The period between Christmas and New Year is one of the few times that teachers get to stop, relax and reflect. Using this opportunity to set a New Year’s resolution can be a very effective way to enhance our personal development and ensure our lives, our careers and our classroom teaching is developing in the right direction.
This year I’ve come up with five New Year’s resolutions which I hope will benefit my students and develop my classroom performance over the coming twelve months.
1. Provide better feedback
Last year, a colleague began convincing me that the most efficient way for a teacher to increase student achievement was to provide effective feedback. At first I thought he was exaggerating, I mean what about the latest teaching developments, modern pedagogies and educational technology? Surely all these stood above just giving better feedback.
His argument was that other methods for improving learning achievement, such as Piagetian programmes and RTI, required substantial reorganization and often approval from school leaders. In contrast, providing more effective feedback is something that any teacher can start doing immediately.
He then went on to close the argument by forwarding me a long list of research which supported his position. This evidence included a report by John Hattie which ranks 138 factors that influence student achievement, and sure enough feedback makes the top 10.
So yes, I bought into this idea and last year I made some effort to improve the feedback I gave students and I wasn’t disappointed. It was rewarding to see how sincerely the students accepted their personalized feedback and how well they remembered it. I believe one explanation for this success is that personalized feedback makes our students feel important – yes my teacher is concerned for my development and understands my abilities. This makes our students far more inclined and motivated to act upon the feedback we provide.
2. More differentiated instruction
The importance of implementing differentiated learning in the classroom is something that the vast majority of teachers agree upon – but not enough teachers put this concept into practice. I’m also guilty of not incorporating enough differentiated learning in my classes, it’s always easy to find an excuse for not planning and preparing the additional resources.
I recently read an interesting post on teachthough which pointed out one common misconception with differentiated learning – that simply asking high achievers to assist their classmates, should not be considered differentiated learning. Instead, differentiated instruction should benefit high achievers by challenging them with extension activities which help consolidate their understanding of the new concept and give them the opportunity to further apply these concepts and develop higher-order thinking skills. While at the same time, differentiated instruction will provide less proficient learners with the sufficient time and scaffolding to assimilate the same new concept.
All learners are different, and if we only teach to the mid-level ability students, we are failing our learners.
3. Effective use of educational technology
The growing availability of educational technology solutions which can support classroom learning appear to offer huge opportunities for students and teachers. However, there have been mixed reports about the effectiveness of these resources, with some reports concluding that technology has a positive impact on student learning, while other reports conclude technology only has a minimal impact on students learning, and some reports have even concluded that technology actually has a negative impact on student learning.
Over the past couple of years I’ve warmly embraced educational technology to support my teaching but this year I’m going to be more critical about how I use this technology – evaluating how effectively these resources are supporting my students’ development.
4. Flipped Learning
Flipped learning, which was initially developed by Science teachers in the US, has been labelled as one of the most important teaching innovations of the 21st Century but, like some other teachers, my experiences flipping the class have been mixed – however, this year I’m going to try again.
When teachers flip the class, students study the new subject content before going to class by watching an online video created by their teacher. Then, when the students arrive in class they begin applying this new knowledge by working on assignments under the guidance of the teacher.
An important benefit of this approach is that it drastically reduces the teacher talk time during lessons and creates more opportunities for student-centered production activities. What I like about this approach is that it helps teachers move further away from the outdated ‘sage on the stage’ model.
Flipped learning, which was initially developed by Science teachers in the US, has been labelled as one of the most important teaching innovations of the 21st Century
The flipped lessons for my English language class have focused on introducing new vocabulary and explaining new grammatical concepts. The challenges I encountered when flipping the class last year where mostly technical – the ability to develop an informative and visually interesting video for my Generation Z students. But over the past few months I have picked up a few tips from some tech-savy educators and now I feel I’m ready to give it another go!
5. Blog more frequently
In 2015 I am also going to start writing more regular posts. These posts will focus on teaching, learning and my experiences in the classroom. I believe that by purposefully reflecting on my work in class I will be able to better anaylse and evaluate it and hopefully become a better teacher.
Previously my education blogs have focused on education news and educational resources but this year my teaching blogs will be more reflective. Of course reflecting on teaching practice can be done without writing a blog but I feel the process of writing down my thoughts and findings will help consolidate my ideas. I’d love to have time to post a blog each week but what with marking, planning, testing, training, fields trips and school activities I know that will never happen. So I’m gonna set myself a rather modest goal of a blog a month.