Five years ago last month, the final in a series of blog posts called Five Surefire Ways to Engage Students was posted here. That last post, in the series begun early in 2009, was actually only the fourth of the intended five discussions. The five strategies originally highlighted were (click the links to read the original posts):
I’ll get to why I think it is particularly interesting to pick up that remaining fifth strategy for discussion a little later, but first I have to explain the reason I personally want to revisit this list. That is the fact that they support something I wholeheartedly believe – two things, really: that very little actually changes about the core elements that help us learn and also that good teaching is good teaching.
Back in 2010, Common Core was still in development, BYOD and blended learning were still fairly radical ideas for schools and no one was yet Racing to the Top. And these ‘five surefire ways’ were not new. Educators and researchers have known for a long time that teachers should teach according to the way the brain works, that we as human beings learn in lots of different ways, that learning is social, and so on. Yet, when the original posts were written, they pointed to research-based, heavily tested, and proven strategies that were still not being embraced wholesale in our education system. Now, I could stop here and ask Why? But I don’t want to rehash the reasons from 5 years ago.
What I do want to ask is – Is it any different today? I would love to yell, “Heck yeah, it’s different!!” but I’m not sure. Yes, we now have flipped classrooms and increased “rigor” and MOOCs and clickers and online testing with constructed responses and rubrics. Yes, there have been changes. Dramatic changes – in technology, tools, standards …but in teaching? As much as I want to say yes, I know that lecture is still pretty much the most widely used teaching practice; that many teachers continue to be the center of attention in their classrooms; that I still see lots of desks arranged in rows and hear way more teacher talk than student discussion.
So, as much as things have changed, a lot has stayed the same. We know the best, most effective ways to teach – just like we have since Socrates, or at least since Dewey – but we still…Don’t. do it. If you are that teacher reading this and thinking I’m wrong, take a trip down the hall and listen to the talking coming out of the various rooms. Is it students you hear? Or is it mostly teachers talking?
(By the way, I would love to hear from teachers who will say their school IS the change we want to see, so please comment on this post to tell us how it’s done!)
But back to my original point about how good teaching is good teaching and not a whole lot about the ways we learn has changed. What I am really trying to say is that these five surefire ways all come back to one thing – constructivism. A student-centered, constructivist approach to teaching and learning easily aligns to what we know about the brain, takes learning differences into consideration, embraces social and collaborative structures, encourages students to organize their learning in ways that are meaningful to them and, last but not least, promotes inquiry. And, by the way, constructivism is an old idea. Like, 1960’s old.
So this all brings me to that fifth “surefire way” – the one that never got its own post in the series. It may have been left hanging back in 2010, but it is getting plenty of attention now. As schools become more career and STEM-focused, Inquiry and Problem-Based Learning are becoming the most recent new/old thing. When this particular teaching strategy is done well it is transformative. For proof, you can listen to high school teacher Will Squires describe how his class engaged in PBL and changed their community. And if you think that Inquiry/PBL deserves to finally have its own post here, and that we should get cracking on bring closure to that series, just see Ben Furse’s January 2015 post, Teachers as Project Managers , aka “Five Surefire Ways to Engage Students: Part 5.”
-Rachel Porter, PhD
If you’re looking for a collaborative project with a visual end product, here’s another new Web 2.0 resource to try. NOTA lets users create an interactive digital poster that includes a variety of resources, including text, photos, clipart, maps, links, and more. There’s even a message board function, though it seems to be in beta mode.
Washington, DC instructional technology specialist Mark Brumley posted a very nice three-minute tutorial on the HP Teacher Exchange, and the user interface is really pretty self-explanatory once you understand the basics that he covers. You have to create a user account, but are up and running after you complete that quick process. I was able to create the following QTL Poster as a test in just about 15 minutes.
If you have an appropriate project, I highly recommend giving NOTA a try.
A participant in one of our recent ExplorNet workshops on Multimedia and Webpage Design gave us a pleasant surprise when she told us she had a prior history with our programs. Gail Thompson teaches Business Education now at Raleigh’s Athens Drive High School. But back in 2006 and 2007, she was a teacher at Dillard Middle School in Wayne County when the school implemented the QTL Foundations program. She told us she still uses the concepts she learned in QTL almost every day. Continue reading
(RALEIGH) – What good is technology if it sits on a shelf? That’s been a persistent question for administrators juggling budgets and deciding whether interactive tools are worth the price. Amid budget cuts and belt tightening, no one wants to spend precious dollars on tools that aren’t effective. But instructional leaders are desperately looking for solutions that help teachers manage and effectively teacher larger and ever more diverse groups of students. Student response systems, or clickers, are one such tool, when they’re used purposefully to increase engagement and assess student understanding. Continue reading
One-on-one teacher coaching plays an ever larger role in our efforts at The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning. The reflective approach our expert coaches use has a two-fold benefit: it trains teachers to examine and improve their own classroom practices, and does so without putting them on the defensive. Continue reading
Looking for ways to engage your students and motivate them to be self-directed learners? Here is the second of five installments of surefire tips! This time we focus on Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences and find out “WHAT KIND OF ‘SMART’ ARE YOU (AND YOUR STUDENTS)?
WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT HOW KIDS PREFER TO LEARN?
Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences has strong implications for how our students will develop into adults, get jobs and support families. Many adults find themselves in jobs that do not make optimal use of their most highly developed intelligences – for example, the highly bodily-kinesthetic individual who is stuck in a linguistic or logical desk job when he or she would be much happier in a job where they could move around, such as a recreational leader, a forest ranger, or physical therapist.
The theory of multiple intelligences gives adults a whole new way to look at their lives, examining potentials that they left behind in their childhood (such as a love for art or drama) but now have the opportunity to develop through courses, hobbies, or other programs of self-development. Continue reading
QTL Senior Instructional Specialist
Recently a colleague gave me a piece of paper with what looks like a paper doll with a backpack on it. This paper doll student is covered with little text boxes containing attributes like ‘literate consumer of media’, ‘multi-lingual’, ‘capable technology user’, ‘critical thinker’, ‘strong team contributor’, and on and on…17 in all. She explained that the image represented the characteristics a present-day kindergartner should possess by the time they graduate from high school. Hmmm…interesting.
I immediately asked myself, “Do I possess these 17 characteristics?” Continue reading