Thursday, 3 May 2018

How to spot effective teaching even when you're not looking!

Today I stopped in to see my colleague and we got to talking about what she was doing with her year 10 class.  The kids were starting a new topic on 'Significant places' and learning about the reasons why a place is significant and to who it is significant to. I was interested in how she engaged them in their learning.

In our discussion, I asked what tasks the kids were doing.  She shared how kids were thinking about a significant place and used examples they'd learnt earlier in the year like Waitangi and Gallopoli.   She shared with the class her own example, then got them to do a brainstorm DLO using a Lucid chart instead of the normal class brainstorm.  After instructing the class on what to do, she went around to each student and checked on what they were doing.

I asked how it went, and she showed me some kids work and shared how happy she was that most of the boys had completed their charts.  She found that when she checked on individual students, one or two found the brainstorms useful to help them refocus on their writing.  I asked if she could share this lesson and the success she'd had with the rest of our department through a blog, and she froze.   The look of fear on her face stopped me in my tracks.  I got a sense that asking this was a step too far.

It was then that I got out a whiteboard marker and we started to put together the pieces of the lesson to help get her thoughts out in a structure like form.  This is what we came up with:

 I asked her to think about why she was using these strategies, and what was the challenge or the issue that she'd found with the boys in your class, to make her use these strategies.  She identified the overall problem as being, in the past, a lack of engagement.  I showed her the structure and compared it to a Big Mac burger.  I said she had the juicy parts that were the filling and I just helped to put the top and bottom burger buns on. 

Then I asked her to think of the reasons for why she used each strategy and she was able to articulate the deeper thinking behind the why.  I then asked her to identify some of the positive outcomes from using all of these strategies and she shared how engaged the boys were and the lack of behavioural issues that she'd had to deal with.  We then thought about a few next steps.  

The one thing that I said could support this structure further, would be the 'how do you know this' eg the evidence, data or research behind her actions, but I shared that we could add that later as this was an on the spot thing.

She was surprised that our short conversation could be valuable in helping her formulate a blog post, particularly when it came to her inquiry.  I said that the things she took for granted and had been doing all the time, are things that should be shared, because they work.  She was really thankful and said it helped her to see how effective it would be if people could learn from her.

When I reflect back to this 'accidental learning' discussion, I think I have been so busy trying to change the systems (and the world) that I hadn't stopped to see that the change is happening right in front of me, in the everyday classroom with a teacher who is just going about their business.  Sometimes the most effective change happens from the inside out, and I need to make sure I don't miss those golden opportunities again.

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