How much do you interact with your students?
It seems a bit of a redundant question when interaction is key to teaching. Perhaps though, it is worth reflecting on what that interaction actually looks like and whether it is interaction at all.
One thing I have found (and it may just be me although I doubt it) is that I often end up spending the wrong proportion of time instructing or talking rather than interacting. This happens particularly when I feel under pressure and is something I have actively been trying to address. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines interaction as: “mutual or reciprocal action or influence”. This indicates a two way street rather than passive agreement or compliance. How could I increase the proportion of time spent interacting with students and decrease the time spent talking at them? Why does this even matter?
“One of the key components of good pedagogy, regardless of whether technology is involved, is interaction. Interaction is an essential ingredient of any learning environment (face-to-face classroom-based, synchronous/asynchronous online education, or blended models). Interaction in learning is a necessary and fundamental process for knowledge acquisition and the development of both cognitive and physical skills (Barker, 1994 ),” (Woo & Reeves, 2007 p.15).
One could argue that the goal of instructions is not knowledge acquisition, that it is just not manageable to make instruction giving wildly interactive and that there are times it is appropriate to speak to learners and they actually just need to listen. To this I would say giving instructions is a degree of short term knowledge acquisition: the knowledge is what to do. I also thoroughly agree with the manageability issue however I would argue that it is the proportion of time spent on talking at or to that minimises interaction opportunities. And if interaction is so essential, shouldn’t this be what is maximised.
So how can this actually be achieved in the context of instructions?
- Remember that you have a whole classroom of potential teachers: your students. Give your instruction briefly. Take a ‘think-pair-share’ moment (when one turns to a partner and talk with them) and get students to explain the instruction in their own words. They could also ask their partner any questions they have about the instruction. Be actively listening for questions and watching for pairs who are sitting there in silence. Address any major themes, grab hold of any students who are confused and send the others to get started.
- Another way I do it (especially at pack up time when there is a long list of jobs for my young students) is to give the instruction then summarise it in four key words – one prompt for each instruction. Get students using fingers or tapping body parts to serve as reminders. I wouldn’t rate this one particularly high on the interaction scale but it does work.
What about content delivery?
- Rather than just giving a talk, get students to take notes. If they are not fluent writers get them to draw a quick picture. Post it notes work really well for this – but you could use some other method.
- Have an easel/whiteboard on hand which spellings of asked for words can be jotted down on.
- Pause at times and get students to pair-share their learning.
- If you are working digitally, have students contribute to an online set of notes – perhaps one between two or three could work. Each child in a group could have a different focus they are listening for.
To be fair I am sure there are many of you out there who have a much wider range of ideas than these. Feel free to share them!
A final point I would like to make is that teaching can be really hard work and I am sure that you are doing the best you can (and that includes maintaining your sanity as well as the students’ academic learning). So take heart and know that there are plenty of us out there who say you are amazing!
Perhaps the question to ask is not how much you interact, but how do you interact with your students?
Interaction. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interaction
Woo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 15–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2006.10.005