Nina's Notes

for Effective Teaching and Meaningful Learning

Balance

Imagine a wheel, like a bicycle wheel. What would the ride feel like if there were bumps on the wheel? Big bumps that make the bike go up and down on each turn of the wheel. Yet that is how we tend to emphasize only one aspect of learning and teaching in our classrooms.


Finding a balance is not always easy. Just like learning to ride a bike it is significantly harder in the beginning. After all, we have so very many details to include to our daily classroom teaching that it is sometimes hard to keep our thoughts straight. 

With experience both bike riding and finding balance in teaching becomes easier. Having someone to help in the beginning expedites the learning experience.



Here is a very simple 1-2-3 tool for checking the balance. It covers the most important areas of classroom teaching, no matter what level or grade you are working with.


1. Co-operate. Provide emotional support in the classroom. It helps your students learn, because they feel safe and more comfortable (read Mazlow if you don’t believe just my words). Be aware of learning problems, as well as the social ones, and address them in timely manner. Emotionally safe learning environment is the first premise for good quality teaching.


2. Be constructive. Create or adapt a classroom management system which is compatible with your own values and ideas about good teaching. Having extremely clear expectations for students cuts down the need of behaviour management – when student know what they are supposed to be doing creates lots of opportunities for the teacher to compliment them for their dedication and participation. Maximize the learning time by providing autonomous learning choices after finishing a task.


3. Strengthen the cognitive learning. Cater for concept development by asking lots of open ended questions and teaching your students ask those questions, too. Make sure to stop to listen to the answers. Provide feedback during the learning process instead of evaluating only the end result. This is the most important single thing enhancing their learning. Only those mistakes that are allowed to be corrected can help students learn more.


These steps also empower your students to move towards autonomous, self-regulated learning, because they focus more on learning than on teaching. And that is how it should be. After all, we are in the classroom to help our students learn, are we not? And one part of helping could be providing them a bit smoother ride by modeling metacognitive skills in constructive and emotionally safe learning environment.


Read more:

Vrieling, Emmy; Bastiaens,Theo; and Stijnen, Sjef (2012) "Consequences of Increased Self-RegulatedLearning Opportunities on Student Teachers’ Motivation and Use of MetacognitiveSkills," Australian Journal of Teacher Education: Vol. 37: Iss. 8, Article7.  Available at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ajte/vol37/iss8/7







Not all education reform is the same. There is a different model:

The Fourth Way is a way of inspiration and innovation, of responsibility and sustainability. The Fourth Way does not drive reform relentlessly through teachers, use them as final delivery points for government policies, or vacuum up their motivations into a vortex of change that is defined by short-term political agendas and the special interests with which they are often aligned.Rather, it brings together government policy, professional involvement, and public engagement around an inspiring social and educational vision of prosperity, opportunity, and creativity in a world of greater inclusiveness, security, and humanity ( Hargreaves & Shirley 2009, p. 71).


This is what The Finnish Way looks like:

In the Fourth Way of Finland, teachers design and pursue high quality learning and shared goals and improve their schools continuously through professional teamwork and networks, from evidence, and from literature in their trade. (Sahlberg, 2011)

Finland has shown the effect of this empowerment-based education reform in several consecutive PISA results.



Hargreaves, A., & Shirley, D. (2009). The fourth way: The inspiring future of educational change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Sahlberg, P. (2011). The fourth way of Finland. Journal of Educational Change,12(2), 173-185.