My new role in primary school as teacher – mentor (teacher leader / teacher trainer / teacher – coach / teacher – critical friend / teacher – guide) this year, has been exciting, challenging and full of new learning and experiences! One of the many ways in which I play my role, includes leading assistant teachers from across the primary school, in mini workshops or training sessions to enable and up-skill. This term, I had three such sessions. The third one, which took place yesterday, was very powerful for me and I do hope, for the participants (my colleagues) as well.
In our last meeting, 2 weeks ago, I had chosen six different readings, some which included latest research on education and some that I have enjoyed reading (blog posts, articles, excerpts from a book) and shared them with the team on google docs.
- Making thinking visible – David Perkins
- 20 Collaborative Learning Tips and Strategies For Teachers – Miriam Clifford
- What Doesn’t Work : Literacy Practices We Should Abandon – Nell K Duke Edutopia
- The Culture – Friendly School – Simon Rodberg
- Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites 20 Instructional Strategies that Engage the Brain – Dr Marcia L. Tate
- From Seatwork to Feetwork – Ron Nash
Each teacher signed up for one reading, based on interest. As in a flipped lesson, they had to read and engage with the article, blog post, excerpt and make meaning before coming to the next class (session).
In the following session, expert groups were formed, by referring to the choice of each individual. We had improvised the traditional jigsaw approach for cooperative learning. Keeping effective group sizes in mind, there were only 3-4 people in each group to ensure quality discussions and participation from all.
Teachers in their expert groups were given about 15 mins to discuss their findings, brainstorm and decide what information they would like their learners (the rest of the teams) to know. The focus was not on how much the expert knows but on what the learners need to know.
A very interesting book that I am currently reading, ‘From Seatwork to Feetwork‘ by Ron Nash, has planted in my brain, a very useful and effective question, which seems to work in any context of teaching and learning. ‘Who is doing the work?’ If the teacher is doing most of the work then the students are doing less of it!
The session helped reinforce this understanding in my ‘classroom’ yesterday. I, as leader had to ensure that the materials were ready, technology was working and the HW I had set out for my students (teachers) had been completed by me as well! All the work, was being done by my students. They were working hard, not me. Isn’t that what classrooms should be like? Often, as stated in the book, it is the teachers who work harder than the students. Not only do they spend hours planning and preparing material that they think students need, but they do the talking and the reading! They do the marking and give feedback too. They do the work!
The teachers presentations were thought provoking and meaningful. The content was relevant and appropriate to the needs of the learners and so making meaning for each one, by sharing examples and linking with their own classroom experience was easy. After each presentation, the team got a chance to reflect and record any take away’s or understandings on the google doc (which was co-creation of new knowledge)!
Here are a few pictures of the session with my learners (teachers) working hard!
I will sum up, using one of the articles above. Was this session a reflection of appropriate use of cooperative learning to develop new understandings? Did it challenge the belief, that the teacher is the fountainhead of all knowledge, which is still rampant in schools?
I respond using some of the key points shared in the article:
- Establish group goals
- Keep groups midsized
- Establish flexible group norms for the quality of interactions
- Build time for reflection
- Consider learning as a process
- Group work reduces anxiety and is low risk
- Use real world, relevant, everyday problems
- Be aware of the diversity in groups
- Use of technology makes collaborative learning easier – yaay to google docs!
- Learning is social in nature
Have you used any cooperative learning strategy in your classes lately? Which one do you find most successful and Why?
In your class, who does the work?