Tag Archives: Effective Pedagogy

Reflections of a Classroom Teacher

30 Aug

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Some kinds of assessment raise achievement, and some are time fillers. This week I am getting back to business and working my craft in the classroom. Recently I have been distracted by the many other projects that complete my day.

The assessments that researchers have found most effective at raising achievement are those that teachers make minute by minute and day by day in the classroom and then use almost immediately to adjust their lessons. For example, teachers who walk the aisles to check on what the class needs to work on next are gathering more helpful data than they would if they used the same time to help two or three individuals with specific problems.

I have been working on asking good questions. Open ended ones. Asking questions is another way to find out what students do and don’t know. A simple technique like an exit question (a question every student answers before leaving class) can help me know how many students have grasped a basic concept or skill and whether to reteach the concept the next day.

Asking every student to choose one of several answers is another way to make sure students are engaged throughout the lesson. Research shows that the more students think and talk in class, the more they learn. But questioning should not be scary, nor should the approach. I have had great success with online discussion groups. It has met the needs of all the learners.  If the student answers “I don’t know,” a good reply might be, “I know, but if you did know, what would you think?” The point is that no student should be able to “choose not to think.”

Classroom instruction matters most in boosting achievement, and improving questioning and feedback techniques will improve the effectiveness of teachers.

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More LwDT

22 Jul

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Last week I left my phone at home and the day at school was difficult. A little, like this.

Think about this. When was the last time that you left your cell phone at home? If you left it at home, did you go back home to get it? My students are bringing their devices to school everyday, so there is not a question of whether or not to have BYOD, Bring Your Own Device.  Our school is a BYOD school because parents have equipped their children with devices. I have seen different ways that we have embraced BYOD. It reminds me of the SAMR model.

  1.  Negative Embracement

For fear that students will use their devices for inappropriate purposes, teachers ban them altogether.  They institute fine systems for pulling them out in class; therefore, students learn to use personal devices in a very secretive way. The result of this form of embracement is negative in every way: time wasted correcting students and negative student perceptions of school.  Even worse, there is a negative impact on learning because students will find a way to use their device regardless of punitive tools at your disposal.

  1. Dispassionate Embracement

Because school staff know that devices are everywhere, and they can’t eliminate them, they choose to put policies in place that tolerate cell phones. Students are allowed to use them at times where learning does not occur such as during class change, during lunch or during “free-time” at the end of class. In this system students are conditioned to believe that devices carry no real potential to enhance learning. They are explicitly taught that personal devices are for personal business and nothing more. The result of this form of BYOD is negligible.  Time isn’t wasted, but it isn’t really maximized either.  Learning isn’t really enhanced either.  The status quo keeps pretty much everything stagnant. This form of embracement puts learning in neutral.

  1. Constructive Embracement

Since the potential found in devices is limitless, schools are finding unique and innovative ways to incorporate technology into every aspect of their system. Schools are eliminating announcements in place of using social media to communicate with kids. Research is being conducted on screens instead of in books. Technology is being leveraged.  Positive effects are abounding because with proper procedures and training for staff, students are more engaged, more connected and more focused. Their learning becomes more relevant, more purposeful and more productive. The more successful the integration, the more positive rewards students will reap from their learning.  Positive embracement of technology occurs only when technology is infused into areas where learning is expected to take place.

Take time to quietly reflect how is your school approaching this? Which category do you really sit in?

 

 

In the Classroom

16 Jul

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I have been reflecting on my classroom practice. In my role, I see I have two classrooms. One is Room 115 where I teach two Religious Studies classes per day. The other is the Staffroom. My connections with staff is vital in my role as a member of the SLT. Here are a few descriptors of some things that are my focus on a being the best I can be as a teacher.

Seeing Christ in all of our students. Man this is hard some days.

Being able to Collaborate. This the focus of our inquiry at school this year. A constant desire to learn with and from colleagues to find ways to improve my pedagogy.

Tenacity that is the ability to be obsessive about creative ways to hook every child into learning and discovering their purpose in life.

Breaking through barriers. I know every day we face difficult conversations but this just makes us stronger.

Energy that is the kind that inspires learners to surpass content consumption and see the impact that their learning  can make on the world. This can be tough especially in the winter term.

Being accountable to a focused and committed environment that takes learners from where they are to where they need to be, but goes a step further by transforming engaged students into empowered learners.

Hardwork, which generally goes far beyond the hours and confines of the school building.

Inward Inquiry and Being a Lifelong Learner. Constantly asking the question, “How can I improve?”

The greatest teachers know how to elicit greatness from their students. Teaching is a difficult profession.  It is sometimes thankless, but there are those times when it is the most fulfilling and most personally rewarding gift that a person could ever give themselves.

Changes in Teaching Philosophy

15 Apr

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With the changing role of the teacher, we have never been more important with the best of us being  continuous learners who operate within the strong disciplinary framework of our subject areas. We are living in a technologically fast changing world where, as teachers, we need to be models of adaptability to our students. Schools create the professional space for genuine teacher reflection and learning and acknowledge and support teachers who are at different stages. They also give the space and permission to teachers to take acceptable risks to explore new approaches in a supportive environment. In short, a teacher needs to become a modern connected learner himself/herself and embrace the tools and see the potential of how they can open up new and different ways of learning in their curriculum area or year level. Until they do that, little will change. With this in mind it is important to remember that.

Teachers and Learners need to not only be well connected but also be provisioned with well-chosen tools that enable genuine collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation – i.e. to open up new and different ways of learning to occur (p36 NZ Curriculum). Learning tools should be cloud-based and low or zero cost to enable easy access for all students from anywhere and at any time. The ICT infrastructure must be an enabler, rather than a disabler which can frustrate and impede progress – teaching & learning, as opposed to administration, management or other, must be the priority when choosing tools. Student devices (BYOD) are now not an option but are an essential component for students to access their online tools to enable their ability to learn from anywhere and at any time. Their devices should work seamlessly at school and from home. With appropriate learning tools and infrastructure in place.

Classroom Walkthroughs

17 Jan

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Conducting classroom walkthroughs is not a new concept. This year as a Leader of Learning group I would like to pursue these further. These can be powerful tools but only when used correctly. Here are some of my thoughts on these:

  1. Do it together.

It is a partnership. Classroom walk-throughs are not meant to be conducted in isolation. Have staff walk through classroom. This way, the teachers conducting the walkthroughs can debrief after each visit, discussing what strategies the teacher was utilizing. Make it safe and relational. You want staff to embrace and discuss the data, not be defensive. It can be stressful so to avoid this concern, leave a post-it note on the teacher’s desk at the end. Pick out one positive instructional element and praise them for it. This will put them at ease and open the door for future conversations.

  1. Purposeful and Authentic

Classroom walk-throughs need to be a priority. Time must be scheduled to do these. It is important that these are at different times of the day.

  1. Share the Data

Like in any case collecting data will not be of any service to anyone unless it is shared, analyzed, discussed and acted upon. Remember to be clinical, not critical with the analysis. Use the Data To Make Change. Remember data is useless unless you do something with it. Once the data is analyzed, discussed, and digested, use the data to decide where you need to go with professional development.

Have you had much success with classroom walkthroughs? Have you any tips for me as I go forward with these?

A Change in the Classroom

10 Oct

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Change happens whether we like it or not. Schools were instituted upon two fundamental certainties:

(1) Knowledge has unique value and is known best by experts

(2) The way we communicate with each other is limited by time and, very often, location.

In New Zealand have seen very significant shifts in these certainties in recent years, shifts that should have significant implications for schools.

I have been contemplating this change by keeping in mind the tools we have and our students use. What use is knowledge in the age of the smartphone? Most students carry the sum total of human information with them each day. A great deal of teaching must go around this too. If a taxi driver takes you to your destination from memory or GPS, do you care? If the GPS version is cheaper, do you begin to care?

My daughter the other night had the task of adding roman numerals for homework. To solve the problem she used a smart phone. I am certain that is not the way her teacher intended the task to be solved by that was it was awesome to observe.

Do we allow the same freedom to students with basic questions that Google can answer for them or do we judge them critically for using technology that they use naturally on a daily basis in every circumstance except school? If Siri knows basic arithmetic and the capitals of the world, do we still need to spend time on these thing?

These are the questions we should be asking to ensure we are heading in the right direction for our students? For it means more time teaching critical thinking and messy play.

Improving Pedagogy

21 Jun

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In my opinion the best way to improve pedagogy is to speak to the students who are in the classrooms. Recently our students provided the followed recommendations to us through the curriculum survey which I thought were worth sharing:

  • less teacher talk: which we are thinking about making this a class challenge: How can we give you the student more opportunities to just get on with it AND make sure you have the instructions you need?
  • More hands on: they just crave opportunities to make and create. Make tasks relevant.
  • Clarify what “progress” means: students don’t seem to understand the role of activating prior knowledge and that learning is evidenced by growth from that base line (this may mean we have to also vary the way we collect this prior knowledge)
  • Continue the learning assets (e.g. self managers): students understand and can articulate these as they give a framework they use to improve and set goals – maybe include these in the letters students write to their new 2015 teachers.
  • Maintain the excursions as they love them for the powerful information and shared experience they provide.
  • Keep connecting to the community: they enjoy learning from experts in the community. Again see the point regarding relevant learning and assessment tasks.

The New Age

31 Oct

Connecting

To me, 21st century learning in an elementary school has the same overall goals as a secondary school: it’s only the implementation that differs. We want students to be practicing the 4 C’s: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. They should be producing content, not just consuming it passively. Though technology isn’t synonymous with 21st century learning, it IS an integral part of it, and it’s often the set of tools that makes this new approach to teaching and learning possible. The purpose of technology used in a 21st century classroom should be (in my opinion) to connect students with their world and enable them learn from others and to share their own ideas. It should also be used to differentiate the curriculum so that students are learning on their own developmental levels and are able to pursue their unique interests and passions.

I think that’s one of the greatest things about technology and one of the most exciting aspects of the vision for 21st century schools: that children are no longer all forced to learn the same thing the same way just because the teacher doesn’t have a simple way to differentiate. I don’t think we’re quite at the point where technology makes it “simple” to differentiate instruction, but certainly simpler. And with the thousands of new apps and websites being launched each day, I believe the quality and a variety of tools available for teachers is going to continue increasing. Even the most tech-averse teacher will be saying in 10 years, Wow,  really makes it easier to help my students. How did I ever live without this? Many of us have already reached that point with tech tools in our personal lives our teaching lives are going to be transformed soon, too. For some teachers, that’s already a reality, and it’s amazing to see.

Impact of the New National Curriculum on Online Learning

5 Aug

“Pedagogy can be defined as a combination of knowledge and skills required for effective teaching. Online learning requires a different approach to pedagogy, also known as virtual pedagogy or epedagogy.” (University of Adelaide, 2009).

The New Zealand Curriculum is one of the most significant changes to the educational landscape in New Zealand since the introduction of standards based assessment, with the Qualifications Framework and the National Certificate of Education Achievement, NCEA. Today all state schools within New Zealand are expected to be offering educational programmes that are in line with the new curriculum. The overall Vision of the curriculum is to create young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners. (The New Zealand Curriculum 2007, p7)

At the student learning end of the New National Curriculum, the curriculum is comprised of Values, Key Competencies and Learning Areas. Values are deeply held beliefs that motivate behaviour such as excellence, innovation, inquiry and curiosity, diversity, equity, ecological sustainability and integrity. The Key Competencies are described as capabilities for living and lifelong learning.

Thinking, using Language, symbols and texts, managing self, relating to others, participating and contributing, will all be competencies that people can expect to draw on throughout life. They also provide the basis for the future learning in these specialised learning areas. These ideals had to be clearly immersed into my vision of online learning. As a school we are using Ultranet and Office 365.

As a staff we have been working through a process that is bringing staff up to speed with the necessary changes, especially within the specific learning areas.

We have been looking at how the nature of our special character and commitment to our independent learner profile marries with the principles, values and key competencies of the NZ Curriculum. There may be some differences in the language used, but mostly we hold very similar views. We believe that through effective pedagogy, best practice in line with our teaching charter, and embedding the independent learner profile, students will develop as young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners. What better time to launch this blended leaning environment.

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