This summer Vicky Goodyear, a pedagogical researcher in physical education and sport pedagogy, created a MOOC (massive open online course) for physical education teachers. The course was a three-week sprint that was based on the research of John Hattie. It is important that teachers look at the research in education and use that to continue to sharpen their skills.
Week one of the course focused on the ideas of activation and diagnosis.
“A teacher who is the activator of learning is suggested to have the greatest impact. Specifically, an activator was suggested to be someone who can see learning through the eyes of their students, and where they can promote a learning environment where students become their own teachers.”
In looking at the first part of that statement I wonder how many teachers are able to see through the eyes of their students. What do teachers need to be able to see through the eyes of their students? Can I truly see through the eyes of a student? We are all shaped by the experiences of our lives. My life experiences and upbringing as a child framed the way I understood and experienced lessons in school. I do not disagree that we have to attempt to understand how our lessons will be received by our students. This is where the relationships with our students come into play. We don’t need to put ourselves in their shoes we merely need to ask them what they think as well as how do they learn the best.
The second part of her statement confirms what years of teaching have availed to me. Students learn better when they are able to teach and work through the learning themselves. This does not mean that direct instruction has no place in the classroom. Nor does it mean that teachers are unnecessary. What I understand this to mean is that the teacher does not have to be the sage on the stage. It means that the classroom works better when we set up learning that places students in control. Paul Solarz wrote a great book about this style of teaching titled Learn Like a Pirate. Another educator that is well versed in this style of teaching is Amanda Rogers (theEdsaneT).
The first step in the activation process is diagnosis.
“Diagnosis means focusing what students do, first of all, and then learning needs. Now these needs might be explicit and be seen straight in front of you, or they might be hidden. The key thing about diagnosis is that when we plan lessons, when we think about pedagogical approach, when we think about the structure of lessons, we need to be identifying our students’ learning needs first. So students are at the center of our practices.”
I would imagine that most of us agree with the statement above. We also have many obstacles that prevent this from happening. We are mandated what we have to teach, the amount of time we have to teach it, the way we have to teach (evaluation models), and the resources we have at our disposal to name a few.
The main obstacle of diagnosis to me is time. If we truly buy into the idea that our lessons and units are going to be based on our students’ learning needs then we will never be able to use the same lessons or scope and sequence every year. This is not to say that we have to completely reinvent the wheel every year but we will definitely have to change the shape and size of the wheel every year. Each class differs in cognitive, social, and affective skills every year. Their strengths and weaknesses drive my instruction. The way I am able to diagnose this is a combination of pre-unit testing, interacting with the students, and observing how the class interacts with each other. We interviewed Don Wettrick, author of the Pure Genius, for the Voxcast. His father summed this idea up perfectly. He said, “Don I don’t care if you teach for 20 years. Just don’t teach the same thing 20 times.” We should all take Don’s father’s advice.
I will blog about responding and evaluating (the second and third part of activation) in future blogs.
Q1: How do you attempt to see your lesson or unit through your students’ eyes?
Q2: How do you diagnose your students’ cognitive preexisting knowledge of a unit?
Q3: How do you diagnose your students’ psychomotor ability before a unit?
Q4: How do you diagnose your students’ affective ability before a unit?
Q5: What would you like to discuss about diagnosing that we missed this week?