neighbour/shoulder partner, and to see if they could combine their hexagons into one bigger mosaic. Given that they had had to come up with their own initial hexagons, none of them had exactly the same things written on them. Suddenly, and quite unintentionally, I heard them explaining to each other why they had written what they had, and in a totally natural and organic way, they were merging their knowledge. They also began to ask for some blank hexagons so they could add more to their creations — for me, evidence that they were learning and looking for deeper answers.

The Penny Dropped

I tried using hexagonal learning with all my classes this week (no half measures here!), and want to recount two classes experiences in particular — both S2 classes (aged about 13).

I have a really interesting mixed class with a number of pupils who do not have English as a first language, some who have problems staying focussed, and others who quite wrongly do not believe they are capable of performing well. I always have another support teacher (Mrs Jackson) in the class, and because of this, while the majority of the class have been studying Cathy MacPhail’s novel Tribes, some of the class have been looking at The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore on my iPad. Despite having read two different texts in class, all the class were able to complete hexagons for their text. They were also able to add extra information, and more importantly, no matter which text it was, they were all demonstrating really deep learning as they justified the hexagons they placed together. Working with this class was genuinely infectious. They responded so magnificently that it was impossible not to be proud of them. This also converted wonderfully into some of the most focussed essay writing they have done for me. In addition, what struck me after the fact was that, for the first time, they weren’t asking me to check what they had written was OK every couple of sentences. I see this as a sign of the confidence they had developed through the exercise, and also a sign that, having moved from Uni/Multistructural knowledge of their texts to Relational understanding, they had the confidence to write without seeking constant reassurance from myself or Mrs Jackson. In fact, Mrs Jackson was positively raving about the difference in the learners… to the extent that she has been telling everyone she has met about this technique! And we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface.

BUT… I got cocky! I have another S2 class who are very, very able. And I blew it completely. Having had a week of thinking I was beginning to master hexagons and the theory of SOLO taxonomy, I tried to deliver a really ambitious lesson that I hadn’t had the time to think through properly. It crashed and burned big time! Ironically, one of the classes I thought this would work best with, I had the least success with… but on reflection, this was about me trying to run before I could walk. I had not thought through the lesson, and crucially, it wasn’t my lesson I was using. I’d found James Theobold’s brilliant Heston Blumethal approach to poetry on the Wildern School Improvement site, and — because I admire Heston Blumenthal, and know a wee bit about poetry — thought that would be a great lesson to try. I hadn’t thought through the importance of making sure my own knowledge was deep enough, and so because of that, and my over-confidence at having had such startling successes with my other classes, I expected magic to happen again, but instead, the class found it too difficult to make the relationships between poetry and Heston Blumenthal come to life. The whole exercise began to feel forced and very unnatural. Lesson learned. Stick to my own texts/knowledge/topics, or make sure I am thoroughly up to speed before using someone else’s materials.

Reflection

I’m becoming very convinced that SOLO taxonomy as an approach should be an essential part of any teacher’s skill-set/tool box. It is not the only answer, but it is an incredibly powerful part of the solution. I am aware that the use of hexagons to develop Relational understanding is only a part of the SOLO process, but even if some of my learners never become capable of moving to the next stage (though I expect they all will), they have almost all found a technique that empowered them to be able to talk about, and write about, texts in a way that even a week ago, I wouldn’t have believed. This is a technique that I will be using regularly  in the future. It works…

Next week

Having focussed on one particular technique, and one particular stage (Relational) of SOLO, I’m going to be looking at making sure my classes begin to feel comfortable with the whole process. This will mean giving them the full SOLO toolkit, and especially the verbs they will need to allow them to make their own decisions and to become even more independent in their learning. Exciting times!

SOLO-Diagram

NB: I am finding my way so it is essential for me (and anyone else learning about SOLO) that you should pass on any thoughts, hints & tips, and especially clarifications in the comments — Thanks!
Cross posted to If You Don’t Like Change…
Going SOLO – Part 1 (#pedagooresolutions)

Pedagoo SOLOMy Pedagoo Resolution is to introduce SOLO taxonomy to my classes. SOLO is something I’ve been hearing a lot about this past year, but is not something I’ve found the time to do much with… so it is a perfect candidate for a resolution. I’ve heard too many people I respect saying it works, and like most people who are involved with Pedagoo, I’m interested in being a better teacher, so, here goes!

My intention is to ‘think out loud’ the whole process from finding out more about SOLO, adapting lessons, implementing it, and reflecting on how it goes in my classroom, with the intention of finishing up by reviewing the impact on my learners… with them getting the last word as I’ll be asking them to reflect on and comment on what they think they’ve improved on. But that is some way down the line, first, I want to get my head around what SOLO actually is and what it involves. [1]

What is SOLO?

SOLO is the acronym for Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes. It is a method/skillset for encouraging learners to become more reflective and involved in the learning process. It highlights 5 ‘stages’ of understanding and these lie at the heart of SOLO. They are:

  • Prestructural
  • Unistructural
  • Multistructural
  • Relational
  • Extended Abstract

I was going to go into a great big long explanation of these, but instead, will point you at the video that I found most useful when getting to grips with the basic concepts. It’s the (always excellent) David Didau explaining SOLO at a TeachMeet:

So (and apologies for my very simplistic approach):

  • Prestructural = lack of knowledge
  • Unistructural = knowing one thing
  • Multistructural = knowing several things
  • Relational = being able to identify relationships between the known things
  • Extended Abstract = the ability to hypothesise based on the previous levels…

If I relate this to my own SOLO journey, I have gone from knowing nothing about SOLO a year or so ago (Prestructural), to hearing it mentioned on Twitter as a good thing (Unistructural), to learning more about it from David, Lisa, Tait (Multistructural), getting to grips with it by making connections between different blogs and research on it (Relational), to finally beginning to design some lessons that will use SOLO as part of their planning and delivery (Extended Abstract). This may not make perfect sense, but I’m fairly happy that I have learned enough to start thinking about implementing it in class.

Next up, will be a short attempt by me to devise a revision lesson on An Inspector Calls using SOLO approaches. My S3 class need to get up to speed on it quite quickly in preparation for writing a critical essay on the play in the next week or so. Until then, I highly recommend you follow the embedded links above, and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments… and if you have already been using SOLO, I’d really appreciate any thoughts and hints you care to share!

Cross-posted to http://nwinton.wordpress.com

1. I should point out that everything I write here is drawn from a number of excellent people who have generously and kindly made their own thoughts and advice available in their own spaces. In general, I’ll link to them in the body of the text… all errors are mine, not theirs!

*insert bad New Year ‘Rev’olutions pun here*

I love the idea of #pedagooresolutions and there are many that I could (and probably will) sign up to but I’m struggling a wee bit on a purely selfish and personal level.

The thing is, I work in several (does three count as several?) small, rural primary schools providing CCR and management cover for six classes, three p1-3s and three p4-7s. I do everything from RME to a bit of Gaelic in classes of no more than 18 munchkins. For the most part it’s a joy and a pleasure, read all about it, as they say, here. No two days area ever alike and the interactions with the children vary so much from one school to the next that I’m always kept on my toes.

But here’s the thing; it’s that very variety which can often be most challenging. I’m never in the same classroom, or even the same school, two days running. I’m the educational equivalent of a hermit crab; nowhere to leave my things, no opportunity to carry work over sometimes for another whole week. Cloud storage and Edmodo are my twin saviours of sanity: round here if I forget a resource it’s a long, slow drive home to get it!

I feel,  often, disconnected from the lives of  the three schools; at one in particular I’m not there from one week to the next and trying to catch up with colleagues can be something of a challenge. Planning meetings can either be few and far between or it’ll be a case of trying to fit in fourteen million things into a stolen half hour at the end of a day.

I’m not complaining, I’m not even 100% sure why I’m writing this post. What I do know is that being organised – not necessarily something that comes easily to me – is absolutely paramount. Having to be a jack of all trades – again something we primary teachers are well used to – is particularly tricky when you go days at a time without the opportunity to see, far less build a relationship or rapport with, the children. Nonetheless, the rewards are huge and the opportunities to try out the many and varied wonderful ideas that come from the Pedagoo community, such as Edmodo, one minute writing and more thoughts on science teaching than you could shake a stick at are certainly more than worthwhile.

I don’t for a moment purport to have any great ideas or be in any position to offer answers to the many conundrums presented by teaching across multiple multi-stage composites but I’m always willing to listen and learn and, if I *can* help or offer support at all then consider this ear loaned.

Resolutions for My Class: There Is No Box

It’s January, and it’s resolutions-time.

I’ve been taking a little look every now and then at the Pedagoo Resolutions Document.  and I’ve added an idea myself hoping to bring together several heads around the notion of class blogging. I will be keen to follow those who are on that particular subsection, and I will be looking to explore ideas with a view to selecting software that will allow individual blogging. So roll on January 7th. I rarely have difficulty motivating myself to return in January, and this year I am more excited than ever. It’s going to be busy! Perhaps that’s the attraction.

I’ve had another little look back to that interesting document and my attention is caught by a really simple idea. This idea is for the teacher to focus in on a specific teaching tactic – that of providing the answer in order to spark interest and creativity of pupils in order to find the question! I am grateful to Iain @maximusparsons who submitted this idea. I’ve added myself to the list and will follow with interest. As a small means of continuing the process I’ve added my first answer. Take a little look, and feel free to comment or add your question. Better still, add yourself to the Find the Question list, and expand the collaboration, or you may prefer to take a little look through the bigger picture.

I will be implementing this in my class during January, and I will provide feedback here on Pedagoo. Watch this Irish space!

This is my first addition to Pedagoo, and I’ve added it also to my blog. My blog is not education-related, but I think it’s an indication of my optimism in relation to the potential of Pedagoo that I decided to publish there also. That sounds like a mouthful! But I know what I mean. That’s the answer. What is the question?

Making and Sustaining Habit Changes in Education

20121220-001157.jpg

As a teacher I am always looking to take on the Sisyphean task of changing the habits of my students to make them better learners. What I have also realised as a subject leader, and as a reflective teacher, is that I am also looking to improve and change my own habits, my practice, and to support my colleagues to improve their practice still further too. Better teaching requires sustained changes in our habits – a very difficult process! Now, I am a great believer in deliberate practice as a path to mastery. I also whole-heartedly prescribe to Carole Dweck’s ‘growth mindset’ approach – and the view that grit and effort, and not some divine talent or inspiration, is where most creativity and innovation is to be found. All that being said, I also think that our core habits are rooted deeply within our egos and our motivations are predominantly emotional rather than logical. I was therefore struck by the outstanding book which articulated many of these issues, ‘Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard’, about how to make changes to habitual patterns, for individuals, or groups and organisations through connecting with our emotions and tweaking the environment. Although not a book about school organisations as such, the book speaks directly to schools, and leaders at all levels of schools and education; and teachers, looking to make those habitual positive changes with their classes.

What the book does so successfully is to give a simple pattern to initiating change and sustaining change – particularly changing the habits of individuals and organisations (with lots of excellent examples). I have always thought that teachers are a particularly habitual bunch! Dismiss it as cod psychology, but we have returned to settings which replicate much of our childhood, so there must be a psychological pleasure we get from the school environment, something that runs deep within us emotionally (I won’t even mention the emotion invested in coffee cups or seats in the staff room, or our class room spaces!). Perhaps this is why we can be so resistant to change? Or maybe we just like to be in ultimate control – we are commanders of our classroom ship so often that perhaps we just fail to allow anyone else to steer and guide our ship to fresh waters!

The pattern for change derived from Chip and Dan Heath (yes, they are American, how did you guess?) is described below. Obviously, I am most interesting in the applicability of this pattern to educational contexts. Forgive some of the jargon, I can’t explain it all; however, a simple explanation of the ‘Rider‘ and ‘Elephant‘ analogy is required. They actually borrowed the analogy from Jonathan Haidt’s book, ‘The Happiness Hypothesis‘. Put simply, the ‘Rider‘ is our logical, organised and rational self – steering us appropriately; whereas the ‘Elephant‘ is our powerful emotional self, ready to unleash terrific power at any moment! The tensions between the two are obvious. As the Heath brothers describe, the two both need to be influenced for sustained, habitual change to occur.

1. ‘Direct the Rider’:
- Find the Bright Spots: investigate what is working and clone it;
- Script the Critical Moves: think in terms of specific goals, not a big picture (too vague);
- Point to the Destination: change is easier when you know where you are going.

20121220-000412.jpg

2. ‘Motivate the Elephant’:
- Find the Feeling: knowing/thinking something isn’t enough to change it, make people feel something;
- Shrink the Change: break down the change so it isn’t too daunting;
- Grow Your People: cultivate a strong sense of identity and instil a growth mindset.

20121220-000450.jpg

3. ‘Shape the Path’:
- Tweak the Environment: when the situation & the environment changes, so does the behaviour;
- Build Habits: when behaviour is habitual it doesn’t tax the ‘rider’ as much – encourage new habits;
- Rally the Herd: behaviour is contagious – help spread it.

20121220-000529.jpg

For me, starting with ‘finding the bright spots‘ is key. Too often we aim to get people to change by focusing on what is ‘broken’, or bringing in the ‘expert’, having a whirlwind training session and then expecting long-held habits to simply fall away. It just doesn’t work. Change needs to emerge from the ground up, otherwise we just don’t have the emotional investment required to really change our habits. As a subject leader, I have realised that when people have tried something themselves and seen it work it has many more times the impact than watching some ‘outstanding’ lesson by another teacher in another part of the school, no matter how good and illuminating that lesson may be. Such is the power of the ‘elephant‘ our emotional selves simply switch off to such external stimuli is presented to us – no matter how valid or persuasive. I see so many teachers readily dismiss success from another school with a cynical jibe at the catchment area or the selective nature of another school, rightly or wrongly. People need to feel the change and see it working around them to believe it (sometimes people need to know and feel the problems with not changing). Colleagues in a department observing one another and coaching one another, with close specific focus on a manageable area of pedagogy, can be so powerful because the ‘elephant‘ essentially feels safer and more receptive to new information and advice; more so than being given expert advice by any external party, be it the subject leader, or leaders from the SLT. A learning walk is looked on with cynicism by many, we must provide the conditions for genuine sharing of new habits, such as new pedagogy. There is definitely a place for external experts too – I am a firm believer that we should all undertake educational research, as we would expect of our best students, but we must put them into practice in our context, with our colleagues, in a habitual, supportive fashion. Put simply, imported solutions most typically fail – change is organic and must be cultivated from the soil up.

Scripting the Critical Moves‘ is a key early step to initiating change. Leaders need to lead and people will follow when the goals are explicit and ambiguity is removed. Given a great deal of choice we simply become paralysed! When we have an excess of choice that paralysis leads us to simply fall back into our own habits. It is why students in class love explicit parameters of timings, behaviour and methodology. It gives us comfort too and we safely fall in line and ‘follow the herd’. Given common sense advice, like asking teachers to ‘work towards outstanding teaching and learning’, simply fails because it is simply too ambiguous and frightening (and hard work!) – our ‘elephants’ have too much wiggle room, so we never make the difficult move towards forming a new habit – we avoid the challenge in an act of self-preservation. Too often people fail to change, not out of resistance, but out of sheer miscomprehension. If we want teachers to become outstanding practitioners, and sustain it, we must provide marginal gains on the path towards that mastery – these need to be scripted with utter clarity – right down the the steps of core pedagogy. Then the marginal pedagogy needs to be practised and honed. The critical moves must also involve a clear destination. If you are wanting yourself or your department to move towards becoming outstanding, define the goal with absolute clarity. Make the outcome something like: ‘by the Summer of 2014, 70% of all lessons will be observed as outstanding and 30% as good’. Put like that, the idea doesn’t seem so outlandish! If you begin to ‘shrink the change‘ down to coaching targets for the department and a focus upon ‘marginal gains’ regarding key pedagogy, like questioning and oral feedback, then the change becomes emotionally accessible and even less frightening for the ‘elephant‘ – even to teachers with the most pronounced ‘elephant syndrome’! Once the pathway is established strip away everything that is extraneous to the desired outcome, make the time, hone in on the ‘marginal gains’ with utter clarity. Celebrate each step of the way – every success and even every failure – if we learn from failure we can get further down our desired path.

Emotional motivation is perhaps the most essential aspect of making and sustaining change. I have written before about habits and about confidence. The more I lead my brilliant team of teachers the more I realise that the key part of my job is emotional support (forgive me if I am stating the obvious!). ‘Finding the feeling‘ is the key to all change. Now, you could put the fear of god into teachers to motivate them to change – OFSTED inspections are often the stick with which to beat – however, to really sustain change, positive emotion must be instigated and this positive emotion sustains and helps build persistence in the face of challenges (take note Mr Gove!). Perhaps, instead, you insulate your team and support them with every confidence, encourage their risks and guide them with as much capacity building as you can muster to attempt to achieve your collective goal. What people like Gove ignore is that real change, that makes for real greatness, is powered by positive emotions: by confidence, trust, respect and self-belief. It may sound mawkish but it is true. Change founded on fear and coercion is brittle and short-lived.

At the recent SSAT conference I listened to the brilliant Emily Cummins – a young woman appealing for more real world challenges and projects in our school curriculum to really motivate students. Seeing her impassioned story of working with her grandfather as a child, to becoming an inventor of global repute, often despite her schooling, struck a chord. Working with my Y11 students writing a real letter for local and national newspapers (which was drafted over and over), I saw a new spark in some students, provoked by the potential of the real audience. Seeing the pride some students had in their work reminded me of Emily Cummins. I began to feel the need for curriculum change to something that had more real world applications, to a project based learning approach that involved choice and creativity, that involved technology and a global audience. I encountered a feeling with more purpose than I had felt before. It is something I have kept burning and it will inform the changes I lead as a subject leader and in any future educational pursuits. Too easily we can simply fall back into our habits in education – genuine creativity, really open briefs, co-construction with students – are all laudable pursuits we agree, but we pay them lip service and then return to our default position of our safe habits. Often teaching as we were taught in our turn – an emotional withdrawal to our past. Ultimately, we must experience a real emotional shift if we are to undertake a habitual shift. People need help and sustained emotional, and sometimes physical, support to change. For my mother to quit smoking she aimed to wean herself off the habit by using nicotine patches, although ultimately, it was her love for my father, and making sure he quit too, which is what made the habit stick – she certainly ‘found the feeling‘.

We can help by ‘shrinking the change‘, making those crucial ‘marginal gains’ which are much easier to tackle than hulking great challenges; supported by ‘tweaking the environment‘. Since I have been subject leader we have made little but significant tweaks to our classroom environment with pedagogical intent. A couple of years ago, we moved from an array of seating arrangements, most typically rows, to a common arrangement of group tables in every room. That one small shift initiated a sequence of changes to our pedagogy that made us all ensure that our group work and peer interaction was more thought through. Our seating plans became more nuanced to suit the group dynamics. In short, we shared ideas to deal with the tweak and we subsequently planned better lessons. Buoyed by that change to the environment, we added further tweaks, such as multiple whiteboards on the walls, to create more flexibility in the room and more opportunities for ‘visible learning‘. We initiated an iPad pilot for more enriched, multi-modal group collaborative work. Such technological innovation was quite frankly alien to some of our department, but the tweak to the environment meant people were trying new innovations in their pedagogy, and they were being forced to shift to new patterns of pedagogy the quickly became a new normal. The ‘herd mentality‘ was also a powerful force. We shared training time to build confidence and becalmed the ‘elephant’. Some colleagues unexpectedly attempted the changes with gusto and the positive response carried people along for the ride – habits were changing, not by force, but incrementally and by choice, from the soil up. Tweaking the environment works!

By following these steps and planning with precision, we can make positive changes to teaching groups, to our practice, to leading departments and indeed schools – making our job as teachers in the heady future of 2013 a little less Sisyphean a task!

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#PedagooResolutions

It’s almost 2013! What are your New Year resolutions going to be this year? Will they include making a change to your classroom practice?

The start of a new year always seems to be a great time to promise to yourself that you’ll try out some of those great ideas you’re constantly hearing about on twitter. But, all too often July comes around too quickly and before you know it the academic year has finished and you’ve not made any progress despite your best intentions. Not next year though.

We’ve got a wee idea we’d like to try. Why don’t we use the unused ‘Groups‘ feature on Pedagoo.org to form some electronic Teacher Learning Communities around shared resolutions? We’ll come together based on our shared intentions and support each other to actually implement them. We can each share our ideas and progress, and even seek input from other Pedagooers who’ve already had some success with what you’d like to try. For example, perhaps you’re wanting to try out SOLO taxonomy…you could come together with others who have a similar ambition and share progress and resources, and perhaps even have a Google Hangout with Lisa Jane Ashes?

However, that’s just one example to help illustrate what we mean, we’d really like you to guide this. So, to get us started please put your classroom practice resolution in the following Google Document and put your name next to it. If yours is already listed (or something quite similar) just add your name to the developing eTLC…

Click here to edit this document