Can you have a good lesson without questioning? I think the answer is no. Let's examine this further.
The real learning takes place when students talk to each other. High level questioning and collaborative learning activities are a must for a good lesson.
There are several ways that students will learn – and make progress – in your lesson.
Firstly - what is learning?
This is a big question which educationalists have researched, analysed and debated for years. Consequently, there is no one answer – but in essence it is
Most importantly for teachers is how do we ensure learning takes place?
Learning for progress has to be information which is embedded. That is, it becomes something which remains in our memory either in the short term or the long term. We need to make sure that new knowledge finds its way into students' long term memory so it can be recalled at a later date for examination purposes!
When it comes to planning lessons then, our choice of activity is vital. So how do we plan effectively? Some of this has already been examined in three earlier lesson planning blogs (Learning outcomes; Starters and Plenaries; Differentiation). Here we will look at the impact of certain types of activities on learning.
In the chart below I have plotted certain types of activities against the potential for learning of each. Note the role played by the teacher in both lesson preparation and lesson delivery.
We need to carefully balance teacher-led activities with those where the students can contribute more fully.
Chart examining type of activity and its learning potential
Here's a question for you - if an activity does not lead directly to learning – how long should you spend on it? What percentage of the lesson can afford to be teacher led, if the students are not actually able to make progress during this time? If you only have an hour – should you spend 30 minutes of that hour talking to the class when there is too little learning potential from this alone?
Here's another way of looking at it. Ultimately we want students to have the opportunities to make connections between new information and existing knowledge or experiences. This is what helps us to learn.
When you are planning your lessons therefore, consider the amount of teacher input compared to the amount of student input and its relationship to learning potential.
The chart below looks at both teacher and student input in relation to learning.
Teacher and student input v learning potential
Examine each of the boxes below - remember the aim is to get a balance between teacher and student input - with the aim of ensuring high learning potential.
Suggested tasks for your evidence portfolio:
1. When observing others next week, try to examine the percentage of teacher and student input, the types of activity and the learning potential of each.
2. Take a look at one of your earlier planned lessons and see if you can adapt it to enable a greater potential for learning and student input.
Why do we do collaborative learning tasks?
Note the term I have used – not group work, but collaborative learning. There is a difference. In my last blog post I talked about how rapid progress and real learning takes place during learning talk amongst students. We are going to look here at how you can offer opportunities for this to happen in your classroom.
I will refer to learning talk again and again throughout the year as there is a lot to think about with regard to this term (my PhD was built on it!).
A good introduction to group activities in your class if to ask them for the ground rules. They will come up with the following:
Listen to each other
Give everyone a chance to talk
Don’t shout over each other
Make sure everyone joins in
Once you have determined the expectations – put them on the board as they suggest them – you have a written guide to return to if any of them fall short!
Remember – students are used to group work, so when you plan for this, use the strategies the good teachers use and you are already on a firm footing!
What questions you can ask in your reflections
Where in the lesson do they do the group task?
What impact do you think this has?
How much input does the teacher have in the group task?
Where does the learning take place in this task?
Talk to the teacher after the lesson
What do they do to make sure the class does as they are told?
Would they change their strategies with another class / year group?
What three things are you going to take away to put into place when you next plan for collaborative learning activities?
Next blog posts:
Using video to increase the power of your mentor meetings!
What makes you a good teacher? Set out your expectations!
Dr Sharon Williams