Part 4. The impact of the no one learning environment cont.
A blame culture, the ultimate outcome of the “one way”.
Earlier I explored the impact of the one way not working. I described how in my experience it leads to the tightening of monitoring and checking systems, inflexible frameworks and the limiting of creativity (or in some cases finding “creative” ways around inflexibility). Now we turn to whose fault is it the one way is not working.
If the one way to learn, the prescribed approach, is not working then it is the fault of someone. Who is that “someone”? At the start there are always a lot of things to point the finger at, after time though the number dwindles. That someone was the Local Education Authority, trendy (lazy) teachers, progressive teaching methods, low aspirations, parents, disruptive students etc. Now it is either the leadership of the school or the teacher or a lack of effort on the part of the learner (also the fault of the teacher). In such cases it is easy to get into a cycle of finger pointing or a blame culture.
We in the UK are definitely into a blame culture and as we move further and further into it the language used by government gives this away. We hear things like “we are introducing a new check”, “pupils at risk of falling behind” , “target those areas” and “children aren’t being given a fair shot to succeed”. More the language of war you would think (the outcome of desperation?) than education perhaps. Then there is the “takeover” manoeuvre (there is that war analogy again!), the one where those who were “in charge” or responsible are no longer trusted and a new regime is installed. In the UK it is academy trusts who take over “failing schools” but these are also failing (as we would expect if the one way does not work!). It’s certainly a dilemma for any government that persists on the one way path. I suppose with so much invested in the one way, both personally, as well as politically, it is hard if not impossible to even consider another way let alone more than one way.
What we do know is the learning environment created by the pursuit at all costs of the one way is very toxic for those involved in leadership, teaching, and learning. Finding a way to deal with this environment is the key to improving teaching and learning. We know that through regulation and inspection leadership and teachers have their hands tied so this leaves the learner. A simple analogy that describes how we may proceed in dealing with a toxic environment that is not going to change is living somewhere really cold and wanting to be warm. You can ask for sunnier days, less snow and ice each year or longer summers and shorter winters until you are blue in the face (ignoring climate change). You are asking for the unlikely if not impossible. The more successful way is to acclimatise yourself to the environment and seek ways of managing it in order to get what you want – to be warm. So you learn what clothes to wear and how to wear them, you practice ways of getting and keeping warm and after a while you are warm, despite the environment.
If we take the same approach in teaching and learning then it’s not about changing the learning environment to meet the needs of the learner it’s about equipping the learner to manage the learning environment to meet their learning needs. This is important not only because of the one way problem but because we do not learn just in schools or managed environments. We have the opportunity to learn in a number of different environments. For example at home, in work, during leisure and in a social setting are all potential learning environments. My experience is that some learners do not do well in one school environment but thrive in another, some do not do well in any formal education environment but thrive when on work placements, and some excel in leisure pursuits but do less well in school. They are the same person but achieve differently in different environments. If we wanted evidence that we need to equip learners with the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours (SAAB) to manage their learning environment then we need look no further than these examples. Where their SAAB matches the environment they flourish, where it does not they struggle.
My claim is that in these situations the learner possesses the appropriate SAAB profile for the environment in which they thrive but not the profile for those where they struggle. It occurs to me that we need to broaden or develop the SAAB profile of the learner such that they can thrive in any learning environment. We need to work with the learner to explore their learning needs and how this impacts on their learning beliefs. To build in the learner the ability to see a difficulty to learn not as a personal weakness but as a result of the environment they are in and not having the SAAB to mange it effectively.
Links to earlier parts are:
We know the classroom is more than a place for pupils to sit and the teacher to store resources. It is more than just four walls, windows, doors, a floor and a ceiling too. What makes a classroom is the dynamic way the resources it provides are used. This is why a classroom can be an open space or a piece of ground under a bridge. My view is that the classroom should say “Welcome to my world.” There should be something about the classroom that celebrates your passion for the subjects you teach and that shows you are a learner too. Here are some of the ways you can use your classroom to promote teaching and learning.
Promote focus by avoiding clutter. Clutter is things that you are not using, do not need to refer to or just don’t want to throw away. It is the last project outcomes, the broken chair or something propped in the corner out of the way. If you cannot bring yourself to throw it away box it and label it. Have only the things that are relevant out on show and in the room if you can.
Make the walls relevant by getting rid of “wall paper”. This is stuff well past it’s sell by date. There is nothing worse than having work on the wall from somebody who has left or was in the class last year. It is also stuff you cannot read if you are sat in the middle of the classroom without requiring the eyesight of Superman. Sit in the middle of the classroom and if you cannot read what is on the wall then bin it. If you cannot read it then neither can your pupils. If it is important then make it readable.
Make the walls a resource for you as well as the pupils. Teachers are adept at using the walls of the classroom to carry all manner of resources but what about using one wall for prompts and reminders for your teaching too. If when you are addressing the pupils you are at the front of the class then use the back wall for your own purposes. This is not as daft as it sounds; the back wall is probably the least viewed by the pupils. Here is an example of how you may use the back wall. Say you wanted to develop your teaching by asking more mindful[i] questions then you may have a large image of a brain posted on the back wall. Unless you explain to others what it is for then it is your own personal reminder to ask questions in a way that encourages rather than discourages responses. If anyone asks you do not have to tell them the reason why it is there, that is up to you.
Share ownership of the walls and encourage pupils to take ownership by displaying their own learning outcomes. You do not have to select every piece that goes on the wall.
Get creative when you need to and this includes using the ceiling, the windows, the doors, and even the floor. The classroom can be “dressed” in the same way as shop windows to promote a theme or support a topic. I have even seen Egypt complete with sand and pyramids appear in a classroom (just be sure to cover the floor in plastic first and get the cleaner on your side!)
Set the mood using technology. Projectors not only project images but hey can be sued to create blocks of colour and coloured light. This can be very effective at creating a mood, especially if you add in some sounds. Plain white sheets can be hung as screens and they do not have to be on the wall. Images can be projected onto them to create illusions of walls or the seaside or anything your imagination comes up with.
Consider the unusual. If you have ever walked into a bakery as the bread is cooling you will know the power of smell. Like music it can transport you both in time and space and lift your mood. Scented candles or perfumes can add that extra dimension. Just image the impact of a few stink bombs if you were studying the history of sewerage in the Victorian era! Having music playing alters mood and pace significantly, just the thing for creative writing.
Move things around, but only for a reason. Too many changes and too much change can unsettle pupils. Like everyone they like the familiar and may need warning about what you have planned. Just imagine how you feel if you cannot use your usual car parking space. Putting desks in rows just like a Victorian school may be a great way of starting off a topic.
Think about the entrance to your room, it is after all a portal to learning. How can you make it more effective? Remember that sometimes your pupils may be lining up outside your door and it could provide a useful opportunity to learn something or set the scene.
Be welcoming. It goes without saying but sometimes you may get carried away clearing up after the last session or in preparing for the upcoming one. Even if you are not ready take time to meet and greet. How pupils enter a room and even how they leave says something about the space they are in. Don’t miss an opportunity to use subtle influences to mark out your room as a place to learn.
Give it an identity so the pupils know where they are. There is nothing worse than bland teaching room after bland teaching room along a corridor. Think what the high street would look like if all the shops were the same. How would you know where you are or where to go?
Promote organisation. A place for everything and everything in its place is a very important adage. So is “Don’t put it down. Put it away.” Have systems that you use to keep your room organised. This helps you find things as well as the pupils and saves them waiting to ask you.
[i] Mindful questions are those that do not impose limits or require absolute understanding in order to answer. They can be satisfied in part or in whole depending on the knowledge and understanding of the pupil. For example if you ask pupils to name the three states matter can exist in then you are excluding those that can only think of 1 or 2 from answering and anyone who believes there are 4 (plasma) or even 5. A mindful question format may be formed in this way, “Who can name me a state matter can exist in?” . Now you have not set any boundaries and can respond to any “odd” or interesting responses you receive.
The original post below was written
THREE FOUR years ago now. Has anything changed?
It’s not exactly easy re-reading an article you wrote some time ago and finding that it’s still so relevant to education in the UK. Hope appears to takes a bit of a bashing when this is the case. So here is my hope once again and what I see as the responsibility of school leadership to make it happen.
The leadership mantra
“If whatever change comes along supports or enhances the relationship you have with your students and will improve your teaching and their learning then make it your own.
If on the other hand it will erode or fracture your relationships with the students you teach and thereby make teaching and learning harder than it is then find ways to either deflect the change or modify it in a way that causes no harm.”
The original article, see how many things have changed since 2014
“All Change – or is it?”
Here in the UK a new term is about to begin and we have new direction from Ofsted in the form of revised guidance and a new Secretary of State for Education. Some teachers will be joining new schools and many will be facing the challenges of getting to know and teach new classes. Some teachers may even be taking on new challenges in the way of responsibilities or even the subjects and syllabi they will be teaching. The school may be facing new challenges or targets and there may even be new leadership intent on bringing about improvements. A new timetable always brings with it a certain level of stress too as teachers and students try to remember where they should be and when and with what. A timetable can have a significant impact on the quality of teaching and learning and when the “tail wags the dog” instead of enabling as the timetable can sometimes do many pay the price during the year. You would be forgiven for being overwhelmed even before you sit and listen to the Head setting out the challenges and goals for the year ahead.
The principles on which teaching is based
Luckily there are the routines and traditions that can form the refuge for the bewildered and confused and these can be found in the classrooms, corridors, and playgrounds of the many schools facing the new term. There will be a desk and seat, a teacher, a focal point, a register to call, rules to follow, expectations and things to learn. These are the everyday realities of teaching and even with interactive whiteboards, improved planning rubrics, simpler assessment systems, computers and tablets, 3-D spaces and the odd new pencil case, little if anything really changes when it comes to the actual job of teaching.
It’s not all about resources
I have seen some of the best teaching with the most basic of resources and simplest of systems and some of the poorest teaching with the most sophisticated of resources and most intricate of systems. I have also seen some of the best teaching with the least motivated of learners and some of the poorest teaching with those learners so eager to conform and please.
If you are now expecting me to call for a back to basics approach or to ignore change because we have all seen it before and no doubt it will come around again then I must disappoint you.
Neither am I advocating that you jump in with both feet and take on board whatever change you face with as much enthusiasm you can muster. What I am reminding you of is the importance of building the firm foundations that will allow you to teach and then I am asking you to consider everything else in light of this one responsibility and this is it:
If whatever change comes along supports or enhances the relationship you have with your students and will improve your teaching and their learning then make it your own.
If on the other hand it will erode or fracture your relationships with the students you teach and thereby make teaching and learning harder than it is then find ways to either deflect the change or modify it in a way that causes no harm.
In my view it is the role of the leadership team to ensure that the learning environment and the relationships between teacher and learner are protected at all times and from all directions.
Leadership responsibilities and change, reform and new ideas
Below is a diagrammatic representation of what I see as the principle role of leadership in this respect. There is a lot to take in in one go but focus on the learning responsibility ratio (the rectangle shaded blue at the bottom) which, if protected, should naturally over time move from an emphasis on the teacher to prepare, plan, motivate, engage and encourage to the learner taking more responsibility for managing the learning environment to meet their own needs. This transition has a great deal to do with “Learning Intelligence” and “Learning Needs”* (not learning styles). Although I have not shown what happens when the leadership fails to protect this relationship in effect the responsibility reverts to the teacher and we end up with a “saw tooth” rather than a straight line transfer. In extreme cases the learner may abdicate all responsibility for learning since any immediate consequences fall on the teacher and not the student.
If you would like to explore the Teacher Learner Relationship then please see this article.
If we accept that it is the teacher’s responsibility to manage the learning environment then here are my four foundation stones for teaching.
There are “Learning Needs” and we all have them. When planning lessons make sure you include these four headings. The 4 learning needs are based on 35 years of teaching experience but the headings come from William Glasser [i] Its an easy set to remember – just Please Be Child Friendly in your approach and planning!
1) Power – how will I give my students a voice and show them that I am listening to their concerns and needs?
2) Belonging – what can I do to build a sense of belonging as I develop my relationships with my students in a way that builds trust and loyalty?
3) Choice – what choices will I allow and how will I link these to consequences? How can I show them that they can have some control over their learning environment and that in doing so they can make learning easier?
4) Fun – how will I build the link between fun and achievement and how will I ensure we celebrate success to make learning fun?
* Want to know how you can develop this model in your organisation or find out more about how LQ can improve the performance of your students?
* For more on the school learning environment see an earlier article “The First LQ Topic Review – LQ and the School Environment”
I can be contacted by phone at 01604 891229 or 07519743941
By e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Through Skype: ace-d.co.uk
* For an alternative way to explore planning through what I call “Learning Intelligence” then see the article “Learning Intelligence (LQ) and Lesson Planning” at: http://wp.me/p2LphS-a6
For an introduction to Learning Intelligence then see: http://wp.me/p2LphS-3p and a graphic covering the skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours at: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2297869-learning-intelligence
For a detailed exploration of learning needs I have published an e-book “Understanding Learning Needs” available for download at: http://www.ace-d.co.uk/id10.html Priced at £4.95. This book has been recognised by experienced professionals as an excellent reminder of the important things in teaching and learning and by those mentoring and guiding new teachers as sound advice and guidance for a successful career.
[i] William Glasser (2001) Choice Theory in the Classroom, Harper
As teachers we know that our classes can fall into three groups, this is especially evident at reporting time.
There are those that do well, are active participants in the learning, question and who are confident. You know these well and find it easy to say something about their progress, attitudes, and behaviours. “Well done. Keep it up” There are those who have presented challenges, often of a behavioural or engagement in nature. Once again you know these well and you do not struggle to offer advice on how to do better next year. “Learn to focus and avoid distractions” The last group are not so well known to you. They are often quiet, do as they are told and take up little of your time. In short they are compliant and when it comes to writing reports often provide the biggest challenge.
The size of each group may vary but I would bet they still exist in many classes.
The first group
We could argue that the first group find the learning environment to their liking and are comfortable within it. They are comfortable with the approach, resources, pace, language and tasks. This group are often the “volunteer” group and will take part in extracurricular activities or be members of out of class groups. As a result of their learning needs being met they do well and make progress.
The second group
The second group do not find the learning environment to their liking, something is missing, and they are not comfortable but do not have the language or skills to express what is wrong in an appropriate and helpful manner. Although they seek to express their needs they do not fully understand what it is that is missing or what to do about it. The result is a series of challenges as they seek attention to help them resolve the issues they have with their learning environment. This group will often take up a greater percentage of resources than their numbers suggest both in terms of the teacher and support provision. This support may not produce as much impact as wished too because it often does not address the issue of the learning environment and the missing needs. A little like giving glasses of water to somebody when they ask for water when actually what they need is the fire brigade to put out a blaze.
The third group
The third group, the compliant learners, don’t make a fuss even if the learning environment is not meeting their learning needs. They may “self-label” as not very bright and have reduced expectations of themselves as they reflect the expectations placed upon them. When we rely on past performance as a predictor of potential or future performance this group often go unchallenged since they achieve within the expected or predicted range even if this is way below their true and as yet untapped potential. When there is a threshold associated with targets and grades this group will often be seen as the “borderline” students, those who with more help could achieve a little more. What we give them though is more of the same and yet we are still not meeting their learning needs although some will do better because of the greater expectation we have of them.
Do you disagree with me?
If you disagree with me then for you these groups don’t exist, you have never experienced them, and report writing for you is a case of limiting what you have to say rather than trying to find things to say about some of your students. You do not see compliance as a learning disability?
If you agree with me and these groups do exist what can we do about them?
Firstly we know there are students who do well in everything they do at school. We may see or recognise these as “more able” or “gifted or talented” students. Perhaps we should also see them as students who have the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours to manage their learning environments to meet their learning needs in whatever learning environment they find themselves. They know that whatever they face in terms of learning challenges there are ways around the obstacles and they can do something about it, a form of “acceptance compliance.”
Next we have the anomaly of a student who does well in one subject and not in another. Rather than exploring the differences in the learning environment we rather comfortably explain this by saying they have a natural ability in a subject or perhaps it is because they get along with the teacher of that subject. For whatever reason we accept their lack of performance or achievements in other subjects as a result of this “reasoning.” The students go along with this and see themselves as being better in some subjects than others, another form of “acceptance compliance.” We do not question their ability to manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs nor do we seek to develop their skills or challenge their attitudes and behaviours. It is uncommon to find those students who do not do well
It is uncommon to find those students who do not do well in any subject at school being offered a “different” or “alternative” curriculum. This has the radical effect of changing the learning environment in a number of ways. Something they are likely to go along with for their present experience is nothing more than uncomfortable, to say the least. There are many cases where students unexpectedly excel in this different environment and this is often put down to the lack of academic demands or the student being more interested and therefore more motivated to learn. Once again what is not explored is the learning environment and the match to the learning skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours of the learner that may bring about this change. Further, we do not take this success and use it to demonstrate that where the learner has succeeded in a learning environment that suits their needs that with the appropriate support they may be able to learn to manage other learning environments too and therefore extend their achievements.
The case for Learning Intelligence or LQ
LQ is the ability to manage your learning environment to meet your learning needs. In the examples I have given above I would argue that we tend to ignore the learning environment and our ability as learners to manage it. We find ways of explaining achievement in some areas and not others and ultimately may reject some learners. We accept compliance and make no link between the level of success of a learner and their ability to manage the learning environment to meet their needs. I argue that it is at least worth exploring LQ as a factor in learning and that working to develop the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours of learners will ultimately be a better approach for all learners than compliance, more of the same, support or an alternative curriculum.
Link to Learning Intelligence graphic:
The start of a new term or semester often means the start of a new module, new project, or chapter in learning for the student. It has also meant a lot of lesson planning for the teacher has already taken place and it is time to test out the material. There is a lot riding on how well this has been done, the resources collected together and how it will be introduced. Get it right and you have engaged, interested, and enthusiastic learners. Get it wrong and the consequences range from disinterest to conflict and behaviour issues.
How can LQ play a part in lesson planning?
This question came about because of my current research and thinking for the LQ book I am presently working on. Although I said I would not be posting anything new on LQ I wanted to “air” my ideas on this particular aspect of Teaching and Learning and see if there was any “feedforward“.
We know that the successful teacher models learning behaviours. They often have a “project” in which they are involved, they are engaged in learning and remember what it feels like to learn something for the first time. These feelings often find their way into the planning cycle because the teacher will reflect on the experiences that will be faced by the students.
The teacher/learner is not merely presenting stuff to learn they understand they must guide the student through the learning experience too and their planning will reflect this. If you have read the earlier articles on LQ you will understand why I believe LQ thinking to be important when lesson planning.
Here is an LQ take on the lesson planning process.
(Heading in blue suggest LQ and those in red traditional planning considerations)
What do I need to teach is often the starting point.
What is the unit about, what will it cover and what do I want the students to learn? We can see aims and objectives being written in response to this question. No departure from normal lesson planning.
Where are my students?
What do they know and what “anchors” can I use to help “fix” the new learning? In other words prior learning, what do they know and how do I know what they know? A teacher should always start at this point, however, some assume rather than find out and this can mean bored learners or learners who are unable to access the learning. We are planning on poor foundations. No departure from good practice so far.
How do my students feel about what they have learnt already?
How confident are they in taking on a new challenge or applying what they know already? Will they be able to find the courage to try, to face possible struggles and in some cases failure at the first, second or even third attempt? Here we are beginning to open the LQ box of questions. To include this aspect in lesson planning is not too difficult and there are strategies that can be employed to help learners overcome confidence issues, to become learning heroes and understand the challenges faced in the quest to conquer the unknown or new.
How do I begin by sharing the learning challenges ahead?
In planning terms we may refer to this as the “Introduction” but only if we focus on the content and not the process. Sharing the challenges and involving the learner in planning to meet them is part of the LQ approach in planning and it is sometimes referred to as learner centred teaching. New topics can be approached in a number of ways and asking the learners to identify the most appropriate (even if this involves an element of guiding) helps share the ownership and responsibility for learning. It also develops LQ since lessons can be learnt from the how of learning as well as the knowledge or understanding itself. Sharing this aspect of planning is a little like offering a choice at meal time, it is difficult to push the plate away and say, “I don’t like this” when you have chosen it!
Here are some more LQ planning questions and requirements for you to consider:
- How do I share my enthusiasm for this topic?
- How do I elicit and include the ideas of the learners in my planning, preparation and resourcing?
- How do I describe achievement and how will the students recognise it?
- How do we work together to achieve and in doing so share the challenges?
- What will my role be in the learning process be and how do I signal this to the students?
- How will we celebrate achievement together and as individuals?
- How does the student go about reviewing their achievement against their learning map (what they believe they can and cannot learn) in order to re draw it to include new information about themselves (LQ)?
- What resources will be required to support them emotionally through the learning challenges?
LQ involves considering emotions and feeling about learning and coming to terms with them as a natural part of the learning environment.
One emotion that features a great deal at the start of something new is fear. Fear is often associated with rejection, of no longer being part of a group with which we want to be identified. If you have ever experienced rejection you will see why failure is so feared.
Having a sense of belonging* is one of our four basic needs as learners without it we find learning much harder. We need to recognise that this emotional state is often the starting point for many learners when faced with a new challenge. If we fail to consider it in our planning then we are being rather cruel and possibly limiting the success of learners.
I firmly believe LQ is an antidote to the fear of failure and leads to the sense of inclusion that builds belonging and leads to successful learning experiences.
If you want to find out more about LQ then follow this blog and Tweets from @4c3d. Please also remember if you would like to provide a workshop or organise a talk about LQ then your organisation can contact me by e-mail to make the necessary arrangements.
*Belonging is part of the “Please Be Child Friendly” approach developed by ace-d and stands for the 4 learning needs:
Power – Belonging – Choice and Fun.
Can we face up to and meet the challenge that LQ lays down when so many education systems are under pressure to perform and achieve results?
In the article “The LQ Rich Environment” (http://wp.me/p2LphS-3u) I said the following:
“My belief is also that if you make the learner aware of the challenges presented by their learning environment and help them develop the tools and skills to manage it in a way that meets their learning needs they will develop strengths or abilities in many more areas. The challenge to the teacher then is not to teach in a manner that seeks to meet significant strengths or preferences that have been developed (thereby further promoting them) but to provide the conditions whereby the learner is guided and given permission to go exploring their learning needs and how to meet them.”
In most education systems, especially those that are target/grade focused, this is a significant challenge. I believe we are beginning to see creative ways this can be accomplished. The ‘flipped lesson’ is one example of where the teacher is creating an opportunity for the learner to explore the learning in a way that meets their own needs. Where in the past we may have used the term ‘differentiation’ and gone about trying to achieve this by attempting to meet everyone’s learning needs in the space of a single lesson, technology is now allowing us to have a lesson of almost infinite length. More than this though it allows for ‘anytime anywhere learning’, a concept which is very much in line with LQ since it is the simplest definition of the term Learning Intelligence we can have. Being able to learn when it suits us best is when there is a need established. This ‘need’ can happen at any time and can be part of the strategy of the teaching and learning or naturally occurring through the learner’s curiosity being piqued.
Although the strength and power of the LQ concept relies on a personal responsibility to manage the learning environment yourself we cannot ignore the teacher’s role in developing the confidence in the learner to explore and begin to understand LQ. The term that has been used to describe this role for the teacher is “The guide at your side” and the flipped lesson embodies this approach. The challenge is providing the resources necessary to support the teaching in such a way. It will be interesting to see how these resources develop. One concern I have is the lack of ‘personalisation’ that may occur as this approach moves out of the hands of the individual teacher and into the commercial industry that supports education. My example would be the use of interactive whiteboards in classrooms. Early adopters of this technology developed their own resources to support their lessons, their teaching styles, and the needs of the learners they were teaching. Early adopters are normally characterised by their enthusiasm and energy for new developments and will put in the time required to explore and learn what can be done. Others who follow are not as adept at the technology and want something ‘off the shelf’. In my experience this does not always work out well for the teacher, they have not fully embraced or understood the needs of the new approach and it falls flat. The approach is derided and a return to the old ways is ‘proven’ to be the best way in their eyes. We have to ask where this will leave the learner. A teacher who sees requests, questions, and enquiries about how they are being taught from learners as a personal challenge will do nothing to develop LQ in their students. Unless we develop in learners an understanding of LQ I believe they will be confused, a confusion that could bring about more harm than good.
I therefore argue that we cannot successfully change the learning environment and therefore learning without equipping the learner at the same time with an understanding of LQ. LQ will help them make sense of new learning opportunities both through managed lessons and those made available through technology (anytime anywhere learning) in a way that helps them re draw their learning map (what they believe they can and cannot learn).
Developing LQ in learners can range from little more than a discussion about how they feel when learning something and bringing out into the open the anxiety, stress, lack of confidence and impact on self-esteem that forms part of the emotional landscape at this time. It needs to include a discussion and exploration of learning needs and understanding of how these come. Developing LQ can go as far as the learner preparing their own learning resource both for themselves and, if we extend this process, for others who share the same learning needs.
What developing LQ in learners means for the teacher is having the confidence to first research and explore for themselves their own LQ and relate it to how they learn and manage their learning environment. It is worth exploring a learning styles analysis along with a teaching styles analysis. Both are available on line from a number of sources. The one I use is available from Creative Learning.
The next step is to find creative ways of starting a discussion about learning needs and the emotions involved in learning. Few teachers actually explore this as part of the teaching and learning which strikes me as odd. We take our time to teach so many aspects and provide encouraging comments as we do so each time failure is encountered in everyday life yet when it comes to teaching we appear to forget to teach about learning and instead focus on subject matter.
Moving on from this point will involve changes in the approach to teaching and learning and this may face challenges from within an organisation and even from those learners who have not understood the advantages and application of LQ to their learning. It may be seen as a waste of time or being off task but actually it is neither. I think of it as putting in place base camps as if I were climbing a mountain such as Everest. Each camp is strategically placed and resourced in order to support a successful attempt on the mountain in the most efficient and safe way possible. Time taken to establish these base camps is far from wasted and ultimately secures the success looked for.
The next LQ review and what to look forward to
I have published an article each week since the beginning of August and there are now 20 of them to discover. I am now focusing on putting together the LQ guide and will spend the next 4 months organising my thoughts and researching. This means I will have to suspend the weekly article for now. This is not to say there will be nothing new posted on my blog, it is hard to ignore and not make comment on some of the things happening in the world of education. I will be able to answer any comments or questions about LQ so if you have them e-mail me or leave a comment on the blog and I will answer them.
Please also remember if you would like to provide a workshop or organise a talk about LQ then your organisation can contact me by e-mail to make the necessary arrangements.
We instinctively know that tour learning environment is important to us because we try to create that which is comfortable and avoid that which is uncomfortable. This leads us to a question about our learning environment, just what is it? Take a moment to answer the following question.
What makes up or is part of your learning environment?
a) The “landscape” (buildings, rooms, outdoor spaces, light, sound, temperature, furniture)
b) The people (teachers, parents, other learners)
c) Your learning map (what you believe you can and cannot learn)
d) Your emotions (those we recognise as influencing our learning. For example feeling confident.)
e) Other (please let me know if you believe there is another element to our learning environment)
What decision did you reach? My belief is that it is a) through to d) but I am not ruling out anything else that comes along. For example the presence of technology, now such a large part of our lives, has made a significant impact on our learning environment. We can have “anytime, anywhere learning” through appropriate use of technology.
In this review of LQ I want to look at a slightly different aspect of the learning environment, one where people are the focus. People can cause a number of issues in the learning equation in the same way as our physical environment can. For example a chair may be uncomfortable and cause us to fidget or lose concentration in the same way as the actions or behaviours of others can achieve the same effect. People can make us feel insecure or embarrassed one the one hand and on the other confident and brave.
In the possible answers to the question of “What makes up or is part of your learning environment?” only one element is the physical aspects of the environment. In the remaining three options two are accounted for by your interaction with people. It is safe then to consider the need to have some understanding of people and specifically your emotions when interacting with people when seeking to manage your learning environment.
The concept of emotional intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman [i] is now recognised as a key aspect of understanding a child’s success in the classroom. When we are stressed, placing our emotional centres in turmoil, we do not learn easily or well. Here is a question and answer from the website www.danielgoleman.info/ [ii]
“Q: Is EI (emotional Intelligence) also crucial to a student’s success in the classroom? And if so, why?
A: EI is crucial for all life success, including for students in the classroom, because of the basic design of the brain. Our emotions evolved as a tool for survival, and today emotions have a privileged position in the brain. When we are upset the emotional centers can hijack the thinking centers, rendering us unable to think clearly, focus on the task at hand, perceive in an undistorted manner, and even make it harder to remember what’s relevant to what we’re doing (instead we remember easily anything about what’s upsetting us). So whether in the workplace or the classroom, managing our emotions is the prerequisite to learning and focus.”
EQ or “EI” is well documented and to ignore its impact on learning and the learning environment would be to ignore a key element in managing the learning environment and in understanding LQ. Being aware of your own emotions is only part of the LQ equation; you need to be aware of the emotions of others too. In short you need to be able to “read” other people, to recognise the behaviours and signals that give away how they are feeling and perhaps why they are behaving as they are. When we get this wrong our world can turn upside down in an instant. Further it can have long lasting effects on how we interact with our learning environment, sometimes making us withdraw altogether. Have you ever mis-read the signals from a parent, teacher or boss and “gone too far” before you realised it?
Earlier I wrote about how the learner needs to find ways of approaching the teacher that can help them acquire the support they need and avoid possible conflict. Some approaches made by inexperienced learners can be interpreted as a challenge. I also reminded teachers to be ready to listen and not to judge or jump to conclusions. Both are important aspects of the learning environment and both underline how important emotions are in that landscape.
I also mentioned how subtle the clues in individuals can be, especially at the early stages of display. For example we are all well aware of body language and can recognise displays of anger, fear, surprise, or love. What if these displays, however subtle, leave a “fingerprint“? What if there are clues we all carry which indicate traits we are prone to demonstrate? Being able to recognise the subtle markers of likely behaviours can help us navigate around those that have a negative impact on our learning and head for those that support us.
I have also commented on how we use our senses and how we interpret and diagnose by using them. In an earlier LQ article I also made the point that “Being aware of those around us, their behaviours, and emotions is part of our general survival toolkit. Not recognising when those around us sense danger could result in us being left behind so we are wired to respond in some way to others around us.”
A discussion with Alan Stevens [iii] who is described as a “face reader” and a recognised authority in his field came about as I was preparing this review of LQ learning environment article. His work is inspiring, especially for those who are working closely and collaboratively with people. As we talked a number of questions came to mind about things such as:
- nature and nurture influences
- when and if we get “hard wired” in our emotional responses
- is the face the window to the soul, do those facial muscles we use most often become more highly developed and change our appearance as a body builder attempts to do with their body
- what do you do when you recognise something in someone when they do not recognise it in themselves
- what about the issues surrounding prediction by reading somebody?
You can see my talk with Alan got my grey cells working. I would say I was using my LQ to explore a new learning landscape that was opening up to me. I am now faced with questions about such things as “micro expressions” and their impact in the learning environment (both for the learner and the teacher).
A key area for me to explore in relation to LQ is what happens if the teacher is not expressing or displaying the micro expressions expected by the learner and as a result sets up an emotional imbalance in the learner. Can this inhibit learning? We know anything that negatively impacts our emotions inhibits learning so the answer would be yes, but what to do about it. What can the learner do and what can the teacher do to address this imbalance and stabilise the learning environment? The first step must be to explore and understand these expressions and which ones match which situations. We know teaching is an art involving acting and acting involves duplicating emotions and expressions at will to suit a character or role. The better we are at acting the more believable our character is. The next question is what the teacher can do with the “intelligence” or information they receive as a result of accurately reading people. It would in effect cut the “getting to know you time” at the start of a course or term by many weeks and help establish working learning partnerships much earlier. Exciting times and I would recommend you check out Alan’s work.
A word about the courses and presentations I have developed around the LQ concept.
Having recently used the principles of LQ in coaching learners in literacy and numeracy I know LQ “works” and it brings about improvements in learning. Two presentations which can be part of a morning course if required are available. One is aimed at teachers and will develop the insight and tools necessary to promote LQ in learners and the second focuses on developing an understanding of LQ and the implications for learning in pupils/students (this can be customised for learners from the age of 9 up to adults). If you are interested in finding out more about the LQ presentations or courses then please contact me at ace-d. My e-mail is: email@example.com
Link to the original LQ article
[i] Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman Random House Publishing Group, 2012
We believe we know who we are. We think we know how we would react or behave in different circumstances and situations. We think we have the measure of others and can predict how they will behave too.
What if none of this is true? What if we have no real idea of who we are and have no way of predicting how others will react? I would bet that we would all feel rather uncomfortable.
So how does the idea of ‘self’ work?
The concept of ‘self’ features a lot in our language: behave yourself, you are not yourself, being self-assured, self-motivated, being selfish, self-centred, show self-control, self-help books, myself, help yourself etc. It could be that anything that is important tends to feature more often in language. This would indicate ‘self’ is important to us.
This summary about ‘self’ is based on the book by Bruce Hood, The Self Illusion [i]
- The concept of ‘self’ is not associated with any organ in the body other than the brain
- There is no ‘self’ centre in the brain
- We have an image of ‘self’ that we develop
- ‘Self’ is a reflection and can change according to your social environment
- ‘Self’ is a set of behaviours others are accustomed to
- ‘Self’ appears to provide some behavioural control function
There are times when ‘self’ appears to be more active and this correlates with key phases in our development. These phases are associated with social activity and influences. At the age of four we start to be concerned about how others see us. How others see us becomes very important around adolescence and can have a major impact on behaviour. When we can see an image of our self, for example in a mirror, it affects our behaviour too.
Labels play a part in establishing ‘self’ and we need to be careful of these. Strangely enough the first thing we do is label children; we may even do so before they are born. For example, picking names can be stressful. If you have an image of a John or Joan that is rather negative I bet the names will be put at the bottom of the list. Likewise a favourable personality, perhaps somebody you admire, named Marcus or Mary will make you think about including them in your possible list. Even before naming though is the label of sex, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ is one of the first questions we get asked after the birth. Our sex can be a major part of ‘self’. It may be the very first factor in building ‘self’. Phrases such as, “Boys will be boys” and girls are made of “sugar and spice and all things nice” is part of many cultural gender images.
How is the ‘self’ involved in how we behave and therefore learn? Earlier I the used the phrase “behave yourself” and we know that sometimes people are “not themselves.” Both phrases are related to how we expect ‘self’ to regulate our behaviour or that of others according to the picture we hold of them or they hold of themselves. We may behave as others expect of us rather than how we would instinctively behave because of their expectations of us. We have not all been “tested” in every conceivable situation and so we use a picture of ourselves to imagine what we would do in different situations. This picture is important to us, it helps define our “character”, the way we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. We also hold pictures of others and use these to predict their behaviour too.
Our image of ‘self’ and how we form it is a complicated affair but it also relies on social interaction. We are how others see us. Labels are how others describe how they see us. Labels carry social stigma and values and whilst we care about how others see us they can influence how we behave.
These points about self and behaviour are especially important in learning. In a learning situation problems arise when these pictures are poorly formed, incomplete, or distorted or we are unwilling to change them. If we think of this picture we hold as ‘self’ then we can explore it as if it were a character in a book. It will have a number of traits along with behaviours we come to expect of it. Within this picture of ‘self’ are our beliefs about our ability to learn, I call this a “learning map” and we begin to draw it the day we are born. Like all maps it shows where you are and where you want to be and the roads that connect the two together. When we can see an easy path between the two points we interpret this as something we can learn without a great deal of effort. If the route is a little more twisted or perhaps has more of an incline we may need encouragement to begin the learning journey. Should the map show no route between the two points we can assume it is not possible to get there and decide it is something we cannot learn. Of course the ‘self’ is the traveller and like all travellers it may decide to ignore the map and find its own route. Like all travellers the ‘self’ has a character, it may be stubborn or resourceful, and this will determine how successful the journey is in either acquiring learning along the way or in reaching the destination.
I hope you can see how useful a metaphor the map is in linking ‘self’ to learning. The metaphor also gives us a way to see how LQ can play a part in learning and in developing the ‘self’. Re drawing the learning map through the application of LQ allows us to discover new things about the ‘self’. We may think we have no way of reaching a destination only to find a different route because we begin to look around us for an alternative. Think of it as crossing a stream that blocks our way by the building of a bridge. This action may occur because we think of ourselves as resourceful, perhaps resilient, or creative.
What this means for the Teacher
- There is a link between behaviour and our view of ‘self’ (that of ourselves and the ‘self’ of others).
- Be wary of labels and how they can affect ‘self’. Don’t pre judge based on ‘self’ images you hold linked to behaviours and expectations of those you teach.
- There may be different ‘selves’ and by creating the right learning environment you can attract and develop the one most appropriate to the learning challenge. For example by managing failure correctly in a lesson you can help form a self-image of a learner who can overcome such challenges and find other ways to succeed (a key LQ behaviour)
What this means for the Learner
- You are not programmed to behave or act in fixed ways; you can adopt behaviours that make it more likely for you to succeed if the ones you are using don’t work.
- You are influenced by others and the images they hold of you. Make sure you always act in a way that helps you achieve rather than limits your achievement. Be prepared to show others they are wrong about you when they think you can’t achieve by finding other ways (use your LQ).
- Labels are removable and they can fade in time. Labels describe behaviours rather than abilities, they are not who you are just how you are seen sometimes. Work to create the right labels for what you want to achieve and not to reinforce the limiting ones. For example if you are labelled as being lazy don’t create a self that is lazy, see it as a challenge to change the other person’s view of you.
- When drawing your learning map be careful not to allow limiting self-images to affect where you want to get to and how you will get there. Use your LQ as a compass to guide you to where you want to be.
A final word about the link between LQ and ‘self’
In many ways ‘self’ is the toolbox from which LQ draws when building a learning environment that suits our learning needs. When faced with a learning challenge think which ‘self’ would be successful. A resourceful ‘self’ will always find a way to learn and overcome an environment which limits learning. An energetic ‘self’ will always find the resources and have the drive to complete a learning challenge. A confident ‘self’ will always pick themselves up after knock backs and failures and see these as part of the learning journey. A thoughtful and reflective ‘self’ will always manage their behaviour in a way that brings about the outcome they are looking for in the least destructive way.
Follow up this article with a further look at self. http://wp.me/p2LphS-5y
About the topic of LQ
I coined the term “LQ” 18 months ago when I was writing my first e-book “Understanding Learning Needs”. As I reflected on my teaching career of 30 plus years and the challenges in helping people to learn, I found I needed something to describe my own learning journey and how I had overcome my learning barriers as well as the strategies I had used successfully as a teacher to help others learn. I describe LQ as a way of managing your learning environment to meet your own learning needs. Seeing the challenges in education change it became evident that we needed to equip learners with a skill set and understanding so that they could manage their own learning environment to meet their needs, LQ is my answer to that challenge. In this way no matter how toxic the learning environment the learner would be able to learn comfortably and with confidence.
As I try to build a career as an educational consultant my own LQ is helping me develop new skills and overcome new learning challenges so I know it works. I hope reading the articles I have written is making you think about your own learning journey and how you have developed your own LQ. There have been over a 1000 views of my articles on LQ since publishing the first on August 11th this year and 500 downloads of the e-book Understanding Learning Needs since it was published a year ago. I am hoping that this developing audience is an indication of an awakening in others of the value of the concept of Learning Quotient in managing your own learning.
Finally – don’t be afraid to ask! If there is anything you want to know about LQ or would like me to present my ideas to a group of colleagues just get in touch, others already have. Whilst I may not be able to attend in person there are always ways of communicating.
[i] Bruce Hood, 2012 The ‘self’ Illusion: Why There is No “You” Inside Your Head, Constable & Robinson
If you arrived at this page because you Googled “bored” read on you may find out why you feel that way. At the very least you will waste another 10 minutes but you will look as though you are doing something!
Down to business
Can boredom really have anything to do with learning and can you learn if you are bored?
The common thinking is that if you are bored you are not going to learn and, whilst this may be true, boredom can come about for a number of different reasons within the learning process and all of them have something to do with you learning environment and LQ. Let me explain.
Sometime ago I read an article that suggested boredom, or a session of being bored was actually good for you. This is something as a father I used often when my children complained of being bored. “I am bored!” was met with the quick reply, “Excellent, it is part of growing up and is good for you. Enjoy the opportunity.” Not always a welcome reply but it certainly did the trick. I could even claim to be a good parent because I created or provided the opportunity for boredom – result. I have come to give this notion some more thought as I have explored the concept of LQ. Can boredom be a good thing? The short answer is “It depends.” A bit of a cop-out answer in one way but in another it does highlight the need to explore what boredom actually is and why it occurs.
It would be childish to ask if I am boring you but I have anyway!
I hope you are still with me as I suggest why boredom can occur. Let us start by suggesting boredom is the result of a lack of interest in what is going on around us, a type of response like anxiety or fear or excitement. We may feel in some way, and for some reason, excluded from those events happening right now and within our current environment. Another word that springs to mind is “engagement”, we are not engaged whether physically or mentally with whatever it is we are meant to be doing at a given point in time when the state of boredom is experienced.
Exclusion from learning can occur for a number of reasons but one that appears to be very important is an understanding of what is going on. To one person who sees and understands what is happening around them the moments may be filled with an immense amount of information, all of it of interest to them. They may be taking part in an activity which brings them pleasure or enjoyment and time may mean nothing to them, as it appears to pass quickly. Sir Ken Robinson refers to this as being in your “element”[i] . Being in your element is described as a point where natural talent meets personal passion. Certainly people who are in their element would be most unlikely to describe themselves as being bored. Having a talent often encourages you to keep practicing or researching or taking an interest in whatever that talent is related to. A talented footballer may have an interest in all things football related: statistics, players, news, transfers etc. They may notice things those who are not interested in or do not have a talent for football ever acknowledge or recognise. They are very aware of their environment and as a result take (learn) more from it.
People who claim to be bored, I mean genuinely bored not those who would rather be doing something else and so claim boredom as a strategy to move on, can be recognised by their show of a lack of interest in what is going on. This could be demonstrated by a reluctance to be verbally engaged or even being very vocal indeed. If you are a teacher you will recognise that look that some students display from time to time, the one that says “Go away, I am not interested, even if you spontaneously combusted on the spot I would continue to stare into space.” You have to be careful though because of the “pseudo-boredom” look too, the one that is peer group generated because it is not something the group is interested in and therefore neither am I, it is not “cool”. This is different altogether and more interest may be taken than you realise.
One of our natural needs is to be involved in something, to have fun, and if it is not being met in what is happening then other distractions are looked for. Teachers will be well aware of this when they think of disruptive students in their lessons. The boredom may come about because they may have experienced the same thing before, perhaps many times, so there is nothing new in it for them and no challenge. They may have tried to understand whatever it is, failed, and therefore decided it is not for them and no longer try to engage, too big a challenge.
Although not an in-depth answer I hope I have given you something to think about in terms of what boredom is and why it occurs.
Let us have a look at the next question “Can boredom be a good thing?”
Yes if you recognise it as a symptom of not being able to engage in whatever is going on in your environment and do something about.
No if you do nothing about trying to find a way to engage and ignore possible learning opportunities that surround you. I find there is always something to learn no matter where I am and what I am doing (ever wondered why “people watching” is so fascinating and popular?). Being disengaged means to drift and to miss opportunities.
Just asking yourself the question “Why do I feel this way?” when you are bored is a good start, you are beginning to re-engage with your environment. Just be aware that finding the answer is always the difficult part. Here are some possible questions that will help you find the answers to why you may experience boredom.
1) Do I understand what is going on? This may involve understanding any prior learning that is required. Not understanding may indicate revision or re visiting the topic in a different way.
2) Am I interested in what is going on? You may be absolutely familiar with the topic or activity and it may hold no new challenge for you. Should you be here and are you ready to move onto something new? If you are ready to move on why haven’t you?
3) Am I distracted by something else? It is quite possible your mind is elsewhere, some other event has got you thinking and you are unable to follow what is going on around you. You may “tune out” and miss aspects which ultimately leads to you being excluded from what is going on around you and you lose interest.
4) Are any or all of my needs being met?[ii] The four key ones are; a) Engagement or fun, b) Choice or freedom, c) Being heard or power and d) Being recognised for who you are, belonging.
5) Are any or all of my learning needs being met? This is the heart of LQ, being able to manage your learning environment to meet your learning needs. A review of earlier posts will help you understand this aspect in relation to being engaged and limit boredom.
What this means for the Teacher
1) See an exhibition of boredom as a symptom and not behaviour to be challenged. Some learners, including those recognised as gifted or talented, may have already understood have prior learning and need to move on and be challenged. Have you pitched the lesson at the correct level or are your resources able to provide challenge to the entire class?
2) Resist requiring a public demonstration of understanding from those who appear bored. This does little to build or maintain relationships with the learners and can only serve to alienate you, as they will no longer be willing to trust you.
3) Ask probing questions or those that require synthesis of the material to those that appear bored in order to show even though they may understand what is happening now there is more to the topic should they challenge themselves.
4) Help learners to recognise that boredom is a signal to do something about their learning environment, about applying their LQ.
What this means for the Learner
1) Learn to recognise boredom as a feeling that you should do something about and not an indication that you cannot learn or that you do not have to make an effort to learn. Both beliefs are limiting your potential in the topic. With the right approach (LQ) and effort you have a better chance of learning or gaining a deeper understanding of the topic.
2) If you are experiencing boredom then find an opportunity to explain your feelings to your teacher. They may well have noticed your behaviour and a conversation can reassure both of you that you still want to learn and provide a possible pathway and maybe a new challenge or new approach.
What is next weeks topic?
In part one I made the link between what I claim to be the unrecognised aspect which impacts learning, the learning environment, and key transitions in the learning journey. I suggested what some of the behaviours may be where a change in learning environment takes place and would add a caution about accepting them without investigation. I want to finish of this article by considering what this means for the teacher and learner.
What this means for the Teacher
The first point is to be observant and notice changes in behaviour associated with learning. If you change approach, materials or resources note how this impacts on the learner behaviour and attitudes to learning. After some time you will establish the “learning map” of the learner to which you can refer when you notice any changes. Typical responses of a learner struggling to adapt to a changing learning environment include being more chatty and sometimes a little louder than normal. They can also find it difficult to settle down and get to work and being late to lesson is a typical behaviour. Distraction strategies include asking unnecessary questions, a clue you must not miss, and asking for resources they may actually not need. If a learner begins to engage, where they were before they were reluctant, explore any changes you have made and identify those that have had a significant impact. Learning to incorporate these, especially when introducing a new topic (often the most demanding of learning times), will help the learner adapt to new challenges.
Secondly find time to discuss with previous teachers or parents who have experience of interacting with the learner the behaviour of any leaner where there appears to be an anomaly with either behaviour or progress. Unfortunately the focus tends to be towards the negative aspects rather than also recognising the improvements. Parents will notice a happy child or one reluctant to go to school; both are indicators of how the learner is finding their learning environment. If you are not the sole class teacher this task is easier since not only do you have an opportunity to discuss with other teachers you also have the opportunity to observe the learner in a different environment. If you ever get the chance to shadow a learner I would recommend you take it. It is surprising what you find out as the learner moves from teacher to teacher and subject to subject. Where you may not be able to discuss with earlier teachers, perhaps due to a change of school, then ask for reports which include teacher comments rather than just grades or marks.
Include in any discussion with the learner not only the topic of the learning but also ask what makes learning more enjoyable for them. You may not be able to accommodate this learning need but having the discussion is one of the ways you can help the learner in seeing the link between their environment and their learning. You can also begin to discuss strategies to help them manage their learning environment to meet their needs.
What this means for the Learner
You will have an idea of which teachers or even which subjects you like best, the question you must ask yourself is why? Think about what is common between the teachers you like to learn with or the subjects you like to study. It may be some teachers allow you to study in groups, or it may be you are involved in an investigation style of approach. Whatever it is it is a suggestion of the type of learning environment you manage best in. Knowing this can help you develop strategies in other subjects or with other teachers to help meet your learning needs and enjoy those times too.
Of course it is not only your teachers or the subject which affects your ability to learn although they are a key part of your learning environment. You also need to consider your class or group when you think about where you learn best. A mix of certain people can really change your learning environment. Perhaps it is a little noisier than you like or some people are really competitive in the way they behave. Whatever it is you need to have a conversation with your parents and teachers to find ways of managing your learning environment to support your learning. A change of where you sit can help and in one school I know they allow students to wear a type of earmuff that cuts out some of the noise that can be a distraction.
The title is the first line of a post from OECD Education Today titled “A Window into the classroom”. You can find the full article here: A Window into the classroom (linked checked 03/032016)
It goes on to say “Excellent teachers are those teachers who master a large repertoire of teaching practices, which they can deploy according to learners’ needs and varying classroom conditions. Those teachers are also the ones who actively advance their own professional competence by professional development and who feel more satisfied and effective about their own work.”
I am sure many teachers will not disagree but what about the learning environment teachers often find themselves in. I don’t mean just the classroom, I mean the political landscape which governs the conditions under which teachers work.
My comment is given below where I try to make the point about environment impacting on the ability of the teacher to teach. I have also included a link to a Prezi I put together which explores the nature of an excellent teacher.
“Whilst I agree and support your descriptions of the nature and behaviour of the excellent teacher you must also consider the environment in which that or any other teacher operates. An excellent teacher can be limited by the environment in which they work and suffer greatly as a result, perhaps to the extent of not being recognised as an excellent teacher! Place a creative, innovative teacher into a highly regulated, prescriptive and consequence based environment as you will be rewarded with a mediocre teacher at best and an ineffective teacher in the worst case.
As for teachers reluctant to change practices consider the fact that some take their responsibility very seriously, after all they face the consequences each day. If you saw a systematic dismantling and ineffective change of the system in which you had invested your professional career would you not be reluctant to open your doors? You would, I believe, seek to protect what you had and what worked and be resistant to change where you saw no benefit.
I mention these two points because I have personal experience of what the environment can do to and for excellent teachers. The key to recognising and promoting excellent teaching is to create the right environment. Perhaps a reflection on the research available to CERI etc may help identify the key elements to providing an environment in which teachers and teaching can flourish. Even without this research I am sure most teachers would give you a list. The next obvious step would be to explore and record the environments in which teachers operate and to compare this with the numbers of excellent teachers within each. I return to this point in the article ” What happens when we interfere with the learning relationship?”
As for what makes an excellent teacher I extracted a little intellectual capital from an online discussion, you will find the link below, in which this very question was debated and evidence suggested. If you do visit Prezi please leave a comment to add to the debate, after all is it not an aspect of collective responsibility to enhance teaching!”