What Does This Look Like In The Classroom?

Every new education graduate comes to terms with the stark realities of the classroom in one way or another. What we all notice is that the theories of teaching and learning that we studied do not always translate to the classroom. I recently read What Does This Look Like In The Classroom?: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice by educators Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson which tries to render that translation more fluently.

It does so by gathering together the advice of experts in the areas of Assessment, Behaviour, Reading and Literacy, Motivation, Memory, Technology, and Learning Myths. The real strength of this book is that it presents a variety of educational FAQs to thought leaders of various fields and provides some tangible best practices for use in the classroom. In this post, I will discuss some of the points that I found particularly interesting or useful.

Assessment:

Writing comments on students work is only useful if they are going to use it to improve. Therefore, if there is not going to be time set aside for that, the comments are a waste of your time.

A better practice may be to select 3 of the best works from the class and critically evaluate what is good about them, having students refine their own work in response to these exemplars.

Instead of ticking 8 correct and 2 incorrect, say, ‘two of these are wrong. Find them and fix them.’ This forces them to evaluate all of their work.

Correcting a test and recording it does not benefit the student. The best person to mark a test is the person that just took it. They get immediate feedback and the cognitive dissonance helps retain information.

Behavior:

Punishments (or sanctions) need to be proportionate, predictable, and just. The inevitability of the consequences is ultimately more powerful than the severity.

Behavior and a positive class culture is the most important first step. Learning cannot take place in a disruptive class.

Not everything a student needs to learn can be super exciting. It is more important for them to learn to maintain a high level of deliberate attention than to be entertained by some novel approach to any single lesson.

Don’t ignore the low-level poor behavior. It is insidious and will eventually escalate.

Observe other teachers with the same students or have another observe you. Perhaps you can pinpoint an area or reaction that you are (or are not) doing that can help.

Talk to parents as allies, not problems. Let them know that the student is capable of greatness but let themselves down in the case of x, y, or z.

Reading and Literacy:

Revisit target vocabulary frequently. Weave it into lessons and explanations.

Students may have to encounter a word upwards of 10 times before they use it in their own speech or writing.

Identifying word roots and word parts can encourage ‘word consciousness’ and broaden a student’s vocabulary.

Motivation:

Scaffolding for achievement is important to motivation because achievement leads to motivation more than vice versa.

Students always want to do well. If they are failing to achieve, they are could just be lacking the skills to achieve, not the motivation.

Some autonomy can increase motivation, but the teacher must craft the choices in such a way that all outcomes lead to learning.

Memory:

Simply review the information they learned before moving on to the next thing.

Use Dual-coding, have students process information both verbally and visually.

Following Cognitive Load Theory, scaffolding is paramount so as to burden the student with as little new information as possible. The more complex the concept, the more step by step instruction is required.

Minimise extraneous information. If it is not related to the concept, get rid of it.

Try lagged homework; review of the material from the previous lesson rather than the current one.

Technology:

“Technology is neither good nor bad, but it’s also never neutral”

In a BYOD environment, web-based tools will work better than device-specific apps and programs.

Tech cannot replace face to face instruction, and so the technology in question should always be used to complement the classroom goals, not replace them.

Always plan lessons surrounding tech by thinking how it supports learning while looking out for possible distractions

Learning Myths:

Factual knowledge is important to critical thinking and problem solving because in order to think we need something to think about.

Bloom’s Taxonomy wasn’t based on empirical evidence. it was more of just what Bloom reckoned. (Gasp!)

People don’t actually multitask. They quickly turn their attention from one thing to another. i.e. Distractions are distractions.

Matching lessons to a student’s perceived “learning style” has no evidence of success. The takeaway, however, is that delivering content in a variety of ways is a good practice anyway.

Knowledge is still important in the age of Google where all the information is stored externally. We still need to know things to think about them.

Conclusion:

So there are some of the things I highlighted as I was reading. You might be saying, as I did, this is all still pretty theoretical. It is true that the book focused more on the role of the administrator rather than the teacher ‘in the trenches’, but it still provides a relatively update look at a range of research that might help a classroom teacher guide their practice.

If you have any methods of using research-based evidence to guide your teaching, please share them in the comments. Comment likewise if you agree or disagree with any of the snippets of information and advice that I have listed above.