Monday, January 24, 2011

Who, what, where and how

One of the activities we did at the Project Zero summer institute I attended was to debate what was more important - what we taught or how we taught.  The participants got into 2 different corners of the room and had to persuade those in the opposite corner to join them by explaining their thinking - some people did change after listening to the arguments.  Me, I sat in the middle with 2 others. We couldn't decide.  On the one hand what we teach is so important - the choices we make about what is important for our students to know, understand and be able to do, the choices we make to concentrate on conceptual understanding rather than just knowledge of lots of facts.  On the other hand, how this is taught can be the make-or-break for students.  The whole time teachers are making choices - they are balancing the needs of the students and the requirements of the curriculum, or, as Carol Ann Tomlinson says, the are addressing the who, where, what and how of teaching.

Who:  a classroom is made up of diverse individuals all of which affect learning:  gender, culture, personal interests, ability, experience and intelligence.
What:  this is the knowledge and skills students will need in life.  For some students who are missing critical understanding and skills the teacher will need to backtrack and give additional instruction, for other students they need to be challenged and encouraged to move forward.
Where:  the learning environment is very important if students are to feel the classroom is a place where they are valued and can become the best they can be.
How:  each student needs to be taught in accordance with his/her readiness, interests and learning style - at times whole class teaching, at other times small groups.  It's important for students to come to know what works best for them.  It's the how of teaching that really determines whether or not a teacher is differentiating and meeting the needs of all the students.

Photo Credit:  Water Drop Photography Tutorial by Steve Wall

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