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Posts tagged ‘reflection’

Sometimes, it’s the little things

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

Reflecting on Learning

At a time when Scottish education is changing and standard tests were no longer around, I wanted to develop my own use of assessment within the classroom. I already used different forms of formative assessment which gave me as an educator instant feedback but although the use of ‘thumbs up, in the middle or down’ etc was somewhat useful, I wanted it to be more beneficial to the children. In short, I wanted assessment to inform next steps.

I then went onto create a Learning Log. As my first attempt had a few flaws (it was just based on achievement…it didn’t work too well!), I went on to develop a Log based on ‘Two Stars and a Wish.’ Every Friday the children reflect over each curricular area and write down what they have learned. They think of a maths and a writing wish too. Although they found it difficult to start with, the class now find it easier to identify specific wishes that they work on the next week. This means that each learner knows exactly how to improve their work. The children are encouraged when their wishes turn to stars.

When the opportunity came for the staff from our cluster schools to join/lead Learning Communities (groups of teachers from various schools working on a chosen topic to enhance learning and teaching in their classroom) I really wanted to be involved with the assessment community.

As a newly formed group, we wanted to look at the ‘Learning and Teaching’ A4 ring-binders our school had given every pupil, as well as Learning Logs. We tried out different types of Learning Logs within our classrooms. We also benefitted from an opportunity to visit another local school to view their folders to see what they were including. The whole group liked the ‘I can…’ list for every curricular area/topic covered in class so the children know exactly where their learning is going. (However, I would create these lists after the learners have helped to plan their topics.) From this visit I realised that these lists would be helpful but I still wanted to include a personal reflection ‘wish’ section so the learners know what specific points they have to work on.

The group have since asked the children and parents what they think of the folders- we received very positive feedback and interesting suggestions to improve them further.

As my Primary 4 class are now reflecting on their learning more specifically and regularly, I would like them to record their reflections on our class blog (http://edubuzz.org/blogs/dunbarprimaryschoolp4d/) or through film. It’s always good to keep things fun and fresh! Perhaps they have some ideas…

Throughout the year I have enjoyed seeing the class embed reflection into daily class life, not just as a written exercise once a week. Their honesty and enthusiasm to progress has certainly helped their learning progress and they, along with me, are greatly encouraged by it.