Archive | March, 2012

Explaining the Finnish Miracle – Part Two

15 Mar

Explaining the Finnish Miracle – Part Two

Excellent multidimensional explanation about Finnish system! Please read!

It also contains the broader view of curriculum being the practical and helpful guiding tool for intentional teaching and learning – yet providing flexibility for individual schools and teachers to make learning happen in an individualized way. It is the true work plan. Not something publishers are selling, but a tool created for your school and your students.

Mentioning the corridors etc. as important places for learning made me miss the days I was teaching elementary in Finland, and often sent students to study in small groups to different places (like corridors) within the school building … sometimes we used stairs or dressing rooms as small group spaces. Students completed their assignments and returned to classroom to ask for more…. 🙂  But nobody was worried about them going missing, as they were highly accountable for their own learning.

Choose your focus

14 Mar

Anything you pay attention to in your classroom will inevitably increase. It truly is as simple as that. The human perception focuses on things we expect. This is why verbalizing your positive expectations in the classroom will make a difference.

As a teacher you are externalizing your values and beliefs while you teach, i.e. communicate with your students.  So, if you expect students to hate learning…. well… that is what you will get.  And vice versa, if you expect every student being capable for learning and submitting good quality work, that is what you will get (sooner or later- be patient).

Focusing your communication on what you want to happen in your classroom creates the expectation for students. I am talking about the subtexts of the classrooms anywhere, on any level of education.  There are ancient and new studies about this issue, one of my favourites being the Pygmalion Effect, of course. And I know already visited this issue in the post about Hidden Expectations, but  I wanted to focus more on communication here, and emphasize its effects on learning. Or, not learning.

Every teacher knows how it is not only important what you say, but also how you say it and the non-verbal communication accompanying your message. These three are commonly referred to as verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal messages, and the emphasis of each of them changes a bit depending on the age of your students. The younger the student, the more emphasis you need to put on the para-and non-verbal messages. Often this is expressed with a triangle showing a small portion on the tip being the verbal communication, and the other two being the  over 90% majority of what children actually receive. For more mature students the verbal message is stronger, but the other two parts of your message still remain important.

But there is actually more to that. Your classroom practices must match with your communication. If your words (and expressions) are being positive but the undertone strongly negative, students will be following the latter. Having practices that promote initiative, autonomy and student accountability strengthen your positive messages in the classroom, and also strengthen students’ understanding about their own learning process – which of course makes giving positive feedback even easier.

Creating positive spirals in classroom is easy! It is also a choice each and every teacher has to make. It starts from stating positive expectations to your students, and then making sure your classroom practices match with your words.

What do you want your focus to be?

The Learning Path

2 Mar

The Path of All Learning – How we move from Observation to Action.

Such a nice way of visualizing how learning happens! The amount of information (or the data) around us is bigger than ever, and the internet provides us with more and more data all the time. One important role for an effective teacher is to help students make good choices while searching data (and information). It may not be obvious for students what a reliable source looks like, so it is essential to teach about source criticism. I would also communicate early and often the fact that the knowledge two students construct from the same piece of information is different.

Your knowledge is different from mine, and that is exactly how it should be, because learning is highly individual (as opposite from teaching that can be done even with mass media). I know this does not exactly fit into the current testing culture, but let’s be realistic: students are learning for life, not for school. (At least that was the basic idea of public education when it was founded: to help students become ready for their lives.)

How could we lead more students to the path of learning?