10 practical steps to make your classroom a thinking and learning space

What is your classroom culture?

Is it about learning and thinking or compliance and behaviour?

Below are my notes from watching the talk by Ron Ritchhart. The video is at the bottom but is 45 mins long and so here’s my summary of practical steps every teacher can consider.

8 forces of classroom culture

8 things that are already in your classroom that you can leverage to improve the learning culture and make life easier and more positive for all.

  1.  Routines
    • “This is how we do things here.” This list includes ideas about how the habits and routines you decide on can be twisted to improve the learning culture and thus outcomes.
  2. Time
    • How you spend time displays what you value. This list includes ideas on how we ensure students and ourselves are focused on learning over compliance.
  3. Opportunities
    • How are we creating opportunities to: challenge misconceptions / drive curiosity / experience metacognition etc. Opportunities to not appear to be just the same as always.
  4. Modeling
    • Instructional modelling = how to carry out a skill or process (on/off teaching)
    • Dispositional modelling = how teacher thinks and approaches problems (always on)
  5. Interactions
    • How Teacher interacts with students – is it learning focused?
    • How students interact – needs developing through structure and practice.
  6. Environment
    • The room says a lot about the learning that happens. Is it inviting? Is it about learning and progress? Can physical elements and displays be used to increase learning awareness for all?
  7. Language
    • We v.s. I, our v.s. your learning. A collective enterprise is more open and inclusive. Makes teachers more approachable and popular.
  8. Expectations
    • Expectations OF our students are cheap – it’s just what we want (Doesn’t cost the teacher anything)
    • Expectations FOR our students includes expectation on the teacher and the shared responsibility for learning and progress. Teacher seen as fair and engaged with the students in the learning.

Language creates culture

  1. Consider: What would your students say that you repeatedly say in class?
    • Does your answer really define what you value most?
    • Is there a more meaningful or larger value that your answer is pointing to?
  2. Things to say to students everyday:
    • Hello / Goodbye – Recognising / noticing every student as they arrive / leave = 20% engagement increase – Misbehaviour down 9%
    • Why might you say that? (“The magic question”) – Forces studnets to better review how they arrived at their thinking –  bigger picture. Great calming question during conflict. Be warned – students will direct the question at teacher! 🙂
    • “Talk to me about what you are doing”. – Externalises their thinking to review what they are doing and why. They become more metacognitive. This can lead to natural formative assessment information for the teacher.
    • Here’s where we’re going with this.” – Creates a bigger sense of purpose / a narrative. Better that specific objectives and intentions – they are targets not purpose.
    • “Here’s the thinking you’ll need to do” – We often explain the logistics or outcomes we want students to produce, e.g. “Write 2 paragraphs using 3 sources” But the work is not where the learning is. Lead the activity with the thinking that will be needed, e.g. “You will have to present an argument so you’ll need different perspectives and this is why you’ll need 3 sources.” A subtle difference but it’s important to lead with thinking before work.

Here’s the 45 min talk by Ritchhart.