Three Questions

Published: 2012-09-20 12:50 |

Category: Life | Tags: teaching, collaboration

I had a really rough start to the week. I really began to notice the “self-pace = no pace” mindset taking hold in some of my students. It was taking some students 20 minutes or more to even get their materials out, despite constant reminders and checks. I really wanted to switch gears and go back to teaching with worksheets, grades, and no choice. It would have ended my headache, at least for the day, but I would have been compromising my philosophy of teaching and learning.

George Phillip is a middle school flipped history teacher in the area and he invited me out to dinner last night to talk flipped learning.

We talked open an honestly about what struggles we were having. How do we motivate students? How do we really manage the transfer of responsibility back to the kids? How do we keep them accountable for their tasks and for the learning itself?

We agreed on three things, which led me to these three questions for learning:

  1. What tasks have you completed recently? – Learning takes a variety of activities and practice opportunities, especially when the learning is abstract, like chemistry. I don’t require that my students do worksheet A or B, but I do expect them to complete something to practice the skill or concept. This is very low-level accountability for the kids.
  2. What have you learned recently? – Reflection is critical to learning. I wrote earlier about using Google Forms to reflect, and I’m going to keep those, but I think I need to go deeper. This question links back to my performance objectives (or standards) for each chapter. Students need to be able to articulate their learning in this portion. We’re moving into higher order reflection with this question.
  3. What are you planning on doing next? – If I don’t have a plan for the day, it’s not going to go well. I want my students to think the same way about their learning. What does this particular objective lead into? How are you going to practice it? When do you need to finish? These are all questions that I used to dictate, but they’re also questions that we need to ask students if we want them thinking critically all the time. After George and I had been talking for an hour and a half or so, a complete stranger walked up to us and said,
Excuse me, I’m not trying to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but overhear what you were talking about. I just want to tell you that I really appreciate how seriously you take teaching. We need to have more dedicated teachers in schools and I wanted to say thank you for all the hard work you put in.

If you’re in a similar place today or this week, I hope you can take encouragement from this. We’re doing important work, and we can’t afford to forget what’s at stake.

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