Doing things differently

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.

Marks and marking

Maybe you want to review your assumptions about marks and marking:

Do Now 

If you would like to try a different kind of DO NOW, you can explore this Discussion Protocol. In pairs, students share their responses:

  • “I observe...” (what can be seen)
  • “I perceive...” (reading behind what can be seen)
  • “I wonder...” (engaging in curiosity)

For an interesting twist, the discussion protocol can be used in role play mode, eg in a historical or fictional setting. One could also use it in a setting outside of the classroom - eg take a walk on the campus at the start of the lesson (or the end!).

You can find more info about this on Edutopia:

A Discussion Protocol for Group Learning Experiences in High School Classrooms | Edutopia

 Classroom Layout

How are the desks in your classroom are arranged? Jo Earp raises some questions to think about when choosing a layout:

  • When was the last time you looked at your classroom layout from a student's perspective? Do you regularly check if everyone can see and hear properly?
  • Does the learning activity dictate the seating arrangement in your classroom? Do you change your layout according to different activities or at different times of the year?
  • Can you justify your choice of classroom seating arrangement on the basis of educational goals?

Further Reading & Ideas:

Problem Solving

  • We need our students to adopt a different mindset, one based on sustainability and environmental concern, rather than unchecked profit. 
  • By adopting a Growth Mindset, they can start to believe in their capacity to solve the problems facing the planet, rather than awaiting a government solution.
  • By requiring them to do some research, we will be expecting some meaningful thinking. Because this is a tough ask, they will need to learn grit and persistence - solving problems is not simple or easy.

General Reflection

As we step back into normal teaching, and before we dive into something else, maybe it’s a good time to think about what education truly could be. This video is a trailer for a documentary produced by Ted Dintersmith which examines the US education system:
Here is a quote from an interview with him:
“The film follows a ninth-grade class in San Diego, and right away you notice some unusual things about their school experience. The teachers don’t stand in front of students lecturing. In fact, one teacher makes the point on the first day of class that by the end of the semester, his goal is to be strictly an observer, with class discussion entirely driven by students. The teachers act as coaches, helping guide students who take on ambitious projects and learn (and retain) the relevant content and skills needed. The teachers make it clear that the students are the ones making the important decisions, and note “How can you expect students to learn how to make decisions if they never get an opportunity to make decisions?” Failure isn’t a stigma to be avoided at all costs, but part of the process of completing an ambitious mission. The key, for these students and teachers, is that they are motivated by an authentic sense of purpose around their work in school, and by an assessment process that relies heavily on peer feedback and a public exhibition of work. These students are developing skills that matter, not checking off a list of content to be covered superficially.”
Here is the link to the full article:
Here is his TED talk:
And here is the book on Amazon (just read the sample for free):
So the challenge is to re-think not only the logistics of education (eg online vs face-to-face, how we arrange the desks, etc), but the fundamentals of what we are doing and why we are doing those things, whether in person or not.

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