1 Lessons for Learning
Teaching is a complex process. Complexity increases as we factor in assessment and pupil achievement; raising standards; the variety of experience that every classroom presents; and changes to curriculum models and subject specifications. Reviewing and refining the teaching process is necessary for teachers to be able to meet the demands of the changing classroom.
What you know as a teacher is not confined to your subject or ‘content’ knowledge. As a teacher you should expect to know about how the content is defined for the range of pupils that you teach and about the common misconceptions that are a feature of your subject and how to deal with them, e.g. by using appropriate models and analogies.
You will know about general principles and strategies of classroom management and organisation, about the pupils you teach, about the community in which your school is situated and about the aims and values of the education system in which you work.
As a teacher you make decisions all the time about how you will apply your different knowledges in order that pupils might learn effectively. You will identify appropriate learning outcomes and plan how best to ensure that these outcomes are to be met in the lessons you teach. This will involve selecting and preparing resource materials to enable all pupils to progress in their knowledge, skills and understanding.
The knowledge that you have about your subject, the curriculum and the decisions that you make will inform how you teach and how you organise the classroom to focus on pupils’ learning. Your knowledge about the pupils and their rates of progress will change your view of the teaching process for each class that you take: you will amend your ‘teacher actions’ to foster appropriate learning opportunities.
You may think that you have one preferred model of teaching. Alternatively, you may believe that you are applying a variety of pedagogic approaches dependent upon the subject content and upon the pupils you are teaching.
1.1 Teaching for learning
The combination of knowledge, decisions and action should provide an impetus for effective teaching in the classroom. Effective teachers promote effective learning in a culture of high expectations. Pupils achieve more when lessons are well structured and sequenced, when teachers make objectives clear and where pupils know what they are supposed to be learning. Effective teachers interact with pupils through targeted prompting and feedback and review learning and pupil progress regularly. They see the development of themselves as teachers as a continuous process.
These principles have lessons for classroom management too. Research by Croll and Moses (2000) and Miller (1996) argued that teachers feel that 80 per cent of the causes of challenging behaviour amongst pupils are due to ‘within child’ or ‘home’ factors. This view is counteracted by research by Beaman and Wheldall (2000) who found
- on-task behaviour of the same pupils varies across subjects and between teachers;
- when the level of teachers’ positive verbal interventions increases, there is an increase in the level of pupils’ on-task behaviour.
Two useful 'talking points' to consider are the statements
- the pupil who likes to be in trouble has yet to be born;
- good behaviour needs to be taught. (Adapted from Classroom Management - Thinking Point, section Whole).
If you would like more information on classroom management, you may find the resources on the behaviour 2 learn website (mostly OGL licence) useful http://www.behaviour2learn.co.uk/site/index.php
1.2 Task Effective teaching – effective learning 30 minutes
The diagram below describes the factors that contribute to effective learning. Each factor has associated questions and prompts for you to consider.
Jot down your responses to the questions and prompts as you work through the factors – how does your preferred teaching style encourage and stimulate learning?
Skilful teachers create effective learning situations and promote powerful learning. The impact of the teacher and the approaches to teaching that are selected cannot be overstated.
Some teaching models not only help to develop pupils’ understanding of the subject-matter being taught, but can also, if approached in the right way, provide pupils with a tool they can use to support their own learning – both now and later in life. Inductive teaching, for example, requires pupils to sort, classify information and generate hypotheses and/or rules. The process of thinking inductively can be a powerful tool for solving problems, as can deductive reasoning.
Teaching in these ways can provide pupils with skills and techniques they can use later in life. This will only happen, however, if the teacher not only teaches the lesson, but also makes explicit what they are doing through the use of metacognitive processes and by involving the pupils in ‘thinking through’ the lesson.
2 Process of Lesson Design
The process of lesson design is summarised below. The flowchart emphasises that lesson design can be viewed as a series of decisions, each leading to and providing a foundation for the next, building a planned series of episodes.
Locate the lesson or sequence of lessons in the context of
- the scheme of work;
- pupils’ prior knowledge;
- your knowledge about the class & individuals in it
Identify the learning objective(s) for pupils Structure the lesson as a series of episodes by separating the learning into distinct stages or steps, each of which has a specific outcome, by selecting
- the best pedagogic approach to meet the learning objectives;
- the most appropriate teaching and learning strategies and techniques;
- the most effective organisation for each episode.
Ensure coherence by providing
- a stimulating start to the lesson that relates to the objective(s);
- transitions between episodes which recapitulate and launch new episodes;
- a final plenary that reviews learning. (Adapted from The Process of Lesson Design, section Whole).
3 Factors Affecting Lesson Design
Effective, experienced teachers consider the full range of factors when designing lessons.
The learning objective(s) for a lesson will come from the scheme of work. Having clearly defined the learning objective, it is important to go one step further and consider the intended outcome. What will pupils produce at the end of the lesson or sequence of lessons that will demonstrate the learning that has taken place – for example, a piece of writing, an artefact, a presentation or the solution to a problem? You will need to be clear from the outset what a good-quality product will look like. This will help you to clarify your expectations with pupils.
Learning objectives fall into a number of categories.
The nature of the learning objective – for example, skill acquisition or developing understanding – will determine the approaches and strategies you use. (Adapted from Factors Affecting Lesson Design, section Whole).