Interaction is key to good pedagogy

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?

References

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

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Mish mash: inquiry update and reflections on tech use!

It’s been a crazy term with the school production (which was awesome) and everything else we managed to squeeze in. Sometimes it feels as though one is trying to squeeze in reading and writing and maths! I’m looking forward to getting back to a proper routine next term as post-production everyone was tired. We had a week of decent learning. I generally planned for better learning this week, but it just didn’t happen. I knew what this term would be like ahead of time, so I won’t beat myself up for it, but I would hardly describe it as  a term of modelled effective practice!

Oh well. Back to reflections.

My inquiry has largely centred around a couple of students. With the paired writing this term we I haven’t done a lot of teaching of those students. I have noted though that they have both made a tremendous overall improvement with their writing.

One has successfully managed to overcome the ‘I don’t know what to write’ barrier, which is fantastic. The other regularly uses finger-spaces when writing independently and writes many more recognisable words.

At this point the goal will be to maintain and build upon their progress. For one that will mean lots and lots of writing. For the other it will mean continued development of essential list words. Upon retesting I have noted that there has been quite limited progress over the year in that area. I have another student I will now focus on in the context of spelling particularly, as the level of writing is not what I want. In some ways this is a plus because it will make the student eligible for support they weren’t eligible for previously, but it will be a blow to the student’s self-esteem.

I have written a more detailed summary of adaptations, but this remains in a private google doc shared within my present workplace for privacy reasons.

My next inquiry: spelling (a mini inquiry)/ inquiry into PLD I am taking.

Next steps: Review progress in five weeks of current inquiry. Develop plan for spelling inquiry. Begin with spelling programme review.

——

Tech use

I have used tech to a mediocre level this term. I keep getting stuck at a relatively low level on the SAMR model. I know how to use it to a deeper level, but keep not doing it.

Something I consistently struggle with is the work-home balance. I have erred on the side of home this year because of the various events that have been going on. I am now paying the catch-up price.

Regardless, the children have learnt. Perhaps I need to set up an inquiry into my IT practice to ensure I actually alter it. We shall see.

I’ve got heaps of stuff that I want to do, but I just don’t know how to begin…

I was talking recently with a couple of colleagues. We were discussing classroom practice, including the importance of setting up routines etc in a new classroom. 

The question was posed (though more eloquently stated) of how do you actually integrate tech routines into the classroom. particularly when students are used to something quite different than what you want to do. 

This caused me to look back over how I establish routines surrounding tech in the classroom (or rather don’t at times).  Continue reading