It would be great if there was no such thing as exams, but for those of us in the formal school system, they are a reality that we have to deal with every year, possibly several times. So... how do we make the most of them, so that they serve some educational purpose? And how do we as teachers really help our students to do well, given that so much judgment about them is based on exam performance?
‘If today we were to meet with Martians, freshly arrived on planet Earth and looking for tips on designing their own education system, what would we suggest?’
The Google engineers and the world’s best linguists had worked extremely hard to develop a new version of Translate that could accommodate the weird Martian language. But they had accomplished the seemingly impossible task, and it had become possible to communicate effortlessly….
As teachers, we take many things for granted. We operate according to the received wisdom of how things ought to be done. Take the time to consider how some of those assumptions can be challenged and how you might do things differently.
We all know why we are teachers and our schools have a very clear Vision and Mission which we all accept. We would like our students to leave school as values-driven, empowered young people, prepared for tertiary studies, and ready to take up a leadership role in society. By working with our students, we hope to transform not only their lives, but also our society.
So, we all know why we do what we do in the classroom. Isn’t it obvious? It is what we do in the classroom that brings about the transformation we desire in society. Or is it so obvious? Do we have a theory of change?
One way of becoming a truly great teacher is to change the way you see yourself. If you see yourself as a teacher, the focus of your energies tends to be on content that you need to teach. It is all about you and the content.
Reading is a national crisis! According to the 2016 PIRLS study, 78% of children cannot read for meaning by the end of Grade 3. Are we sure that our students really know the key skills in reading? What can be done to improve reading?
When it comes to reading, a good place to start is by acknowledging that reading is difficult and not natural, that we have to work hard to build the skills - all of us, teachers and students.
What is the ONE concept in your subject that students really need to know? Do you teach this concept? How? When? Do you continually link other ideas to this one? We can get stuck in delivering a whole lot of content which, to students, all seems to be of the same importance, and so they end up being confused, bored and swamped with too much information.
Critical Thinking is at the centre of much that we aim to do as teachers. It is a fundamental academic and life skill. If it is something we have embraced, it should be present in all our lessons. But what exactly is it, and how do we teach it?
One of the fundamentals in education is asking questions and receiving answers. Often the answers can end up being of the GWIT (Guess what I’m thinking) kind, and can be useful for checking superficial understanding. But if we want to promote thinking and deeper learning, we need to ask more searching questions, by raising debatable issues and introducing problems which might not even have answers.