It’s Good to be Old School

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I was just reading through my student survey responses and thought I would share with you a point that I feel is relevant to this course.

When asked what they liked about my classes, many of my students stated that they enjoyed the fact that I take the time to write class notes up on the board (one going so far as saying that this made me “real old school”). Most pointed out that Science has a lot of vocabulary that needs to be learned, and said that they often struggle to actually remember the concepts associated with these words when they are presented to them digitally. Having to write down the notes, they said, made remembering a lot easier.

Given how easy using technology has become, I think we sometimes forget to leave it aside once in a while. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with sending out digital class notes and asking students to fill in the blanks as we go through them. I just believe that this needs to be done in moderation.

This type of teaching benefits the auditory learners in our classes. The more old school approach, writing notes on the board and asking kids to copy them down, benefits the others (the visuals and the kinesthetics). As teachers, we should be aware of the different learning styles in our classes and should cater to each of them whenever possible. This is especially true when trying to develop new language in our students. My student’s responses show that our kids want a bit more variety, so why not give it to them?

What challenges are we facing?

As I’ve been working with my group on our collaborative inquiry task, I’ve come across a ton of information regarding the typical challenges that people face when working on this type of project. That being the case, I would like to share with these challenges, as well as a few tips for ensuring that your CI is worthwhile.

Typical challenges:

  1. Lack of time: The lives of teachers are busy, and often the urgent takes precedence over the important.
  2. Lack of focus: Teachers get distracted by talking about their students, school issues, personal lives, and as a result, they lose focus on the set goal.
  3. Personality clashes, challenges in team formation: Educators who are engaged in collaborative inquiry often privilege sameness, downplay difference, self-silence, and “play nice” in attempt to gain acceptance and support from the other group members (Gates 2014). This, unfortunately, can be detrimental to the inquiry process.
  4. Lack of clear goal: Teachers need a shared vision in line with their school’s mission, vision and values.

Tips for Successful CI:

Five principles of teacher learning are especially important here, as they have the greatest impact on the actual learning taking place (Wiliam 2016):

    • Flexibility: Teachers should be encouraged to adopt and adapt the techniques they feel are appropriate for their classroom and are more likely to make the technique work because it was self-chosen (increased ownership of the idea).
    • Choice: Teachers work best in collaborative teams when they are valued for their strengths, not focusing on improving their weaknesses. There needs to be a range of strengths to make the collaborative inquiry successful. Therefore, they must be allowed to choose for themselves what they need to develop.
    • Small steps: Teachers should only change one to three aspects of their practice at any one time. Because they must keep teaching while they are improving their practice, they need to focus and make the new behaviour automatic before moving on.
    • Accountability: Teachers need a written action plan that specifies the focus of their development. Also, sharing this action plan with peers increases accountability, particularly as teachers feel a responsibility to their colleagues
    • Support: The structures that hold teachers accountable for making improvements in their practice also provides support for the changes needed.

Works Cited:

Gates, Leslie. “Un/comfortable Collaborative Inquiry.” Visual Arts Research 40.2 (2014): 100-10. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Wiliam, Dylan. “Implementation.” Leadership Teacher Learning: Creating a Culture Where All Teachers Improve so That All Students Succeed. West Palm Beach: Learning Sciences International, 2016. 207-240. Print.

What type of collaborator are you?

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Collaboration lies at the core of SPELTAC and, as we now know, it will play an important role in our final “assignments”. That being the case, I’ve decided to share a resource that I’m hoping will help you become better at it.

I’m currently taking a course called Collaborative Inquiry as part of my Master’s degree, and one of the most important questions that we have been trying to answer is “what makes collaboration effective?”. There are many different possible answers to this, one of which has to do with the makeup of a collaborative team. According to theory, more effective collaborative groups are made up of different types of collaborators. Each of these have their strengths and weaknesses, and when they are mixed, they balance each other out. This is how iMeetCentral, a company specializing in collaboration, explains this:

“One size does not fit all. User adoption is no exception.

If you approach your collaboration strategy with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality, your rollout is far more likely to fail. Within an organization, there exist all different types of users that each prefer to work in their own unique ways – some prefer to work in groups, others in silos, some appreciate collaboration tools, others prefer their pen and paper. They also have different needs for the solution – some just need to share files, or manage tasks, or automate processes with workflows.

Learning to recognize the different types of collaborators and their reasoning for loving, or hating, collaboration will allow you to help each overcome their biggest barriers or objections.”

This being the case, it is quite helpful to know the different types of collaborators, as well as what type you are. Some of you may be able to tell simply by looking at the image embedded above. If, however, you see a few types that you identify with (I know I did), you can also complete the following quiz: https://get.imeetcentral.com/quiz-9-collaborators.

FYI I’m officially a Taskmaster, as I’m sure some of you may have guessed!

IM!

This is the third IB accredited school where I have taught and one thing that has become apparent to me over the years is the fact that teachers everywhere struggle with the concept of International Mindedness. Sure, every one of us can define IM, but I can guarantee that most of our definitions will be quite different from one another. The truth is that International Mindedness is an extremely a broad idea, and for this reason, it can take on a multitude of different forms. This explains why it’s often quite difficult for us to explain how we include IM in our lessons.

As was mentioned in this week’s readings, a very simple way to encourage IM in a school is to promote each and every student’s parent tongue (and thus their different cultural backgrounds). This is something that I feel ISPP has been doing very well (I have been very impressed with the school’s mother tongue program) and something I try to do on a daily basis in my classes. For instance, I encourage my students to use their parent tongue when doing research (Encyclopedia Britannica School Edition is a terrific tool for doing this as it has a built in translation tool). This is something that takes little effort on my part but that shows to every student that I value their native language.

 

Why Inquiry-Based Learning Makes Sense

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As I read through week three of the Orientation course, I was happy to discover that a large portion of our learning here will be inquiry-based (in the form of teacher inquiry groups). This, to me, makes sense for a number of reasons. Firstly, we are all IB teachers, and as such, inquiry-based learning is what we do every day. In the PYP,  Units of Inquiry lie at the heart of our program, while in the MYP, Statements of Inquiry and Inquiry Questions guide our teaching. Inquiry makes our lessons engaging, relevant, and challenging, and our students truly benefit from this. Seeing as this is the case, it only makes sense that we use inquiry-based learning when it is our turn to be the learners.

In addition to this, inquiry-based learning is also an excellent way of developing language in our students. The reason for this is simple: it is built on our students’ individual knowledge and interests, which includes their knowledge of language itself. By using inquiry-based learning in our classrooms, we give our students the opportunity to “think” in the language of their choice (which will often be their mother tongue). This allows them to develop a far better understanding of the key concepts being taught, which leads to them making stronger connections between this knowledge and the vocabulary that goes with it.