Teachers thinking about learning…
It’s great to work in a school where a bunch of dedicated teachers will come in voluntarily before school to share practice, discuss ideas and learn together. Our group is enhanced by the variety of age, experience and subect discipline of the teachers who come. Our head himself comes, which is both supportive and encouraging.
The focus of this week’s session was stepping back and allowing students to be more responsible for their own learning. It’s a difficult one for most teachers. Veterans are used to having control and often find it hard to let go. Less experienced teachers are often struggling to gain control in the classroom. I think you need to have some control before you can let it go…
We watched Sugata Mitra’s TED talk in our last session, so today we just had a quick look at a short clip of The Hole in the Wall. It was a good trigger to provoke thinking about just how capable kids are of learning independently. We used the thinking routine ‘Headlines’ to capture its essence. It’s one I use often in my class to help students capture the gist of things.
We imagined what it would be like to have someone else set you tasks, give you instructions, check up on you, tell you when to do what all day long. We discussed ways to ‘let go‘, like talking less, testing less and focusing on learning rather than on work. We talked about the importance of classroom layout. We discussed the way kids tend to ‘talk through’ the teacher and how difficult it is to get them to look at each other in a whole class discussion. Rubi told us she sits outside the circle while her students talk. We talked about the challenge of personal goal setting and Hailey shared how her students sometimes set goals for a particular lesson, so that they can focus on them, rather than long term ones they tend to forget. We talked about the value of feedback, not just to the teacher but between members of a group. We wondered how habit can be overcome, when kids come to us already conditioned to see the teacher as ‘boss of learning’.
I took the issue to my classroom after the session. I love to tell them that teachers are learners too and get their perspective on the things we have discussed. I gave them scraps of paper to jot their thoughts on and asked them to think about all the teachers they have known so far. Here are some of their responses…
What are ways in which teachers tend to take control of learning?
- They keep demonstrating and don’t let us have a go
- They think only one answer is right
- They think they have to give us all the information, instead of letting us find out
- They give us worksheets about a topic instead of letting us talk about it
- They stand out front telling us what to do
- They over-explain
What helps you take more control of your own learning?
- Having choices
- Working things out together in groups
- Having time to think independently
- When the teacher doesn’t over-explain but lets us put our learning into it
- Having time to talk in between about what the teacher is saying to us
- When the teacher gives us a menu and we choose the order we want to do things
- Choosing our own inquiries
- Trying stuff out for ourselves
Nothing to add…