I talk about teaching and learning quite a lot. In fact, if you ask my wife, probably a little too much. Because of this, teachers in my department ask me questions about what I want them to be aiming for and what suggestions I have for the classes. Rather than spend too much time talking about pedagogy and teaching models, I try to keep it simple and look at the language the students are using in the classroom.
To keep it simple…
I could go into a lengthy discussion now about deep thinking and unGoogleable questions but let’s keep it more simple. Here are 5 questions I am aiming to never hear in my classroom ever again. If these questions are happening, then they point to some fairly simple issues that can be solved with a combination of resources, technology, and new pedagogical ideas centred on empowering the learners.
5 questions to remove from classrooms
1. What are we doing today?
This question is a flag that indicates dependent students. Students that are of the understanding that learning is something delivered by an external entity. It assumes learning is an organised event that one attends. Your classroom must build an understanding that learning is constant and use approaches that encourage intrinsic desire to grow and take control of one’s own learning. Make sure your provoking questions are accessible and build habits in students to look after their own learning progress.
2. What do I do next?
No learning has an end point and teachers need to develop a classroom environment based on “how far can we take this?” rather than “is there another predetermined step?” I encourage teachers to consider the difference between developing growth or fixed mindsets. Growth feedback example: “You succeeded because you worked hard”, Fixed feedback example: “You succeeded because you’re smart” When students reach a dead end, teachers need to develop a culture of openly collaborating with peers to look for other options. This is critical to developing a culture of “we can” rather than “I can’t”.
Just to get something off my chest … all tests are a waste of time. The is no correlation between exam success and usefulness to a community or workplace. My advice for teachers locked in education systems centred on testing is to flip the teaching and get on with proper learning. Negotiate collaborative projects with your students and present any test or exam as a separate issue that is dealt with by video and individual teacher support afforded by the reduction in teaching delivery time.
4. Which app should I use?
The two best answers a teacher can give to this questions is either:
- “I’m not sure, try to find one” or
- “Does it need an app?”
It’s a sad moment and indication of poor learner mindset when a so-called digital native is of the understanding to expect tech answers from their ‘born-before-the-internet’ teachers, that they even turn to them for app advice. Very few young people in 2016 would do this outside the classroom, so a teacher has work to do if this question is reserved just for the school environment.
5. Is this good enough?
One aim I promote to teachers is to have your students care about their work but NOT care what the teacher’s opinion is. I’ve done much work with student designed mark schemes. I end most project units with a week of peer marking where each group discusses what they would look for in a successful project, they then design the mark sheet. This makes the students consider every aspect of what they have done. It also encourages all involved to think about how any element could be improved. Most importantly, it starts to develop a genuine interest the quality of their work, separate to what the teacher thinks.
The classroom is a strange environment, unlike most others, and certainly unlike anything outside school. I really think teachers can do quiet harm by developing an environment where, because the teacher decides the path and provides direct help towards achieving predetermined goals, students become worryingly dependent on school structures. A teacher may get great results, but have they produced a classroom of school-ready or life-ready citizens?