Friday, March 3, 2017

Teaching time

Some time ago, maybe last week, I saved an article onto my iPad from the Christensen Institute about why teachers should free up their time.  As I'm in the UK this week looking after my mum, I have finally found the time away from school to read it.  Here are my thoughts.

The article basically asks what is the best use to a teacher's time.  The conclusion is that is it not best spent on delivering instruction, but on giving individual and small group feedback - and the way to enable this is to help students become more self-directed and responsible for their own learning.

In this article there was a link to another one, also by Heather Staker, entitled How to create higher performing, happier classrooms in 7 moves:  A playbook for teachers.  This study looked at what teachers can learn from organisations such as Google about happiness and performance.  Again the findings were that the best managers empower their teams and do not micromanage - and the question was whether or not the same principles could be applied to classrooms (and also whether this approach would then prepare students better for future workplaces).  Here are the 7 moves identified by the study:
  1. Teach mindsets - especially agency, creativity, growth mindset and a passion for learning.
  2. Release control - provide resources that students can access without direct instruction.
  3. Encourage teaming - peer-to-peer learning and team-based collaboration.
  4. Give feedback - give personal, frequent and actionable feedback in small groups and one-on-ones.
  5. Build relationships of truth - be concerned with the students as individuals and trust their ability to drive their own learning.
  6. Help students hold themselves accountable - for example to set goals and track their progress.
  7. Hold yourself accountable - track yourself through reflection, surveys, peers and self-assessment.
Even more interesting to me, the research shows that teachers can use technology for freeing up their time so that they have have more interaction with their students.  All these 7 moves are explained in detail in a downloadable PDF.

Thinking about these 7 moves in terms of building student agency, brings me to another great blog post this week by Christopher Frost from Tokyo International School about the skills that students need to be independent life-long learners..  As  TIS is a PYP school, these skills are knows as Approaches to Learning.  The really interesting thing for me, having just spent 2 days in workshops with Mark Church about making thinking visible, was how Christopher uses the Understanding Map (see my previous blog post on this here) to propose a new way to categorise thinking skills and to tie them in with the various visible thinking routines.  

Photo Credit: justmakeit Flickr via Compfight cc

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