Reduce the Number of Students a Teacher Sees
The first step in this process is for administrators to work on reducing the number of students a teacher gets to see in any given week. If a teacher sees 240 plus students a week, I’m not sure if she or he can possibly know their kids. What’s the perfect number? I don’t know. I guess 1-1 teacher student ratio isn’t achievable or desirable within a school system, but anything over 80, I would say is too much.
Metacognition as an Essential part of the Curriculum
Once over this hurdle then we need to identify what kind of learners our students are. The student needs to be able to look at her or his own learning style and work out how they work best in a given circumstance. We can support this process by making room for metacognition in our curriculum. Not just make room, in my opinion, but make metacognition an integral part of the curriculum. Knowing about knowing. Teachers can use many tools and activities for helping students identify their learning style. The teachers and students can then work out when and how they use particular strategies for learning.
Getting to know the Student’s Individual Interests
As well as having a good idea of each of their students’ learning needs, the teacher also needs to get to know their students. What are their interests outside school, how many siblings do they have, what makes them happy, what makes them frustrated etc. Once this is known we can as educators, connect to those interests and use real life examples and experiences in their learning. Not just real world in terms of relating to the world around them, but real world in the way the learning connects with what the student finds interesting.
Each child is different. Each will have their own learning styles and interests. This makes designing learning experiences very difficult for a teacher. Of course, in a class of 25 students or more, a teacher will need to generalize. She or he cannot possibly plan their classes around each individual student in a situation like that. But what the teacher can do is help the student to learn about themselves and to take control and responsibility for some of their own learning. This is after all our goal. To help students become independent learners for the rest of their lives.
Agreed, but then you know that.
To a large extent what you highlight in this piece is what is missing in the UK state education service. In my pieces on education in my blog, I advocate international standards, IBO, CIS et c., and it would probably be cheaper than what is going on at the moment.
Have you read my blog? http://www.cantabrigia-tutor.co.uk/blog
Yes I read your blog. Liked the testimonials!
I also agree that the IBO have largely got things as right as they can esp. when compared with England at then moment.
Totally agree Ben – but, at least here, it seems what works in education takes a back seat to test scores and tenure. I volunteer at Max’s school – he has a GREAT teacher but she is so frazzled by what she MUST accomplish (for testing purposes) each day and there are so many different learning abilities to tend to in her large classroom she feel totally inadequate and frustrated. Gratefully, she chooses some days to just excite her students – test scores be damned – with impromptu field trips to the playground to look for bugs or a morning dedicated orchestrating an afternoon play. It’s such a tough job to find the balance. I thank you for your insights and vision of a better way Ben – I do pass them along here across the pond where we are strive for excellence by laying off teachers or cutting funding!
Great post, Ben. Couldn’t agree more, when you say that teachers should focus on helping students to take control and responsibility for their own learning. Too many students have become compliant workers instead of engaged independent learners. After only having spent a few years in primary school, students already have wrong beliefs about learning that are – unfortunately- created by the schoolsystem. As a parent, I hear : “The teacher’s view is more important than my view” , “Once I get too far behind, I can never catch up” , “A failure on this test,will close my doors to continue in this domain for ever”, but also “Homework is homework, even when you already master the concepts, you still do it, for the teacher”. And I am not happy with these thoughts. Genuine curiosity in the world around us, but also personal effort, courage to take up a challenge, occasional failure and perseverence to reach a goal, are an important part of true learning, and these experiences are far more valuable in the context of learning for life, than test results. Age groups, class rooms, teacher in front… a medieval approach in this digital, connected and international world. In my opinion, a teacher should be a personal coach, providing his students with different learning material (depending on learning style and acquired level of independence), and measuring individual student progress on a regular basis. I believe that this approach would make school a much more valuable experience for teachers as well as students.
Standardized testing? Couldn’t bother less.
– a Belgian mum –