The power of one-on-one conversations about learning…

Tyler Rice writes this week about the value of one-on-one conversations with his students…

  • I learn more about each student as a person.
  • I learn more about each student as a learner.
  • I correct important misconceptions.
  • I give valuable feedback to students about their learning.
  • I receive valuable feedback from students about my teaching.
  • I improve my relationships with the people whom I am privileged to teach.
  • My reasons for loving teaching are reaffirmed.

Like Tyler, I’m involved in one-on-one conversations at the moment too…

I’m currently supporting our Year 6 students in the process of the PYP exhibition unit. They are exploring ways to take action to right inequity. The central idea is ‘Developing an awareness and understanding of inequity empowers us to act’. Within this broad conceptual understanding, students follow their areas of interest and decide on their own individual and small group inquiries.

In the early stages, the teachers engage in many one-on-one conversations with students to ensure they have found something to explore that really matters to them, to get them to articulate their personal connections with their inquiries and to hear them explain why they care.

This round of conversations is the beginning of many that will take place throughout the inquiry. The more they practise, the better students become at articulating their learning, till the final exhibition where they will share their learning with their parents and the public.

Teachers and learners find these conversations both challenging and rewarding.

Some students can readily identify what bothers them, what they care about and, with minimal probing, dig deeper and express their personal connections. Others take longer. Some students spend time exploring one issue, only to decide they are not sufficiently engaged and would like to change direction. Some think they have a particular interest but are unable to find a meaningful way into it. Some are interested in so many things, they find it hard to choose a focus. And in one particularly challenging conversation last week, I talked with a (bright) student who hasn’t (yet) engaged with anything at all. Our job is to help him find something he cares about to inquire into, no matter how long it takes.

I agree with Tyler’s thoughts on the value of individual conversations for the teacher.

Here’s what I see as the value for the learner

  • She has an opportunity to express her thinking aloud in a non threatening context.
  • She processes her thinking through having to find the words to articulate it to someone else.
  • She can ask questions, seek clarification and feel supported while making her thinking visible.
  • She goes beyond the content and gains awareness of herself as a learner.
  • She has her thinking challenged, in a positive way, through gentle questioning and probing.

But that’s my perspective. I’ll ask some of the students this week and find out how they see it!

4 thoughts on “The power of one-on-one conversations about learning…

  1. Thanks for sharing Tyler’s wonderful essay, Edna… I could not help but think that the implications of this post would be the same if the word principal were substituted for teacher and teacher substituted for learner.


  2. Hi Dennis

    Only the first list is Tyler’s. Have just edited the post to make that clear 🙂

    I think you know I often replace ‘learner’ with ‘teacher’ and so on… good idea in this context!


  3. The proverbial nail on the head! The sense of belonging created by this type of conversation meets one of our needs for engagement in learning. It also taps into something I call Learning Quotient (LQ) or learning intelligence. In my opinion too many education ‘systems’ focus on teaching a subject and not the child. Learning to express your own learning needs is the first step to learning to manage your own learning environment (LQ) to meet those needs. It is often the simple truths like this example that give us such great insight into learning not the academic centered research. I have written about LQ in some depth (17 articles over the last 3 months) and if others are interested you can find the first one here: Each article explores the link with LQ and learning issues, attitudes and attributes. Please leave a comment if you read any of the articles. I am interested in finding out if people agree with my concept or not. So far most have!

    Finally I wrote an e-book which looks at “Understanding Learning Needs”, a sort of practical reflection for teachers to help them revisit what it means to be a learner. I think the rehearsed knowledge and understanding they impart can after time break this link and inhibit their ability to teach effectively. Teachers should always model learning. Link to e-book (including first chapter free)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s