In the first part of an exploration of the visual world, I looked at the potential for the external world to become the stimulus for a great deal of learning, including developing the broadest possible vocabulary to support dialogue.
If children are not developing a broad vocabulary, then we may have to look at the adult models interacting with them and the experiences that they encounter in their school and home lives. This is not a new issue. When I started my teacher training in 1971, studies from Bristol were being used as baselines for our discussions. Harold Rosen had written about Language Across the Curriculum and Jerome Bruner was talking about the link between experience, language and thought, among many others.
The world is full of things to look at, to describe, to explore, to measure, to speculate about, to evaluate, or to just name, with closer examination showing ever greater detail that fleshes out the general experience. There is no shortage of possibilities; a series of blogs on a sense of place is linked below.
Through learning experiences, the adults act in a variety of roles, more often sharing essential information/knowledge, at other times acting as coach, engaging in developmental dialogue with learners, as individuals, small groups or whole classes. Currently, some commentators are promoting this as the work of Rosenshine, principles of direct instruction, but I see this structure as a common theme throughout my teaching career. It’s a thinking process. The organisation of a teaching space and the tasking of children can vary, but the structured information sharing, challenge and interactions with learners is the same.
Having imparted knowledge, the teacher role is to seek to firmly embed this into the learner repertoire and to check the security of understanding; modern promotion of this idea, propounded as Cognitive Load Theory. This is likely to happen during challenges or tasks that follow the instruction. Interactions are based on a teacher awareness of the learners, spotting behaviours, listening to discussion or answers to questions that suggest insecurity or perhaps significant security, either response requiring intervention and potential adjustment to the task parameters.
I’d like to summarise the two elements as 1) knowing your subject(s), with Primary teachers teaching several, and 2) being able to make a judgement where children are, at any point, to support subsequent teaching decisions. I have also to accept that there may be elements of bias in every judgement. This is a potentially significant point, but, with discussion and moderation, elements of bias can be ameliorated, if not eliminated. Interactions are the life-blood of teaching. Tests may occasionally be needed to triangulate reflection.
Subject development can be evidenced through engaging with children of different ages, either directly or through outcome sharing, perhaps through internal moderation, to determine what constitutes quality outcomes at any particular point in learning. Over- and under-expectation will result in distorted challenge, learning opportunities and potentially subsequent decision making. Collecting and collating a portfolio of outcomes is a useful discussion resource. Discussion is a form of collegiate CPD; talking process and outcomes.
We talk of formative and summative assessment; the former being responsive adult behaviour, interacting in real time with learners, the latter is any point where a teacher “takes stock”, informally between lessons and more formally in reporting, orally or in writing to any audience, becoming formative in determining courses of action over a timescale, especially where learning is an issue.
Building evaluation into lessons, through determined intervention supported by available models and enlarged through technology such as a visualiser, enables a teacher to establish clear expectations throughout a lesson and show what achievement can look like. If children are also allowed to talk about their approaches to the tasks in hand, they provide a second level modelling for their peers, and may well use linguistic styles that are understandable to children who may still be struggling.
There has always been a problem of how to remember the learning needs of a class, or classes of children. Regular readers of this blog will know that I advocate fold-out aides-memoire cards that flip out from the edge of an exercise book, enabling the teacher or learner to record items that need to be considered in any piece of work. How to use an exercise book as a personal organiser can be seen here.