No bells or interruptions to learning times….

Teacher Roles in LearningImage by hazelowendmc via FlickrLinda Ojala posted a comment on a blog post where she gives an overview of an observation at a Montessori school she had done. She describes some of what she saw as follows: “The students are creating their own ‘learning pathways’ – this centred around interests and strengths.  There are no bells or interruptions to their learning times.  The teacher sets up the environment, offers support but the students are encouraged to be in charge of their own learning (very strong managing self).  Reflection, knowledge of the students and assessment guides the teachers in terms of which students they need to engage with and when”.

The whole notion of the tyranny of the timetable and how it can stifle learning is quite a popular one – see for example Enslaved by timetable tyranny. There are many ideas discussed in the article, a couple of which included:

ClockImage via Wikipedia

A primary head said to me recently: “Wouldn’t it be marvellous if we could do the daily literacy and numeracy hours Monday to Thursday, and then have Fridays free for more flexible approaches?” One of the best literacy activities I do involves children acting as radio journalists and compiling a radio news bulletin. It needs a whole day, however, if a visit to the local radio station is to be included.

A newly-appointed geography teacher in a very academic grammar once persuaded his head to suspend the timetable for two days so the whole school could do Project Africa. It was a knockout, and he went on to be one of the best heads of his generation.

There is also the negative effects that timetables can have on the teachers. For example, in this paper Living by the clock: the tyranny of the secondary school timetable, Kathy Brady quotes:

Bells ring to signal the passing of classes, each of which will spend some parcel of time with the teacher in his or her classroom. Though students may move throughout the building, high school teachers often never leave their rooms in the course of a day. For every ‘period’ or ‘hour’, there is a routine: taking attendance, continuing from yesterday, introducing today’s material, winding down. Repeated five times a day. (Johnson, 1990, p.6)

I wonder if some of the notions about organisation and standardised assessment tend to go hand-in-hand with timetables. I know, from a personal point of view, when I am learning something it can take ages to get my head down and ‘into it’, and sometimes it’s really frustrating to have the flow broken. And when you get back, sometimes those good ideas will have dissipated…along with some of the motivation to continue.

High school students, DubaiImage by hazelowendmc via Flickr

I would say, though, that in my experiences with working with students, there needs to be quite a lot of support and guidance up front…and skills to be taken on board such as time-management, digital literacy, research skills, self-reflection etc. A continuum where you move from a relatively teacher-led approach at the beginning of a year, to a student-led/directed one by the end of the year seems to be fairly effective, and helps ensure that differentiation can be built into a programme…especially if a blended approach is used. (This is a paper – Meeting diverse learner needs through blended learning – about one of the programmes I developed – it’s tertiary but it describes the general approach. We did have an extremely supportive department management though, who were really happy to have a way more flexible view of what comprised the what, why, when and how of learning).

About these ads

About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
This entry was posted in All, Design, Engagement and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s