Sunday, June 10, 2007

The craft of teaching.

Tasks defined on the blackboard (using dust free chalk/pastel) .

There is a lot of talk of the 'artistry' of teaching - the ability of a teacher to come alongside their students to have focused 'learning conversations', providing challenges, choices and feedback, depending on the needs of each learner. These days it is called 'formative assessment' but, in earlier days, it was simply called'kid watching'.

For a while this valuing of the teachers skill has had to play second fiddle to a wrongly perceived importance of complicated rational curriculums arranged in strands, levels and endless learning objectives. The teachers role was demeaned to 'deliver' and assess such incoherent fabrications.

Teacher 'artistry' is obviously of paramount importance but classroom management has a vital role to play - the 'craft' of teaching - to allow teachers to 'personalize' their assistance.

In most classrooms such organisations are easily seen in regard to literacy and numeracy programmes but all too often lacking when it comes to the content studies. As a result the energy and power created by powerful studies is lost.

In learning centred classrooms ( rooms where students 'work' as 'researchers') tasks need to be negotiated with the students and, as well, an organisation developed to allow students to get on with their tasks. As all students can't work at the same task at the same time a form of rotational timetable provides an excellent way to complete tasks and to share resources such as ICT and teacher time.

Rotational group work works well for reading and maths blocks and a similar arrangement is ideal for content studies ( usually p.m. programme). Sensible teachers develop skills such as graphing ( if graphs are required) and how to research in the morning programmes. The content studies provide, as mentioned, the 'energy' to teach such skills in context.

Such routines and procedures provide learner with the necessary sense of routine to get on with their work. Students ideally ought to be involved in establishing guidelines and procedures.

When such procedures are in place it allows both students to get on with their work independently and teachers ( and parent helpers) to focus on a particular group ( to teach a set skill) or an individual in need.

Such organisations are pivotal to establishing task orientated classrooms. Students who know what ,when, and how, to do what has been negotiated with them, and who are clear about what makes their work excellent, create the atmosphere of a true 'learning community'.

In such an environment students know what to do when 'stuck', know to get on with other tasks when current work is complete and are never at a loss about what to do.

It all might look easy to a casual observer but it is the result of quality prior teaching.


Anonymous said...

The artistry and the craft of teaching must be a bit hard to take by the measurement freaks that still inhabit those who think they count! Both are excellent metaphors.

Bruce said...

It is a paradox that the most creative rooms are often the most predictable -where students know when, what, and how to do what they have chosen to do.