Hello World. Having been inspired by Alan November @globalearner I have decided to participate instead of simply watching from the sides. I am planning to use this blog to share ideas about teaching and learning and to comment, less often, on educational issues in general. As a Headteacher I have to wrestle with the challenge of creating the space for my staff to engage in professional development that is motivating and meaningful to them individually whilst also trying to achieve a sense of common purpose through collaboration and collective action. I firmly believe that control stifles creativity and that creativity is the path to outstanding success in learning; so my job is to shield people from external pressure to the greatest extent possible to allow creativity to flourish. At the same time, however, I need to make sure that the best ideas for improving learning are shared and well understood and are acted upon. In all honesty, there are some things that are non-negotiable and as teachers, the autonomy we relish can’t allow us to stagnate, or meander into mediocrity. At a whole school level, there is a continuum; some teachers are more effective than others and all teachers can improve. So, there is a tension; a line to walk between enabling people to be the best they can be and insisting that they try without stifling the creativity that they need to succeed with excessive control mechanisms, fear-factors and rigid diktats.
In my experience, simple ideas are the most powerful. ‘Think Pair Share’ is, for me, the ‘washing hands’ of learning in a classroom. It is the hospital equivalent of washing hands – the action with the biggest impact to effort ratio. The most common feedback I give to teachers, by far, is that a lesson could have been improved if they had routinely asked the students to discuss the ideas – in pairs, groups, whatever – before seeking responses. I find it amazing how common ‘hands up’ is given how ineffective it is as a questioning strategy. More on this in blogs to come.
Other blogs to come will explore ideas about student-led learning or ‘co-construction’. As a Physics teacher I have adopted this approach extensively with my GCSE classes and I will share the results. I will share my ideas about formative assessment and the need for more risk-taking; my favourite analogy is ‘skateboarding lessons’ – basically how badly skateboarding would be taught if teachers ran the lessons like a standard school lesson. Another favourite analogy is how learning needs to be more ‘rainforest’ and less ‘plantation’. Watch this space……
Finally, I want to share the experience of the journey I am going to embark on from now with my school, my students and teachers and a teacher myself to embrace the world of online learning (is that even what it should be called?) I want my students to use twitter, diigo, Khan Academy, blogging, facebook…. to maximise their capacity for independent learning. This blog is my attempt to walk the talk; I want my students to blog so I am going to do it with them. Let’s see what happens.