As we get closer to the publication date of ‘If you can’t reach them you can’t teach them. Building effective learning relationships’ this instalment looks at the dangers of labelling and the concept of a learning map.
Question: Why include a chapter on labelling?
Answer: Education loves a label; they are everywhere and used for all manner of things. Whilst some labels are useful such as letting you know where the gym or staff room is located some can be harmful. It was important to me to explore the topic of labels in education and to think about the accountability and the morality of labelling. A quote from chapter 8 on labelling.
‘I want to make a practical association between labelling and PBCF (building effective learning relationships) rather than discuss the many labels and their use in education. In the Further reading section, there are links to Howard Becker’s labelling theory as well as specific education-related articles on labelling. These will enable you to achieve an overview of the wider impact, concerns and issues related to labelling in education.’Taken from: If you can’t reach them you can’t teach them. Building effective learning relationships
It is important that as teachers we reflect on the impact of labels on building learning relationships and I have included several reflective tasks that will encourage you to explore both your own experience of being labelled and the use of labels in learning.
Question: Where did the idea of a learning map come from?
Answer: My book contains several personal reflections, I see these as an opportunity to share my experiences that have informed my thinking. Here is how I came up with the idea of a learning map for chapter 9.
In conversation, pupils will point to examples from their past experiences of learning and what they were and were not able to achieve. I began to think of these as roadblocks to learning and the analogy with a learning map became my way of discussing learning challenges and beliefs with pupils. I discovered that lots of features you will find on a map are analogous to learning. These provided a narrative for talking about learning in a practical and almost physical way. Together the pupils and I were able to discuss learning barriers and opportunities in the same way as you would the physical topography of a map. The concept of the learning map had developed.Taken from: If you can’t reach them you can’t teach them. Building effective learning relationships
In this chapter I not only suggest how the terminology applied to maps and mapping can be applied to learning but also many of the road signs and symbols in everyday use. Another important point about maps is that they can be and often are redrawn as more information or insights become available. This is an excellent narrative to use in approaching the concept of a growth mindset with pupil. There is a direct link back to the Learning Hero’s Journey too. You will be encouraged to reflect on your own learning journey and draw a part of your learning map.
Nearly there – the next instalment will look at the all important aspect of time management and John’s 12 rules.
This is part four of ‘If you can’t reach them you can’t teach them’ and the topics it covers.
Question: What impact do our learning needs have on how we behave as learners?
Answer: William Glasser has said “All we can do from birth to death is behave” and the more you think about it the more obvious it becomes that any relationship triggers behaviours. Maslow recognised a set of needs too from physiological through to self-actualisation. What I have done in chapter 4 is to look at needs in the context of learning and focused on the four that have the greatest impact on the pupil-teacher learning relationship and therefore learner behaviours.
As a teacher you will recognise types of pupil behaviour but to fully understand how pupils feel when these needs are not being met and how they behave as a result you must relate them to your own experience. There are reflective exercises in chapter 4 that will help you do just that.
Question: What types of behaviours might we see if our learning needs are not being met?
Answer: By taking the time to reflect on pupil behaviour rather than just respond to it you will recognise the four needs and what each creates in terms of behaviour. This approach forms the heart of the book. The four are needs and typical behaviour when not met are described and discussed. There is even an opportunity to take part in an exercise that will cause you to experience having needs denied. This section concludes by offering you suggested supportive actions to build learning relationships.
Question: How can I ensure I remember to meet learner needs and build them into my practice?
Answer: Ellen Langer wrote about mindful learning, a term that resonated with me as a teacher and so I have taken it a little further and chapter 6 explores the concept and impact of mindful learning and teaching.
In teaching, being mindful is a way of ensuring you embed changes to your approach to learning and teaching, taking every opportunity to build effective learning relationships and meet the four learning needs. It means you do not wear yourself out and you do not limit your pupils’ potential; instead, you foster creativity and raise standards. Essentially you are mindful of your own needs and those of your pupils.Kevin Hewitson. If you can’t reach them you can’t teach them
Question: Does a mindful approach not need more work and resources?
Answer: No, all you need is a change of mindset. The chapter gives examples of mindless learning and teaching from asking questions to planning and includes case studies and tasks to raise your awareness. It also looks at some of the myths that surround learning, myths that ask teachers to do things that have little impact or possibly a negative impact on building effective learning relationships.
Question: How do pupils respond to mindful learning and teaching
Answer: In my experience they are a little unsure to start with. Mindful teaching is one of those steps towards supporting independent learning, something that has been sought in teaching for some time. Chapter 7 asks “What are independent learners, and do you want them in your classes?”
You must consider the independent learner within the context of your learning relationship with them. You will need to take into account the learning environment you have created through PBCF and your mindful approach as well as the skills, attributes and behaviours of the pupil and their past experiences of learning. Chapter 7 will take you through these considerations and look at a knowledge based versus learning focused curriculum examples as well as touching on some of the debated issues around learning styles.
Next: In the next instalment the dangers of labels and of labelling learners raises its head.
Today, 15th Jan 2020 at 2:00pm (GMT) I will be taking part in an online live Facebook discussion on inclusion.
This is something that sits at the heart of education and a fundamental reason why learning relationships are so important in education. It is a timely discussion just a month before my book is due to be published.
Today Marius Frank and host Manobina Chakraborty and myself will look at the topic of:
Listen in for FREE !
Essentially this book is about the final stage of the call to adventure, that which in the form proposed by Christopher Vogler is called ‘Return with the Elixir: the hero returns with something to improve the ordinary world’ Although I am no hero each chapter of my book is about something you can do to improve your teaching and ensure that you remain a learner.
Question: How can I be a better teacher? For teachers, no two days are ever the same and no group or individual pupil is guaranteed to learn or behave in the same way from one day to the next. Teaching is a full-on job and often with only time to respond to the challenges and changes.
Answer: To be a better teacher I recognised that teachers need to have time and the opportunity to reflect and that they need to remain learners. It is important to me that the book gives you the tools to manage your time effectively and to successfully meet the day to day challenges as well as encourage you to reflect.
In reflecting on what worked and why in learning and teaching I realised that after all the preparation, planning and resourcing it came down to pupil/teacher relationships. Establishing, building, and maintaining relationships is very important. There are many things that can damage a relationship in an instant but it takes time to repair or build an effective learning relationship.
Question: How do you build effective learning relationships and secondly what factors can support or undermine them? We are now getting to the heart of the question.
Answer: In observing and discussing the relationships pupils build with teachers and their peers it became clear that pupils will invest in establishing a relationship to meet certain needs. The pupil may not make a conscious decision or even be able to articulate why they behave in a certain way towards some people or when in some groups. Pupils may not even recognise the drivers of their behaviour at all. It also became clear that some needs are powerful drivers of pupil behaviour, so powerful even that they will override such factors as social or school expectations, personal safety, parental influence, or any pressure from existing relationships. It was also clear that not all pupil behaviour is predictable and that there are dampening and enhancing factors that can promote or subdue the nature of the behaviour a pupil will exhibit in any given situation.
Chapter 1 explores the challenges you will face as a teacher and includes a series of reflection prompts. Chapter 2 is an in-depth look at the learning relationship between pupil and teacher using an innovative ‘Learning Relationship Responsibility Ratio Graph’. The important role of leadership in nurturing and protecting the relationship between pupil and teacher is recognised and is also analysed.
Question: How can we interpret pupil behaviour to understand pupil needs?
Answer: Seeing behaviour as a symptom of a need rather than as a challenge is the first step in developing our understanding of needs and the impact they have on learning and teaching. What we want as teachers are engaged learners, pupils that are motivated to learn. Chapter 3 looks at what pupils need in order to engage in the process of learning.
Question: Who helped in my call to adventure?
Answer: It’s a long list! From my teaching mentor John, who’s 12 rules appear in chapter 11, to those I have taught and those I have taught with, the many who have challenged my teaching and opened my eyes. Some sources go back further than you may think too, some were suggested by the different online groups and education thought leaders we are familiar with through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, TEDx etc.
The next instalment of ‘If you can’t reach them you can’t teach them’ will describe the chapters that cover four learning needs and how you can plan to meet and manage them.
4) Our 4 learning engagement needs PBCF