No student gets up in the morning and comes to school with the intention of not learning anything. No teacher comes to school with the intention of teaching but with no student learning.
Yet, many hours are spent with either one of them or both, not succeeding in their attempt.
There are two things that happen. One, as teachers we fail to connect with our students because we fail to see the barriers that are between them and us. Two, we continue to make it a ‘them and us’ dialogue or system. Making it more often a vertical connect, where the teaching and learning is between teacher and student, instead of making it also a horizontal connect, where students also learn from each other.
It is well accepted a fact that students learn best when they interact with each other and get an opportunity to teach their learning to their peers. This vertical and horizontal connect, strengthens the environment for learning removing many of the barriers that students face.
As teachers and administrators, we need to be mindful of the cognitive, physiological, psychological and social barriers that students face. As Grant Wiggins says, “We have to look at outcomes and not just good intentions.”
Few strategies that we can use in class to overcome these barriers:
1. Timing each question
This is something I caught on from IB Question Banks. Set timer for each of the task that you give to the students. It helps the students to understand deadline management and helps them calculate their own progress. I extended it by encouraging students to write down the actual time they took to complete each question. This helps the teacher identify the questions students struggle with.
2. Dual coding
Creating visuals with texts helps leaning stick. When students create visuals for the concept or content that they are studying, they concentrate more and recall better. Encourage them to build their visual vocab library. Using specific symbols and icons helps them to create a pattern of connectors. In fact, when students think in visual terms, they tend to observe finer details through improved focus and concentration.
Establish fair and consistent routines in classroom so that students do not find the environment challenging. Having routines encourages discipline and brings in equity among students.
4. Build relationships
Students like to feel connected. Knowing about your students, their interests, likes and dislikes help them feel wanted and goes a long way in making them feel secure. Children will show their vulnerability only when they feel secure and safe. They will be more open to taking risks, asking more questions and not feel shame if they fail in their attempt.
5. Class clinic
Some students feel more comfortable asking questions when the whole class is not listening to them. Also, many time students actually do not realize that that they have not understood the content or the concept or a skill. Having a ‘clinic’ or a ‘you and me’ time helps students to have one on one mentoring.
6. Embed learning
Students can showcase their learning in multiple ways and a different times. Grades on a single assessment does not define their understanding. Give them multiple opportunities to test their learning.
7 Quick checks
Provide numerous opportunities for students to reflect on their learning. Students may not always ask questions and therefore must be encouraged to do so. That could be in the form of a quiz that they create for their peers. Have opportunities for peer assessment. Teachers can share marked work with students. Or let them mark against marking criterion and then verify the same. Assessment as learning occurs when students monitor their own learning.