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Friday, 29 May 2015

Pedagogical Tools Needed for Effective Classrooms

Why we use video
The use of video in the context of a lesson has significant impacts on both content retention and student engagement with McInerney and McInerney (1998, p.166-167) claiming that the technology provides students with ‘greater control over their own learning’ with benefits amounting to enhanced understanding resulting in ‘self-confidence, independence and autonomy’ within learning experiences. In the realm of language education, a key component across all key learning areas (KLA), Mejia (1999) extols the use of video as ‘valuable tool that can enhance a classroom experience’ through the acquisition and development of ‘listening, speaking and writing skills’ and using multiple ‘playbacks’, activities that include independent, group and whole class situations can elicit successful outcomes through ‘planned, flexible lessons, working with the level of the class’. ‘There is no one correct way to use video’ (Stempleski, 1987), however to not use this valuable tool within the class may be to the detriment of those who occupy the room.  

Why we use collaborative discussion
The mutual experiences shared through the use of technology offer realistic opportunities for student/teacher - student/student collaborative discussion to take place before, during and after its use. The importance of collaborative discussion can be seen in the unscripted and unpredictable dialogue that occurs and this collaborative discourse means that the outcomes emanating from these lessons are determined by all participants (Sawyer, 2003). The basic insight of constructivism is that learning is a creative improvisational process (Sawyer, 2003). Recent work that extends constructivist theory to classroom collaboration conceives of learning as ‘co-construction’. Both neo-Piagetian social constructivists and Vygotskian-inspired socio-culturalists focus on how knowledge is learned in and by groups (Verba, 1994) with studies demonstrating the importance of social interaction in groups where the processes reveal insights into how learning takes place, guiding future practice and planning for teachers as a result. 

Why we use group work
Kurt Lewin suggests that group work within a balanced, egalitarian, safe and emotionally secure environment is dramatically more effective as a learning methodology then an authoritarian approach (Exley & Dennick, 2004, p. 36). The classroom environment is, or should be, a safe and secure environment where groups can be facilitated in order to advance from a authoritarian environment to a self exploration of ideas, understandings, processes and knowledge applied to practical and educational tasks (Exley & Dennick, 2004, p.37).

Providing opportunities for students to engage collaboratively in lessons and activities is an important part of the learning process as it creates possibilities for students to engage with and develop skills outside the specific framework of the outcomes with any given lesson (Herrington & Herrington, 2006, p. 4). The intentional design of groups within this lesson is specifically aimed at allowing students to engage with not only the skills of working together but also solving problems from a collaborative perspective and allowing students to observe and interact with different perceptions and different ways of addressing tasks (Herrington & Herrington, 2006, p. 6). It is this methodology that will allow students to rationalize their own understanding of what needs to be achieved and then articulate that intention effectively to the group as well as evaluate and analyse it in comparison to the other members’ intentions and perceptions. 

Implementing a group rotation phase within the lessons sequence allows students to not only engage with different ideas, concepts and perceptions but it also encourages cooperation. Cooperation is achieved as the elements within the lesson require collaboration to ensure success (O’Sullivan et al, 1996, p.38). Through collaborative learning and group phases students will engage at a deeper level with the lesson material as they will need to have some tasks explained to them by others, which will require the development of questioning techniques, just as they will need to explain aspects to others, requiring reconstruction skills and effective communication (O’Sullivan et al, 1996, p.39). It is this engagement with the task on multiple levels and constructing it in varying ways to ensure others within the group can relate strategies to other students and in turn become a more effective communicator, learner and group collaborator (Jones & Jones, 1998, p.221). 

Why we use student-centred teaching
Student-centred Learning is the process whereby students themselves observe, apply and engage with knowledge to experience success within an environment constructed by a teacher for the students (Glasgow, 1997, p. 34). This is to say that this lesson is designed around the concept of creating an environment whereby students have access to information which they use to develop their understandings and then apply that in contextual problem based or investigation based activities. This methodology is advantageous as it allows students to “learn to learn” and expand their roles as stakeholders in their education (Glasgow, 2007, p.35). 

Learning to learn, or “positive interdependent educational interaction”, is a key aspect of what a contemporary educational environment should be built upon as it allow students to move away from recited facts and recalling list based answers and develop skills in experimentation and exploration to solve problems in the classroom and in life (Johnson et al, 1991, p.17) This lesson fosters these skills and allows students to find answers by employing techniques of questioning, analysing, assessing and evaluating rather than recalling rhetoric. This in turn will then equip our students to engage with unfamiliar tasks in the future with confidence as they have developed a learning style built upon adaption, interaction, reflection and experimentation (Fraser. 1996, p. 3).

How we use the interactive whiteboard 
The Interactive Whiteboard was used as it offers many benefits to the given lesson; these include demonstration and modelling as the teacher could showcase the application or video from the board (Moss et al, 2007), using their finger as the mouse; this can been shown in accessing a youtube video. It is easy to show the important features of particular software and have students interact with the material. The board can accommodate different learning styles (Herrington & Harrington, 2006). Tactile learners can benefit from touching and marking at the board, audio learners can have the class discussion and auditory multimedia, visual learners can see what is taking place as it develops at the board and it offers multimodal learning which can be tailored to the ability and stage of individual learners (McInerney & McInerney, 1998). Students can work together with individuals contributing at the board, other participants at the computer, and the group as a whole discussing the activity. 

The ultimate goal is to give students the best opportunity to be engaged with each learning experience offering them consistency, accuracy and comprehensiveness. This is primarily a constructivist approach to teaching (Mcleod & Reynolds 2007:12-14) and as such, we appreciate that students build their own understanding of the world they live in. From our experience we find Students respond well to the student-centered approach, they are quick to respond, engage and participate in class. Such an approach establishes high expectations of students and the teachers, in regards to the quality of the learning experience (Vialle, Lysaght & Verenikina, 2000). The Constructionist approach emphasizes hand-on, activity based teaching & learning during which students develop their own frames of thought. 

The interactive whiteboard is an excellent tool as it presents the teacher with the ability to encourage critical thinking in students (Hmelo-Silver, Duncan and Chinn, 2007). Attributes include ease of use, group interaction, ready availability of software to be used. Since the boards can be used with any software, they are extremely adaptable for numerous uses and do not require acquisition of additional software. Their creative use is limited only by the imaginations of teachers and students (Mejia, 1999). It is interactive therefore users can be contributing directly by input both at the computer and at the board. The interaction that transpires between the person at the computer, the users at the board, and the computer itself is a unique and very adaptable arrangement.
The board is great for lessons where the participants need printed copies of the proceedings. At the end of a brainstorming activity, copies of the resulting document can be printed and distributed, as well as be saved for future work. 

How and why we are scaffolding and modelling activities.
Scaffolding and modelling provides an example of the teacher’s expectations, whereby the most important steps and decisions are emphasised (Jonassen, 1998).  Scaffolding the learning builds student confidence and ability to expand intellectual qualities through constant constructive feedback as part of learning processes (Beale, 2005). This occurs when the learner’s inner speech occurs on an automatic, unconscious level (Ellis, Larkin and Worthington 1994). In our classrooms the teacher demonstrates using video, websites and the information desired for the student to learn then students interact with experiments. IWB and websites are used to discover opportunities, practice interaction with technology and develop proficiency to create a basis for further student development.  The desired experience was scaffolded as a way of providing support, such as contextual support, support by asking 'leading questions’, support by giving away parts of the solution and asking students to draw on their previous experience (Winnips, 1998, p. 35). The activities offer the teacher the opportunity to illustrate and explain the different perspectives and arguments from this potentially precarious environmental subject, placing it in everyday situations using different approaches to the ways of learning (Bonwell and Eison, 2000). The scaffolding process is designed to ensure that throughout the unit students become more self-reliant and develop skills to become self directed learners, an example of this is making the student aware of the process which led to the discovery (Coltman, Petyaeva & Anghileri, 2002).  In addition to improving learners’ cognitive abilities, scaffolding instruction in the context of classroom learning delivers efficiency as the work is structured and focused. The distractions have been reduced allowing time on task and efficiency in completing the activity to be increased. Creating momentum through the structure provided by scaffolding. Students spend less time searching and more time on learning and discovering, resulting in quicker learning (McKenzie, 1999).

In this, the needs of individual students learning styles are catered for, increasing engagement (DET NSW, 2003:13) and significance (DET NSW, 2003:14). By teachers knowing and utilising the student’s learning styles, they help develop coping strategies to compensate for the student’s weaknesses and capitalise on the student’s strengths. Scaffolding is an important instructional tool because it supports students’ learning. It helps students to understand that they can teach and learn from others that lead to collaboration. Students require practice to actively construct knowledge, build connections and mental schemata. Learning in this type of socially constructed environment leads to students taking responsibility for their own learning and respecting their own and others’ thinking.

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