Cross-Posted on Fearghal Kelly’s thoughts
I’m just back in the classroom this week – phew, I’d forgotten how much of a rollercoaster teaching is! You strap yourself in and off you go…good fun though!
One of the things though which has really struck me this week so far is how much I’ve changed as a teacher in the last couple of years – but if you were observing me you might not even notice. For example, when planning for some of the lessons this week I was looking through some of the supporting PowerPoints on the server and while the were perfectly fine, I just had to make a couple of changes. Rather than starting with titles and learning intentions, I added striking relevant images to the start to get the discussion going, their brains whirring and make them inquisitive. And where there was a diagram, I tried when possible to add a picture or a video to give the slide more relevance and interest.
There’s other examples as well. When meeting each of my classes, I haven’t started by reading out the rules and telling them the consequences of their actions and so on. I’ve started by telling them a little about me, finding a little about them and carrying out an activity which required them to work in groups to share their thoughts on how they learn, what they’ve learnt, why they want to do well, why science is relevant and how they should behave and then getting them to summarise the responses – some which are fantastic.
One of my classes is revising for an exam and so with 20 minutes remaining in a lesson I told them to open their textbook to the contents page, find the topic which they found the hardest and go to that chapter. I then told them to look at the questions in the chapter and not to do any which they knew the answer to, skip those and do the ones which they had no clue about. This threw quite a few of them, but I simply explained that they were there to learn and to do so they needed to search out the things they can’t do – not the things they can do already. I’ll be honest and admit I made this up on the spot – I’ve never taken this approach to revision before.
All of these examples are tiny. I’m almost embarrassed to be writing them up and publishing them on the web as so many of you probably to do all of this and more every day. What I am proud of, and the reason I can bring myself to publishing this, is that to me these are much more than simple ‘techniques’. These are the manifestation of much of the reading I have been undertaking into learning and I am therefore convinced that the consistent application of approaches such of these, and more, will lead to better learning experiences for the pupils in my classes.
So much of Curriculum for Excellence is being undermined by the perceived expectation that lessons need to appear radically different. I disagree with this assessment of the change. For me, lessons can appear to have changed only a little to the untrained eye, but should be increasingly planned with a sound educational rationale in mind. That will take time however.
Medicine and agriculture are now both ‘evidence based’, and it is time for education to follow their example. It is no shame to follow them; it is easier to work out how a liver works or how a plant grows than how a person learns. But we do know a great deal about how people learn now, and we need to change our practice accordingly. Geoff Petty, Evidence Based Teaching