“Projects, inquiries and assessments are all too much…”
...and our thoughts on this.
Hello and welcome to the 29th edition of our fortnightly newsletter, Things in Education.
We will be the first to admit that we were trying to make this newsletter as diversely appealing as possible, with all the expertise we had within our organisation. And over the last two editions we have spoken about all that we shared about foundational learning and the basics in classroom teaching and learning. Today’s edition summarises some specific classroom pedagogies that we spoke about over the last year. It also contains some of our ideas on assessments.
We have written about inquiry classrooms and how we, as educators, feel overwhelmed by the vastness of inquiry classrooms.
“Inquiry classrooms get out of my control…”
“In inquiry classrooms, I get overwhelmed by the amount of information that I need to have about a topic.”
These or variations of the above are common concerns that we see among teachers, and we wrote about some simple things to be aware of so as to not let an inquiry approach overwhelm a teacher. It comes from building the culture of curiosity in the classroom and the importance of letting the students find out.
Students are not going to find the transition from traditional classrooms to inquiry classrooms straightforward. Like we just mentioned, it is a cultural change and students may not even know how to approach an inquiry problem. So we also wrote about what teachers can do to make the transition easier and some specific steps that we can take to build students’ confidence to conduct their own inquiry.
Apart from inquiry, we have also seen how PBL can fail in classrooms. There are a lot of myths out there about PBL which we have tried to bust, and hopefully help teachers clearly see what is important in a PBL class. What is important is not that the student builds a tangible thing as a project. It is the process of learning through projects that is important.
We also wrote about how easy it is to get flipped classrooms wrong. Flipped learning seems to be the silver bullet – can be technology-based, can give teachers more time with the curriculum, can change the nature of engagement with students. But like any pill, flipped learning has been a hard one to swallow for educators. We wrote about why flipped learning is not yet revolutionising schools.
We have also often heard that trying out project-based learning lessons or inquiry classrooms takes a lot of time away from teachers who are under pressure to finish curriculum, do other school duties and also ensure student learning. Trying new things becomes a challenge. But there are ways to deal with it through prioritisation.
An important aspect of teacher and effective teaching is ensuring student understanding. Lesson plans can be motivating, with various pedagogies of learning. At the end of the day students need to learn. Only well thought out assessments can give us a decent picture of student understanding. So it is important to ask why are we asking this assessment question. As the piece suggests, the learning goal, assessment goal and hence the assessment question need to be synchronised. Once we know what we want to ask, it becomes important to know whether students are really applying their understanding or not. Because sometimes we may just be complicating a simple question.
Apart from specific questions looking at summative assessment question can deeply inform the experienced educator. It is the one opportunity that teachers and school leaders get to reflect on the progress that their teaching has affected on students’ understanding.
We hope you enjoyed these summaries of previous editions. You will receive a fresh edition of Things in Education in 14 days’ time. Till then, please go through our earlier summaries of foundational learning and basics in classroom teaching and learning.
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