It makes you think (on your feet). Am I a script writer or a director of studies?
The latter part of my career in education has seen me spending a great deal of time in classrooms observing prospective teachers in training, against the prevailing standards, to quality assure entrants into the profession and to use the outcomes of the audit process to inform the next steps of their development. I have come to see both the simplicities and the complexities of the processes within learning and teaching and have sought to encapsulate them in short, pithy, understandable and importantly, useful feedback.
The drawback in any discussion within education is the ability of participants to visualise what the other is saying. This may be due to a lack of experience, but can sometimes indicate a possible barrier to progress. Visualisation is a significant factor in learning. Without it, it is not feasible to imagine further or possibly even to follow the detail of a conversation.
So quite often it is necessary to verbalise the journey along a continuum, which is articulated in terms of knowing the children really well (analysing), planning effectively, doing, reviewing and recording. The essential start point is the knowing children well, capabilities, attributes, inhibitors. Without this, the foundations of thinking about learning and teaching will be based on assumptions, which ultimately lead to frustration for both learner and teacher.
Part of the dilemma in these discussions is the thought processes of the students with whom I have worked. They are often young, 18-21 years old and desperately wanting to do the right thing to get the best possible grade. They are seeking to mould their own mental models, especially of “what works”. This can be a hindrance as they then codify what they are learning into a series of scripts to be repeated.
There are two main types of teacher thought, as summarised by students, those who write scripts to be followed and those who work within a framework, as a director of the learning within the classroom. The former will run the lesson to plan, with reasonable timings and utilising a variety of T&L strategies, but may further determine the process through photocopied worksheets, often aimed at the whole class. They are likely to keep to their script, whatever happens within the lesson.
The latter group will, within the outline that they have prepared, be more able to respond within the lesson parameters to issues that arise, especially from the discussions that take place. They will modify their plan according to their assessment of activities. They will have determined differential expectations of each identified group and will have some individual expectations beyond that. These expectations will be the focus for detailed discussions within the lesson. Tweaking expectations is the hallmark of good teachers, student as well as qualified.
Teaching is a thought process, ahead of and then alongside learners. “Thinking on your feet” is a great maxim for any teacher, as they engage with the detail of learning conversations, seeking to understand where their pupils are, how they are perceiving their challenges and whether they have the capacity to succeed on their own or the help that they need to be guided to succeed.
Good and better teachers are knowledgeable, enthusiastic thinkers. Their thinking is adaptable and purposeful, moderated by their perception of developing needs within their classroom.