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Sunday, 15 May 2016

What Does A Post-industrial Class Look Like? Part 1


The premise of this post comes from my own classroom activities and research on the best practices educators use to engage and create rich and meaningful learning. They are not limited to the areas I write about but begin a conversation. I would invite you to add your own ideas by leaving a comment and participate in the discussion “What does a post-industrial class look like?”

Why use video?
The use of video in the context of a lesson has significant impacts on both content retention and student engagement with McInerney & McInerney (1998) 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’.

A teaching team member of mine has become synonymous with flipped learning. Taking on this concept we create small tutorial videos that have targeted tasks embedded with in them that students view during class time allowing individualised mastery learning. Not all students’ need to view all videos they are pretested and focus areas are identified. This flexibility adds additional elements to the traditions modelled, guided and independent pathway; however, the learning becomes tailored to the student. In my own class I still have the campfire moments where I bring my whole class together for the explicit whole class lesson; the waterhole moments where in a small group they work with me or a video to go deeper into a concept and the cave times where students are working independent of the teacher.

‘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 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 the outcomes emanating from 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.

As previously described the evidence demonstrations the importance of the social collaboration in tasks. The problem for teachers though is we understand that discussions can happen in a myriad of ways and are not always enhancing to the learning. When creating a collaborative classroom the desired goal is to lead students into a deeper understanding of the content. My classroom some my say is not a quiet classroom. There is always activity and rich conversation. It becomes important for the teacher to establish the ground rules and explain what types of conversations are appropriate to the situation. Setting the exemplar or standard is essential in creating and maintaining collaborative discussions in the classroom.

The collaboration that has been created in my classroom often goes beyond my four walls. We regularly engage with classes around the world for specific learning task and speak with experts in fields that we are learning in using social media and video conferencing. This extended collaboration allows students to gain a global perspective in their understanding and develops empathy for others.

Why group?
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). 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).

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).

The intentional design of groups 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). 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 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 necessitate collaboration to ensure success (O’Sullivan et al, 1996). 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). 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).

Why student-centred learning?
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). This is to say that the 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).

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). Lessons fostering these skills allow students to find answers by employing techniques such as 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).

In my own classroom I utilise a range of student-centred learning to enhance my students’ understanding. Examples such as inquiry-learning; problem based learning; mastery learning; game-based learning; learning matrix’ allowing student choice and voice and maker learning where students use items such as makey makey, robotics, electronics, coding, cardboard, 3D printing and play doe to create representations of their understanding and go through a design thinking process.

From my experience I find students respond well to the student-centred 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.

In my next post I will look at large displays, one to one technology, scaffolding and modeling activities.

References

Exley, K. & Dennick, R., 2004, Small Groups Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond, RoutledgeFalmer: New York.

Fraser, K., (1996). Student Centred Teaching: The Development and Use of Conceptual Frameworks, H.E.R.D.S.A: Canberra.

Glasgow, N., (2007). New Curriculum for New Times: A Guide to Student-Centred, Problem-Based Learning, Corwin: Thousand Oaks.

Herrington, A. & Harrington, J., (2006). Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education, Information Science: Melbourne.

Jones, V. & Jones L., (1998). Comprehensive Classroom Management: Creating Communities of Support and Solving Problems, Allyn and Bacon: Sydney.

McInerney, D. & McInerney, V. (1998). Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning. Sydney: Prentice Hall.

Mejia, E. (1999). Video in Language Education: Making News Broadcasts Work for You. URL: http://lookingahead.heinle.com/cnn/mejia.htm

O’Sullivan, T., Rice, J., Rogerson, S. & Saunders, C., (1996). Successful Group Work, De Montfort University: London.

Sawyer, R. K. (2003). Improvised dialogues: Emergence and creativity in conversation. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Stempleski, S. (1987). Short takes: using authentic video in the English class. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages: Westende, Belgium.

Verba, M. (1994). The beginnings of collaboration in peer interaction. Human Development, 37: 125–139.
 
 
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