Reflections on Instructional Methods

The mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimension – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

I have been grinding the glacier over some issues around my instructional practices.  I left a private school system for the public system because I felt like I was teaching in a box.  A box that was becoming smaller and tighter each year. I was the outfielder standing alone in left field waiting for someone to throw a new ball my way:  differentiated lessons, co-operative learning, professional dialogue, anything.  I stood alone until I finally quit the game. Now I feel like I’m miles behind everyone.

I’ve discovered I can stop fighting with my big picture learning style, honour it and teach with it. I can provide my students with the “big picture” of the lesson, from objectives to work/project examples and return to it at the end of the lesson. Did you meet the objective? This was a very huge realization for me as I’ve fought against my own learning style since I started teaching.  It always seemed that I figured out how to do something right or better after I finished doing it.  How embarrassing to “get it” in June instead of September!

I have been working on solidifying some ideas around relinquishing control of the information and letting the students own it, of relinquishing my teacher power to control the discussions and/or avoid uneasy topics or questions and to replace this with language of least power.  It’s time to roll with the students.  But I still have to do this within a guided framework as I’m not in complete agreement with the constructivist theories of education.

My research groups do not need to work on a project.  They need to work on the skills needed to do a research project.  I do not need to feel pressured into producing some elaborate end result with them, we need to work on the process in a manner that allows them to own their own learning and for me to own my teaching.

I have not refined these new ideas yet, but that will come with the process.

What drives your instructional practice?

6 thoughts on “Reflections on Instructional Methods

  1. In sports we often say that it isn’t the destination, but the journey that really matters… So why do we have such an emphasis on the final product and not the process in education?

    What drives me is seeing inspired learners following their interests and sharing their learning. I also believe that when this is achieved, the final product often exceeds our expectations.

  2. Pingback: » Blog Archive Reflections on Instructional Methods

  3. My mother was a teacher for 22 years and she was magical in the classroom. She always believed that the students, above all else, drive the curriculum first. Her answer was to just ‘close the classroom door and teach’ and leave all the politics, etc. at the door. It was all about the students for her. That belief is the basis of my teaching practice too.

    David mentioned process. As an art teacher, my classroom is much more about process than the final product. Don’t get me wrong, more often than not, those final products are wonderful, but I try to impress upon my students the importance of all the steps along the way.

    Students new to my classes often complain that ‘art is hard!’ because they didn’t expect to have to think and problem solve in a classroom where there often is no correct answer. That’s one of the reasons I love teaching in that kind of environment, it’s so open-ended.

    Students need to learn the processes and the problem solving skills. They need to learn how to think. If we can teach them that, they’ll be more successful both in and outside of the classroom.

  4. As a “big picture” learner it is so easy to lose the forest for the trees. I had all the pieces of the “process” but one was missing. In the workshop I attend on Friday the presenter said one word that snapped everything into place. The word was “connect”. I knew I was missing something at the end of the lessons, the process dangled. I did not connect it back to the objective. I am also having difficulty trusting the students enough to give up the control of the information and of my teacher power.

    @ David – thank you for the reminder of the journey.

    @ Errin – my art lessons were also similar to yours. ( I teach elementary art, I am not an artist.) I have arrived on my journey to the place where your mother is at: let the students drive the curriculum. In my old school system I was so used to teaching what to think that I’ve gotten lost somewhere on what really mattered to me then and now; teaching how to think.

    Your comments were deeply appreciated, thank you.

  5. Pingback: More thoughts on the classroom process | Tech Ed-dy

  6. @Phil – your post was terrific and when I linked to Kim Cofino’s and Chris Betcher’s posts the puzzle pieces became much, much clearer. I have been the “sage on the stage” in a very traditional setting for a long time. I stated before I did not completely buy into the constructivist view of teaching. Now I know why and why I have such a hard time giving up control. Some control is needed. I now get the balance between “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side”. It was what I was striving for and managed to do today with my small group research class. The relief in this understanding is huge!

    My pet peeve in education is the swinging pendulum. Balance almost seems a “dirty” word.

    I love Kim’s design theory. I was looking for something for designing my research classes and that was just brilliant. The steps in the process, the addition of think-pair-share and a jigsaw. I am energized.

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