Category Archives: Strategies

The Lecture…Version 2.0

medium_3228729514Why does the lecture persist? Should it?

As teachers, we sure love to talk at our students! The most intense form of this “teacher-talk” is delivered every day in classrooms across the world, from middle schools through universities, as the age old LECTURE.

For decades, perhaps centuries, it has been argued that lectures are not the most effective form of teaching. Indeed the ideas of a Thinking Classroom itself leads us to less teacher talking and more student thinking. But yet lectures remain a common occurrence in many classrooms. Like all instruction, lecture is not necessarily bad in itself, but it can be done badly.

We believe the use of lecture, when used effectively, can be helpful when used with a variety of other learning modes. BUT — It definitely needs a re-vamp, an update, an overhaul. In fact, people have been trying to get it re-vamped for…well, let’s just say awhile…

Some thoughts from others on lecturing

From 2000:     Hativa, N. “Lecturing and Explaining.” Chapter in Teaching for effective learning in higher education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

“The success and effectiveness of the lecture depends upon its quality–there are good lectures and bad lectures…effective lecturing is much more than just communicating knowledge. It arouses interest and motivation…”

From 1981:    G.Gibbs Twenty terrible reasons for lecturing, SCED Occasional Paper No. 8, Birmingham.

“I would not like to leave the impression that I feel that there is no justification for ever lecturing. I lecture myself (though seldom for more than fifteen minutes at a stretch and then seldom when written substitutes are available). I believe there are circumstances when a well structured, well paced, varied, lively lecture can be the most efficient teaching method. But I do believe there is far more lecturing going on than can reasonably be justified by the evidence concerning the efficiency of lectures, especially bearing in mind the nature of the educational goals we claim to be striving for.”

From 1968: The Modified Lecture: A Useful Technique for the Teacher, Charles K. West, The Clearing House, Vol. 43, No. 3

“The chief disadvantage of the traditional lecture is the total lack of involvement, the passivity, of the student in the situation. It is true that some types of learnings take place when a students is passive. For most complex types of human learnings, however, involvement is a necessary correlate of learning. Typically, the only person involved in the traditional lecture situation is the lecturer. It can be said that at least one person learned, in any case.

Investigators of interaction analysis have begin to attack teacher talk in terms of the amount occurring in the classroom. Analyses indicate that less learning occurs in the classroom in which “teacher-talk” proceeds in an uninterrupted sequence.”

Upgrading the Lecture to Version 2.0

Lecture As Content Delivery is Dead
Jeff Utecht, a former teacher and blogger, shares the idea that lecturing for content delivery is no longer relevant with the explosion and abundance of free and open content through the internet. He proposes that “Lectures should be used to inspire, tell stories, and push ideas”.

Don’t Lecture Me: Rethinking How College Students Learn
Here’s a post from the Mind/Shift blog, written by Emily Hanford, describing a strategy of peer instruction, in place of the lecture, as used by Eric Mazur.  “….[he] now teaches all of his classes using a “peer-instruction” approach. Rather than teaching by telling, he teaches by questioning.”

TED Talks: Ideas worth spreading
If you haven’t watched or heard of TED Talks, it is popular website that houses a collection of lectures. The only limit? The talk must be 18 minutes or less. Here’s their description: “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.”

Some Ideas to help Start Your Upgrade

Need some ideas on how to use technology to make your next planned lecture more interactive? Jeff extends the discussion in his post on “The Evolution of Lecture”

An collection of resources/ideas (some good, maybe some not so good) on designing Interactive Lectures, part of the SERC Pedagogic Service. The authors suggest the use of “engagement triggers” and “interactive activities”.

Like the TED Talks? There is now a new site created just for educators, TED ED – Lessons worth Sharing. Lessons build from TED-like videos are available on a variety of topics. The lesson includes three pices: Watch (the video), Think (questions to explore) and Dig Deeper (additional resources). Perhaps the most powerful feature, you can upload any video from YouTube and turn it into a TED-ED lesson!!

photo credit: Tadeeej via photopin cc


A Day with Planning, Standards and Thinking Classrooms

This week the Student Achievement team met with a cohort of district teachers, literacy coaches and administrators to continue the work they started last year. The work centered around the three “stages” of backward unit planning–The Big Idea, Assessment Evidence, and Daily Instruction–based on the Understanding By Design principles.

The question of the day was “Why the Thinking Classroom?” Attendees had several opportunities to answer this question within the frame of one of the three stages. Here are some of the responses and comments –

“…to teach the skills and processes to access the content”

“…to instill inquisitiveness in our students”

“…It hurts to think, especially when you are asked to do things you haven’t been asked before”

“…innovation needs space to breathe”

“…why wouldn’t we want thinking classrooms?”

To facilitate our work and our thinking about this question, we used several videos as “thought jump-starts”. Check them out and then share your answer to the question.

Above and Beyond
Above & Beyond is a story about what is possible when communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity take center stage in schools and transform learning opportunities for all kids.

Tedx Talk: How to Learn from Mistakes
Diana Laufenberg, a teacher in Philadelphia, shares surprising things she has learned about teaching — including a key insight about learning from mistakes and the history around where knowledge is stored.

The Formative Principles of the Common Core Standards
Phil Daro, a mathematics expert who helped author the national Common Core Standards, talks about what the new standards are, and what they are not. Our work is starting with instruction in the classroom, and we will be spending more time in the upcoming year delving more into standards, including Common Core, Colorado Academic, WIDA and others.

Seinfeld Teaches History
In this classic Saturday Night Live skit, Jerry Seinfeld plays a teacher trying to get his students to “Think History”. It is an entertaining reminder that the mindshift of teaching in a Thinking Classroom is not only hard for teachers, but hard for students as well.

Add you Comments and share your answer to the question: “Why the Thinking Classroom?”
photo credit: Krissy.Venosdale via photopin cc

Taft Elementary in Wisconsin Shares Thinking Strategies

So you want to make your classroom a “Thinking Classroom”, but need ideas to find a place to start? Here’s a video posted by Taft Elementary School in Neenan, WI about how they identified Thinking Strategies and incorporated them across their school. Their thinking strategies are:

  • Monitoring
  • Using Schema
  • Making Connections
  • Visualizing
  • Predicting
  • Questioning
  • Inferring
  • Determining Importance
  • Summarizing

Do you use any of these strategies? What did that look like? What strategies would you add to this list? What do you think shouldn’t make the list? What is your school doing or working on?

See the Video Here

How Do We Get Kids to Learn?

As educators in School District 27J,  we have incredible capacity to think, teach, and adjust our practice for the greater purpose of helping all kids learn.  We give an extraordinary number of hours every day, week, month, school year toward the betterment of kids.  We show up every day with the greatest intent on influencing the faces sitting before us.   Yet with all this capacity, and all this energy given to aid our students, we remain stuck on one very difficult challenge… How do we get kids to learn?

The question sounds simple enough, but there are so many various perspectives to this question.

An external frame:   How do we get kids to learn…

  • with the economy bearing down on our working conditions, with increased work load, and increased class sizes?
  • with the societal problems we face, with declining values, shootings at movie theaters  and crimes in our hallways?
  • when students have parents who are facing many challenges that prevent them from being the most active influence on their child?

A work load frame:  How do we get kids to learn…

  • when we have way too much content to teach, and too little time to adequately teach it?
  • when there are so many varied levels of students sitting in from of us?
  • when there are so many other things that I have to do that take me away from obsessing on this question?
  • with the diversity of today’s learner, within this digital era, and a lack of motivation for my class or school in general?

A teacher preparation frame:  How do we get kids to learn…

  • when the “Educational Machine” has modeled for us unproductive habits of teaching that didn’t help us learn to be teachers (Tell and Test, sit and get, plug and chug, drill and kill; grade instead of assess; judge and rank instead of providing feedback; mandate compliance instead of inspire engagement; hoop jumping instead of true learning)?
  • when my district, my evaluator, my colleagues, and parents have asked for, encouraged, and reinforced traditional teaching practices?

A personal frame:  How do we get kids to learn…

  • when our own practices are filled with unproductive habits of practice (as described above)?
  • when we don’t know how to narrow the content?
  • when we don’t have  the strategies to engage our students in rigorous thinking?
  • when we don’t know what else we could do besides follow the curricular program, do the worksheets, assign the homework, and give the test?
  • when we feel like we must grade everything to justify the grade book?
  • when we don’t know what learning would really look like, or what my kids would do to demonstrate it?

It should be obvious to the reader, that this list is far from complete and wrought with variables outside of our control.  And yet we do have some control.  We have control to take on what we can, and deliver on what we know in order to better our practice.  We can begin a journey of actualization.   We can think about the learning our students are doing and our evidence that proves that they understand it.  We can think about our teaching and its influences on our students and their learning.  We can play with our habits, and try to produce new ones that give more ownership and responsibility to the learner.  We can control ourselves, we can encourage more thinking in our classrooms, and we can obsess over the unanswered question..  How do we get kids to learn?

We are thrilled to have you join our thinking in this blog space.  We look forward to continuing conversation, reflection, and hearing from you as we challenge what has been, and what can be in our classrooms.

photo credit: makeitgreat via photopin cc

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