What are Students Doing?
Educators work hard. Really hard. Teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators, principals, vice-principals, and superintendents spend countless hours to make a difference for students. We are good at planning and presenting. We go to professional learning sessions, participate actively and feel energized. We read inspiring books on education or leadership and make concrete changes to our practice. We plan, we write, we reflect, we ponder, we read, we collaborate, we observe, we care. A lot of effort is focussed on what we do.
Do we spend as much time focussed on what students are thinking and doing?
One chapter of the book Instructional Rounds in Education is dedicated to the instructional core, or the relationship between the teacher, the student and the content. (The School Effectiveness Framework from Ontario also shows the importance of the instructional core.) In the centre of the instructional core is the instructional task. We know that task predicts performance. A worksheet to practice addition facts or an algebraic algorithm will not lead to the same learning as a rich open ended question where students have to create knowledge. In addition, many educators are experimenting with student inquiry and how to “build on students’ natural curiosity about the world in which they live” and to “place students’ questions and ideas, rather than solely those of the teacher, at the centre of the learning experience. Students’ questions drive the learning process forward.” (from Natural Curiosity)
I wonder what would happen if we focussed less on what we do as educators and more on what students are doing and thinking in our classrooms. If time was spent on the partnership between student and teacher, and we used student interest coupled with overall curriculum expectations, then maybe there would be less educator time planning, creating and presenting. And maybe, just maybe, students would be the ones planning, creating and presenting.
3 thoughts on “What are Students Doing?”
Sue, this post of yours has me thinking. As someone that’s really tried to embrace inquiry in the classroom this year, I find my students thinking more (and I find myself thinking of more ways to get them thinking even more than they already are). As students take more ownership over their learning, our planning changes, but do we really plan less? We’re planning the provocations, searching for resources at various reading levels to support student interests, organizing mini-lessons to meet full class & small group needs based on our assessment for learning, learning about new & better ways to question to get students to think more, & the list goes on. I think that this planning is well worth it, but I’m just not sure if it’s less, or instead, different? I’d be curious to hear what others think.
Aviva, thank you for commenting. I am concerned that educators, and especially teachers, will burn themselves out. While we can always be spending more time on our jobs, it is important to set boundaries. I wonder if teachers could be doing less but thinking more about what questions to ask and what direction to go. I wonder if teachers could be preparing fewer materials and “lessons” and observing and co-learning more.
Sue, I think that thinking, questioning, & co-learning more is good! This can still take time, but the time is spent differently. It’s also more exciting. I know that since I’ve started exploring inquiry more this year, I’m having more fun teaching than I ever have before. I’m really excited about school each day! When learning is fun, I find myself feeling less pressure re. time & more excitement re. possibilities!
Thanks for pushing me to think more!