Monday, 22 May 2017

Learning styles...

The idea of a new and wonderful initiative in teaching is a very beguiling one.  We would love to think that there may be an incredible, innovative way to share our knowledge with others that requires less time, effort and energy on the part of both the learner and the teacher.  But let's be honest, those of us who have been at this for a while realise that sadly, this is just not the case.  However, this doesn't mean that there aren't particular methods that work well for particular groups or for particular subjects.

Some subjects lend themselves to more active, hands-on approaches, whereas others, in order to make serious progress really need the kind of academic study which doesn't often involve kinesthetic or visual learning.  Whilst VAK was officially debunked a few years ago, I think that it's important to recognise that we all have different learning preferences.  Where these preferences come from may be debatable, but the fact that they exist is not.  Think about the way you react to different activities when on a CPD course.  I, personally cannot stand role-play.  I hate the concept of being put "on the spot" in this way, and yet I would not say that I lack empathy nor that I think that situational studies are a waste of time.

So what do these preferences mean for the learners in our classroom.  I would argue that the most important effect of an understanding of learning preference, is the impetus it gives us to "shake things up" a little.  To try to do different things.  This should be a recipe for making learning more interesting not just for the learners, but for the teachers, too.

Sometimes, although it may seem counter-intuitive, the easiest way to create variety in your lessons is to plan for it. Scour the internet and educational resources for ideas - there are plenty of them - and pick a few you fancy and think you would be comfortable doing with your class.  Think about alternating skills, groupings and competitive elements.  Then actually plan them into your lessons on a rotational basis.  This is the only way to really make these activities part of your repertoire.  Inspiration certainly strikes us, but without a fair degree of embedding and reinforcement, we all slip back into what we already know very quickly.  The knack is to make the new activities part of what we already know and are comfortable with.

This is probably the best way to keep our teaching "up-to-date".  Especially for those of us who aren't new to this any more!!!

Praise be!

I read a really interesting article recently, about the type of praise we should be giving pupils for maximum benefit. 

The article quoted studies that have been done that show the best type of praise and feedback is that which praises the pupil's effort and resilience.  

Unlike praise given for achievement, which may feel like something very fragile, something you can mess up with the next piece of work, which isn't as good, the time and effort that you put into a piece of work is something well within your control.  

Indeed, it was shown that this form of praise and feedback is instrumental in improving engagement within the classroom and creating a positive work environment.

So next time, remember to praise the endeavour first and the outcome second!

"You've worked really hard on this and I can clearly see how much effort you've put in - that's fantastic!"