Tag Archives: Research

Reflections of a Classroom Teacher

30 Aug


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.



3 Sep


Goleman (2002) brought the idea of emotional intelligence to the public consciousness, but researchers have long known that how well a person manages his or her emotions and those of others influences leadership effectiveness. For example, recognizing anger in yourself and others, and being able to empathize with people, can help you be more effective at exerting influence. Influence is at the heart of leadership. Emotional intelligence is an individual difference that is important for both leaders and followers. It is an individual difference that like many leadership skills is not fixed for life and can be improved by training and development. Emotional intelligence refers to qualities like: understanding one’s feelings, empathy for others, and the regulation of emotions to enhance living.

This type of intelligence has to do with the ability to connect with people and understand their emotions. These are not skills that form part of most formal curricula in schools or universities. Nor do they often get mentioned as something that needs to be developed in order to be effective in leadership or in life. Most good leaders are alike in one essential way – they all have a high degree of emotional intelligence. The five key factors in emotional intelligence are:  self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. Space not does permit an explanation of these factors here. However, an internet search will uncover many emotional intelligence tests that you can undertake. Just type ‘emotional intelligence test’ into Google. Try however, to find a test that is underpinned by good research and has been found to be statistically valid and reliable.

Goleman, D. 2002, The New Leaders, Time Warner, London.

Teaching Our History

1 Aug


I was trained as a History teacher back in 1992. We all teach the fundamentals of the Treaty of Waitangi in schools. I thoughts this might be a useful resource. 

The Transition for Students

2 Jul


At present the body of my work is completing scholarship applications for school leavers and advising these school leavers on their next steps. It got me thinking that secondary school dies not prepare a student in any way for university. They are as different as Super Rugby and the Olympic Sevens. I think this for the following reasons.

  • The timetable. No university has any class meets every day; no university schedule requires a student to be in class every hour of the school day. Some classes meet for two or three hours at a time. And the choices, don’t get me started.
  • Online work. In most of today’s university courses, there is a significant online component to the course. It is up to the student to be proactive to use it. It is in most cases it is part of the assessment.
  • Reading. The expectation in all courses in the sciences, history, philosophy, and social sciences is that students will have to do some significant primary-source reading (and writing on it). The anticipation in all courses is that students know how to read analytically and critically.
  • Being organised. Professors will not seek you out if you are doing poorly. The expectation is that you will go for help, find study partners, seek assistance from tutors and special programs, etc. on your own.
  • Homework expectations. It is assumed in most universities, according to most calendars I have read, that for every hour in class a student is expected to work at least an hour outside of class on reading, writing, research – often more.


What do you think? Are we really preparing our student for the next stage well?


1 Mar


This week I have come across some great pieces of research that is worth sharing. The first is Competent Learners @ 20.

The Competent Children Competent Learners study has tracked around 500 children in the Wellington region from just before they started school, to age 20. It has looked at the impact of early childhood education and then later educational experiences and time use out of school on children’s development. It has monitored the development of skills such as reading and writing, and also attitudes such as perseverance and curiosity. When they returned to the participants at age 20, the researchers looked at how the young people had got on with NCEA. They looked at the impact of earlier school performance, engagement in school and their experiences of learning.

Some key findings included:

  • More than half those with low performance at age 8 went on to gain NCEA Level 2 or Level 3. That means that children’s support from teachers and parents, the learning opportunities they had in and out of school and their interactions with teachers, parents and peers, enabled them to make real progress.
  • Those who gained NCEA Level 2 did not necessarily have higher levels of mathematics, reading, writing or logical problem solving at age 14 than those whose highest qualification was NCEA Level 1, or who did not gain any qualification. But they did have higher levels of perseverance, communication, social skills, curiosity and self-management.
  • The period from age 10 to age 14 appears to be a time when it is particularly important for teachers and parents to watch for signs that children are turning away from school and learning. This applies as much to high performers at school as low performers. It was clear how deeply memories of school at this time can colour later attitudes to learning.

Another area I have been reading about this week is Thinking Strategies and the following article Provide Models, Examples and Non-examples.

It suggests similar to expert craftsmen teaching their trades to apprentices, teachers can model thinking and problem-solving skills to their students.

Modeling can take several forms in your classroom:

  • Thinking aloud regarding your cognitive processing of text (e.g., sharing with students how you make connections between what you know and something that you’ve read in the text or how you figured out what the author was inferring)
  • Demonstrating or showing your students explicitly how you would complete an assignment (e.g., writing a summary of an article, taking notes, constructing a graphic organizer, or giving a speech)
  • Showing first-rate complete examples of a work product (e.g., a summary paragraph or graphic organizer) as well as substandard non examples that help students differentiate between a good one and an unacceptable one
  • Acting out, role-playing or developing simulations.
  • Explaining, telling, and giving directions are essential teaching moves, but unless they are accompanied by various types of modelling, the likelihood of struggling readers achieving success is small. Never assume that because students have spent year in school, they have been explicitly taught or have somehow figured out on their own how to do what you want them to do.

These ideas and further concepts can be sourced from adlit.org

As teachers we always want to continue to sharpen the saw. Make ourselves more competent. A good teacher has to be open to learning. The following are some general strategies.

Teach like a Champion Technique Eight: Post It – Be sure your students know your objective for the day by posting it on the board

What Does a Great Lesson Look Like on the Outside? – Here’s What Your Students and Evaluators Should See in Your Classroom.

And finally a blog that really inspired me this week: http://cogdogblog.com/2013/01/26/pointless-incessant-barking/


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