A haircut … and a real job

I find that if I am able to get students discussing the topic and taking seriously the valid ideas they come up with then there is usually a higher level of engagement. Some of them also start to realise that they know more about the topic than they originally thought, they might even have an opinion. The buzzword seems to be ‘dialogic’ teaching, when I was at university we talked about ‘Socratic’ method. To me it is just common sense engagement.

I am a firm believer that if education is to be of value it will require us to question everything. I try to encourage my students to start from the point that ‘everything you know is wrong’. This is not meant to be taken literally but if we start from the point that there is always something else to learn then we will be more inquisitive and this will make us better learners. Instilling this curiosity will create a higher level of intrinsic motivation. The desire to learn for the sake of learning. This will also turn us into lifelong learners if this way of thinking is how we approach all aspects of life.

I find that the New Zealand curriculum gives us the freedom to do this and even NCEA does as well if managed properly. The problem seems to be that there has become a constant drive to have specific measurable indicators and this has made current high school education become more of a drive to pump out credits. League tables tell us which are the best schools based on the numerical number of credits at different levels. This is not what education should be. We have become guilty of attaching economic significance to education. The value is what we can earn and how it sets us up to function in an economically motivated society.

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Timing

It’s been a crazy, busy time of the year. The days are shorter and the weather cooler and lately wetter. The winter blues have well and truly set in. These have not been helped by five years living in the tropics. My first winter in half a decade is biting hard. Meanwhile, the relentless march of the academic year continues. Sickness has hit as well, with 2 bouts of the flu about 3 weeks apart, which co-incidentally fell into line with my last two PLD observations.

Our PLD this year has us being observed twice a term as well as appraisal on top of that. On one level this does feel like overkill but on the other it is a useful opportunity to reflect on our practice and make the effort to improve.

This weeks observation was focusing on getting students to take more ownership of their work and be able to start assessing how they are doing for themselves.  The handing over of control is not one of the easiest things to do and is something I have grappled with. The lesson itself was quite different to what I am used to. I spent very little time at the front of the class and the students spent the time working on their activity in a small group or alone. I circulated round to clarify things if needed, at one point having to clarify something for the whole class on the board so that they could move on.

Overall, the class rose to the challenge and, with the exception of a few students, were engaged and completing their work. In my feedback session I found that most of the students had some idea of what they were doing and why. I said the aim was for the students to self and peer assess their work later in the week. I was given the advice to give the students a chance to self-check their work against the criteria before they finished so they could plan the rest of their work.

I did this and some of the students used the form well to plot out next steps for learning, however, a number of the students put minimal effort into the actual reflection. Instead they wrote things like ‘nothing’ or ‘everything’ instead of being specific. This shows me that they have not yet been trained in the art of self-review and planning, so this gives me something¬† to work on and a skill to give them. When I have the time.

Chewing the fat.

Had a couple of interesting discussions today while doing my ground duty at lunchtime.

The first discussion was about the nature of what education is, why are we teaching? I brought that I had done some reading and research into free/democratic education and found the ideas and principles behind it to be appealing and something to aim for. I find myself in something of a dilemma as the more open style of learning and inquiry type of learning seems to be heading in a similar direction. I also pointed out that it seems to be undergoing a hijacking of sorts by an agenda that is bringing in almost ridiculous levels of checking and accountability. The open spirit of democratic education is being suffocated.

The second discussion at the other end of my duty was about the video clip we were asked to watch for our PD. While at a very different level than what we are teaching there were some things to take away, mainly that allowing students the chance to collaborate helps them to master skills that are needed.

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