The Durrington Research School team writes about a series of eight blogs The Great Teaching Toolkit Evidence Review recently released by Evidence-based education. The report is the first step in developing the organization’s Great Teaching Toolkit. The aim of this project is to change the professional development of teachers by creating a feedback system that promotes continuous improvement. This first report contains a model for teaching learning. This is followed by a number of tools that teachers use to get diagnostic feedback as they work toward specific goals. It will culminate in the development of networks of educators who generate, share and apply the evidence.
Half of our blogs have been published on our website Durrington Research School The sister site will review the evidence tests included at the end of each chapter, while classroom blogs will focus more on interpreting advice for teachers.
This week we will examine the impact of the second chapter, “Creating a Supporting Environment” on Teacher Professional Learning. The review divides this chapter into four elements:
2.1 Encourage interactions and relationships with all students who are
based on mutual respect, care, empathy and warmth; avoid
negative emotions in dealing with students; to be sensitive to that
individual needs, emotions, culture and beliefs of the students
2.2 promoting a positive climate in student-student relationships,
characterized by respect, trust, cooperation and care
2.3 Promoting the motivation of learners through feelings of competence,
Autonomy and kinship
2.4 Creating a climate with high expectations, high challenges and
high confidence so that learners feel it is okay to try; encouraging
Learners who attribute their success or failure to things they can change
This is a very complex area of teaching practice. This is obviously made clear by highlighting only a few of the languages contained in the above elements, including: relationships, respect, empathy, cultural beliefs, trust and motivation.
It is notoriously difficult and full of subtlety and nuances to effectively intervene and positively influence these areas of student-teacher and student-student relationships and interactions. As much emotion plays a role here as the personal inclination that we and our students all carry into class.
In fact, the report itself raises the possibility that teaching skills and behavior in this area should form part of the more advanced end of the curriculum for teacher development. Even going as far as saying that competent teachers can be very effective in promoting learning for most students without really paying much attention to this dimension.
As someone who regularly leads teacher training and CPD in a variety of areas, relationships, and particularly student motivation, are constantly discussed as an obstacle to the successful implementation of teaching strategies. Therefore, we must not shy away from dealing with this dimension as this is one of the combinations of elements that make up a great teaching. Yes, it’s difficult and nuanced, but we’re in a profession that involves human interaction, so we ignore it at our risk.
It is also very difficult to offer teachers specific measures or CPD activities in this area. I used Deci and Ryan’s (2008) self-determination theory in training, but unlike Sweller’s (1994) cognitive load theory, there are far fewer easy ways to give teachers the opportunity to incorporate them into their practice. What ends up happening is a bit like this blog, a discussion of the problems, and an identification of the problems. For this reason, I am particularly pleased with the toolkit that belongs to this dimension. It is really exciting to have some activities for teachers to engage in to get diagnostic feedback in this area and strategies to improve their practice.
I certainly don’t want to anticipate these tools and would instead suggest that a good starting point for some self-reflection in each of these areas would be a series of potentially challenging questions. These are challenging because we all want to feel that the environment we create is supportive. Therefore, it is uncomfortable to consider the alternative. The following questions are not all in this dimension and should best be considered after reading the report to get the necessary context.
- How well do you know your students’ specific SEND needs?
- Do you know and take into account the cultural identities of your students?
- Do you ever use sarcasm when speaking to students during a class?
- Do students pay attention to and respect other people’s thoughts in your classroom?
- What is the motivation of your students on an average day in an average lesson?
- Do you ever lower your expectations for students who are part of a specific sub-group (e.g. students who receive free school meals)?
- Do you avoid asking challenging questions to students who seem less confident?
- Do students feel confident in taking risks and accepting mistakes in your classroom?
These questions inevitably lead to further questions and also not necessarily to simple answers. However, awareness of a problem is essential to tackle it, and so the thinking involved should provide a useful starting point for the next steps. Hopefully this next phase will be supported by the Great Teaching Toolkit. If the first report is still pending, we can’t wait to see it.
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