Mind The Gap: Is your lesson worth behaving for?

In a collegiate professional discussion last week around the findings outlined in one of the TLRP publications, I was reminded once again of the idea of the pratice-values gap. This concept is perhaps best described by the following quote from the paper we were discussing:

The current performance-orientated climate in schools in England seems to make it difficult for teachers to practise what they value.
Learning how to learn – in classrooms, schools and networks

This is not a new concept to me…but it’s stuck with me all week in a way which told me something was up, but I wasn’t entirely sure what. And then I sat down to plan my S1 Science lesson for Friday and it hit me…things needed to change.

I have this S1 class for one period per week last thing on a Friday morning. They’re lovely really, but as the year as gone on a fair number of them have been struggling to behave in the way I’d like and things have been becoming a little fractious. As we often tend to do, I’ve been blaming them mainly…until this week.

Last week we’d finished a topic which I’d taught following the departmental plan, using the departmental resources. The resources aren’t perfect, and I’ve been trying to improve them as I go…and things seemed fine. However, I’ve not been looking forward to my lesson with them and judging by the behaviour of some, and the frustration on the faces of others, nor have they. When I looked at the resources for the next topic this week it dawned on me…my practice-values gap had become too great. Sometime ago now I began to experiment with involving students in planning their learning and assessment…whilst I found it to be a fantastic approach I haven’t been able to develop this practice as much as I would’ve liked to due to leaving the classroom for 18 months, changing schools, long-term absence and mainly teaching qualification courses in my new school. However, I realised this week that I could be doing what I think is right with my S1 class now and so I decided to go for it.

I planned a stimulus and planning lesson which involved discussing big questions eliciting previous knowledge and encouraging them to come up with their own burning questions which will then form part of our planning for the topic – which they’ll help plan out and name.

I did this with them this morning, and the results? Astounding. They were all so fired up and engaged…even the students who have struggled to stay in the room for the last couple of months! The questions they came up with are fascinating, and I’m looking forward to working out how to incorporate these into the curriculum over the coming weeks:

    What if all humans die?
    How many animals/species live on the planet?
    Does bigfoot/yeti/nessie exist?
    What will happen to the planet in the future?
    Will we be able to live on another planet?
    Where is the densest forest?
    How does natural selection work?
    How did we come from apes?
    Is there life on other planets?
    What is the worst pollution?
    What is continental drift?
    If the water level keeps rising what will happen to Venice?
    How does Chernobyl harm the world?
    What if the world’s biggest super volcano erupted?
    Could the water levels rise so much it would flood the whole world?
    What happens if we don’t look after the world?
    What is the worst thing that could happen to the planet?

As delighted as I was with the success of the lesson, another thought went through my head. It’s a challenging question which we’ve picked up from our friends at Cramlington Learning Village…it’s “Is your lesson worth behaving for?” The difference in the students between the previous weeks and today has really made me doubt whether they have been up to now…but I’m going to to do my best to make sure they are from now on. Both for their sake, and my own.

Cross-posted from Fearghal’s Blog

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