Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A great teacher by design - not by chance

Last weekend I was at the NESA Spring Educators Conference in Bangkok.  On the first day I attended the Keynote by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey.  During this Keynote, the following quotation was shared:

Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance but by design.

Douglas and Nancy commented that we leave a lot of education to chance - we need to focus on how to design really powerful learning for kids.  They talked about walkthroughs and instructional rounds which focus on the teacher, the students and the content students are learning. They also talked about what happens when these areas overlap.  For example teachers and students overlap as “relationship”. John Hattie's studies show that student and teacher relationships are very powerful. Students will take risks and grow when they are part of nurturing, growth producing relationships.

Other areas of intersection are teachers and content - in this model the overlap produces clarity. Teachers need deep knowledge and need to be able to communicate it clearly.  However Douglas and Nancy also made the statement 
We need to spend more time looking down at what students are doing and less at what teachers are doing.
When we look at the intersection of students and content we find challenge.  However, instead often what schools look at is what works at the surface level (skills and concepts) for example summarising, reading comprehension, vocabulary and so on.  Yet we also need to look at what works at the deep level - making connections, relationships and schema, for example  concept mapping, class discussion, student questions. To move learning from the surface to deep you have to change the instruction and change the task.

What we also want is the transfer of knowledge - this is the long-term aim of all education - to be able to use what you have learned in new contexts (Wiggins & McTighe).  Activities that promote transfer include socratic seminars, peer tutoring and problem solving, for example project and problem based learning.  At this point it's also worth considering complexity and rigour.  When we talk about difficulty in terms of learning, it's really just about the effort needed, whereas complexity is about thinking, action or knowledge necessary to complete a task.  You can also compare difficulty and rigour in assessment:  difficulty is about how many people can do the task, whereas rigour is to do with how many different ways it can be done.  All of these are important when considering the intersection of what teachers and students are doing with the content - this is where the learning happens.

Finally we were shown a grid comparing complexity and difficulty.  It looked like this:

Our aim is that students become fluent - that they move from finding things very difficult to finding them easy - the analogy here could be driving a car which in the beginning is very difficult and complex but with time it becomes something you can do easily and automatically.  Ideally we want students to experience learning in all 4 quadrants.  Low difficulty - low complexity builds fluency and automaticity (habits).  High difficulty - low complexity, for example research projects, build stamina.

What learning engagements are you designing for your students?  Which quadrant do these engagements mostly fall into?  

No comments:

Post a Comment