I’ve been wanting to put down in words a description of the classroom I would like to have as a teacher. I especially want to collect, post, and reflect on my ideas before my first year of teaching (starting September 2013), so I could read your feedback, be more purposeful in planning, and document how my ideas have changed after a year of teaching. If you have the time to read my post, please feel free to share your thoughts with me. After all, I’ve heard “a word to the wise is sufficient”. Now I just need to find someone wise to read your comments…how hard can that be. 🙂
Purpose of teaching
My ultimate goal (subject to revision) as a teacher is to engage students in learning. There are at least three characteristics of learning that are important to share with your students through your teaching. 1) Learning is fun, 2) We can become more skilled at learning, 3) Learning is a continuous process (it does not start and end with a class or school year or school career). I was going to include, “learning should not be graded, it should only be documented”, but I’ll leave that out for now.
Skills students need for their future
I recently went to the Connect 2013 conference (May 6th & 7th) in Niagara Falls. I kept hearing from different presenters how educators need to focus on four competencies, or seven competencies…depending on the presenter. The four skills that students need for growing up in the 21st century are communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
Of the four skills, I think that teachers are typically only assessing (and therefore valuing) critical thinking. The other three are somewhat valued, but can be difficult to assign a grade to…so creativity, for instance, is paid lip service but does not show up on a report card.
I am interesting in creating a classroom that promotes these four skill sets and assesses them in conjunction with the curriculum outcomes. I’m not pretending that this will be easy, or that I even fully understand what this might look like, but I have some ideas.
This is an area of personal conflict for me and (I imagine) many educators. The political powers and to a large degree the education system operate and communicate student ability with grades. However, I believe a focus on grades hinders students from focusing on learning.
On the other hand, I value feedback. So my solution is to use collections of student work throughout the school year as evidence that students have met the curriculum outcomes. The collections of student works could be group projects, presentations, traditional tests, blog posts, videos, essays, storytelling, etc. I plan to use both a physical portfolio in the classroom and an electronic portfolio in the form of a student blog. I will provide students with feedback on their assignments, but not marks. Through their blog, students will receive feedback from other students, parents, and educators (hopefully around the world).
Throughout the semester, I hope to build the students’ ability to grade their own work (designing and discussing rubrics together and practice assessing each other’s work) and collaborate with them to create a “meaningful” grade for their mid-term report card and also for their final report card.
Characteristics of my classroom
Since I don’t know exactly what subject areas I will be teaching next year, I am going to pretend that I am teaching a high school physics class. Most of my ideas can be transferred to another subject and another age group, but I need somewhere to start.
1) Tables that students can sit at in groups, tables to stand at as well.
2) Chairs that are comfortable and adjustable, carpet floors so chairs don’t make loud noises when they are moved around into different configurations (individual work, small group work, class discussion circle, etc).
3) Reading area with a science magazine rack, iPad or electronic reader, couch, lamp
4) Video projector to share electronic media with the whole class
5) iPad (or equivalent) for Skyping other educators, experts, or students into our class
6) Wireless network with large bandwidth to support devices that student bring (BYOD) to learn with
7) Slow motion camera…because physics is even more amazing in slo-mo
8) Room on the classroom walls for student work
1) Inquiry, project based, group and individual learning
2) Feedback only for formative assessments
3) Student designed classroom rules (regarding behaviour issues)
4) Physical and online portfolios to document learning
5) Show and Share Fridays…where we get together in a circle and listen to group presentations, discuss current issues in science, and talk about physics! (Students can bring drinks and/or we can brew some coffee and tea)
So there are some of my ideas for next year. What do you think?
If you haven’t already read Taylor’s Proposal for how teachers could educate, you should.