Teacher Effectiveness

A useful summary of the teaching skills, professional characteristics, and aspects of classroom climate that combine to create excellent teaching and learning. I think this will be most useful as a reference guide for when I am searching for ways to improve my practice.


Get Happy

Another resource I’m reading for my Teach First preparation work, about the importance of emotional well-being.

A few thoughts:

·      Again reading this brings me back to the student-led classroom. The report makes clear how important an internal locus of control, application and self-esteem are for well-being, and that’s exactly what Dan was focusing on in his classroom.

·      The article gives the strongest rationale I’ve read for the value of structured, hierarchical (with opportunities for progression), consistently-added extra-curricular activities.

Overall, this paper reinforces what I think I already knew: that my role as a teacher is as much about helping students to develop emotional resilience, self-esteem, an internal locus of control and application as it is about teaching them maths. To achieve this requires me to be consistent with them, authoritative but in a calm way, approachable and respectful. I think I knew all this already, but the report is great because it provides a solid evidence base for this, which will be valuable to me in evidencing why I am doing what I am doing.

Luke’s World

Phew. I had to put together a kind of CV for Teach First the other day, and included in it a statement to the effect that I will bring into teaching a commitment to treat every individual as unique, with hopes, fears, aspirations and limitless potential to learn and to stretch themselves. It was a genuine statement – one that I feel very strongly about. But in writing it I was wasn’t really living the statement at the time – it was something I agreed with on an intellectual level not an emotional level (at that time).

Watching Luke’s World brings home to me that feeling. It reminds me of why I said what I said in my CV. And it’s a reminder that my students, even the ones that I’m tempted in my darker moments to dismiss as hopeless, are just like Luke in their hopes, fears, aspirations and challenges. And I can change their lives.

The Student-Centred Classroom

This is a really interesting resource for me – written for EFL teaching, it reminds me of what I learnt on the CELTA about student-centred teaching.

I start from a position of completely agreeing with the concept of student-centred, autonomous learning: for me the challenge is how to put it into practice.

Some of the practical ways to achieve this are very familiar: group work with good feedback; think-pair-square-share; 3B4ME; stepping back from group work, not intervening.

An interesting point that the booklet makes is that students will need training in autonomous learning, and convincing that it is the most valuable way to learn. I was lucky with my CELTA students that they got this immediately because they were so familiar with the methodology used by other teachers. I will need to consistently reinforce my messages about the value of autonomous learning in the classroom, and also introduce methods gradually.

Examples of ways in which I could train students to work in groups effectively:

·      Ask dominant group members to ensure everyone has an equal chance to speak

·      Give students tools to probe each others’ thinking: “Why do you think that?” “Can you give me an example?” “Tell me some more”.

·      Giving students a chance to prepare to talk in groups can help them to develop confidence.

·      Discuss the benefits of group work in groups and with the whole class.

·      Encourage students to experiment and take risks with one another.

·      Encourage them to pause sometimes and evaluate and extend what they’ve been saying, perhaps with a mini-plenary and brainstorm and then back to group work.

·      Focus on particular types of errors when monitoring, which I can then feed back in plenary.

·      Remind students that they don’t have to start at once: they can pause and collect their thoughts/make some notes.

·      Pair teacher-dependent students with more autonomous ones.

·      Consider allowing students to role-play.

The booklet reminds me of the importance of using English in language classrooms. In relation to maths I think a comparison can be made with using mathematical language: this is something I constantly need to reinforce.

Reflecting on the booklet as a whole, it is both a valuable read with new ideas, and a welcome reminder of the value of the CELTA communicative approach to language learning that I can use in my maths class.

I think the key thing, as with a huge amount of what I am reading at the moment, is to establish habits in the classroom. Because there’s no way I can keep in mind all of the above, let alone all of what I’ve been reading and will be reading over the next few months.

The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook Ch 2: Lesson outcomes

The start of this chapter doesn’t really seem to be about lazy teaching at all, but does seem quite useful. It discusses the important of learning outcomes, broadly defined as: “what students are expected to be able to do in order to complete the task successfully.”

Benefits of learning outcomes:

·      Enhancing independent learning by highlighting that learning skills run across the curriculum – you need similar skills for learning maths and DT, for example.

·      It allows you to use the multi-plenary approach.

·      It allows students to design the learning process (and evidence this) for themselves.

Rules for outcomes:

·      Use student-friendly language

·      Don’t just present tasks, but point learners to how they can achieve the outcomes

·      Don’t give the game away

·      Don’t just wait for the end of the lesson to reflect on outcomes

·      Mix knowledge and behaviours in one outcome

Outcome words are on p.36

Ideas for starters and plenaries:

·      students mime the learning strategy they will use the meet the outcome;

·      ‘stop the clock’ on a student presentation with questions;

·      put one or more students in a ‘hot seat’ to be interrogated about a topic or issue;

·      get students to identify three ways in which they have learnt that might be used across the curriculum and outside school;

The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook Intro and Ch 1

This is another book that has been recommended to me to read before I start teaching, and to keep as a reference guide.

One point the author makes right from the start is that you should be open and honest about what you are trying to do in the classroom, and what students’ roles are, and what is different from what they have done before. You should then ask for feedback.

Interesting ideas for whole class instruction

·      Make it unpredictable when and how you’re going to offer whole class instruction

·      Explain the importance of what you are saying

·      Delegate whole class instruction to students

Interesting ideas for debates and discussions

·      Have envoys move between groups to report on findings from one group and to bring back ideas from the other group

·      Use Think-Pair-Square-Share

·      Run a thinking line-up and then get people in different positions in that line-up to talk to each other.

Interesting ideas for group work

·      Emphasise how many person-minutes are going into the group, and what you expect to get out as a result.

·      Insist students move the furniture and move it back again.

·      Award marks for process as well as outcome

·      Allocate roles to pupils in each group: to keep things moving and record what is happening (reporting back to you); to keep to time, including packing up; to gather and return resources (for which they are personally responsible); to keep teams on task and to represent the team at meetings, so you don’t disrupt the task.

·      Restrict resources in some way, or require them to be booked out.

Reflection on student teachers article

Having recently read Hattie’s Visible Teaching and Learning, by happy coincidence I’ve just read this incredible article on the Teach First website.

Often with good teaching theory it’s hard to see how it would work in practice. The article is a great practical example of student teaching in action. And just as importantly its an example of trust and belief in your students.

As I reflect on it my first response is awe that someone would have the confidence and courage to do what Dan did in his observed lesson. But quickly these emotions develop into a sense that, actually, this could be a very natural thing to do, if your relationship with a class is at a certain level.

And so I guess my reflection on this article is that trust and relationships in the classroom can allow you to achieve truly remarkable things – and so it is building up this trust and these relationships that must be an absolute priority for me as a teacher.