This summary and reflection are part of my coursework for EDN550 Transition to Teaching, the initial intensive unit of the Graduate Diploma in Education at Murdoch University in 2018. This is the second of five such summaries and reflections.
- Listening: attending, responding, clarifying.
- Non-verbal vs. verbal communication.
- Types of questions: convergent (closed, low order), divergent (open, high order), evaluative.
- Conflict management: say how you’re feeling, describe incident and effect on you, make a request or suggestion.
- Implicit, explicit, null curriculum (Eisner, 1992).
- Education contexts: changing global context, influence of US and UK policies, PISA, 21st century workforce skills.
- Students’ content: diverse, media (information) saturated, completing social pressures, changing family structures.
- Well-being: physically and mentally well, spiritually aware or connected, feel life is worthwhile and purposeful.
- Maintaining well-being: physically, relationships, work, spiritually.
- Supporting student well-being: safe/supportive environment, develop social/emotional skills and behaviour management, lean on school/community strategies.
- Strategies: know children’s interests, set tailored high expectations, acknowledge strengths, practical social problem-solving task, help with affective awareness, help with goal planning, work with parents/families/communities.
- Classroom discussion: focus should be on arriving together at new understanding, not spreading personal views. Students’ questions are the most crucial.
- Discussions outcomes: general subject matter mastery, problem-solving ability, moral development, attitude change and development, and communication skills.
- Reasons for using whole-class discussions (Killen, pp. 165–)… a long, long list. Worth revisiting.
- Issues to consider before using whole-class discussions (Killen, pp. 165–)… another long, long list worth revisiting.
- Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats: not in reading, so… Wikipedia).
- Expectations in a discussion: speak clearly, listen attentively, remain objective, make concise and relevant contributions, be reflective.
- Student discussion commitment (Killen, p 182.): thirteen I will … statements.
- Alternatives to asking questions in a discussion: listen actively, give praise, make declarative statements, reflect and re-state, paraphrase, ask to repeat, invite elaboration, encourage S–S interchange, ask for examples, invite questions (inc. to/from speaker), involve hesitant students, thoughtful silent pauses, define words/phrases, call for consensus, admit confusion.
- Be aware of what can go wrong in a discussion and use strategies to put the discussion back on track (Killen, pp. 188–).
- Closing a discussion: summarising, foreshadowing, reflecting and evaluating.
- … in a Mathematics unit on probability, the teacher might organise a discussion on the topic ‘How do misconceptions about probability impact on our daily lives?’ (Killen, 193).
- Discussion with other teaching strategies: direct instruction (quick discussions), group work (structured S–S discussion), problem–solving (to understand the nature of the problem), inquiry (to clarify research task), case study (discussion on issues), role-play (debriefing after).
- Some good and some bad suggestions for using ICT. Good are those around structured online (or local) discussion (e.g. posting comments, discussion forums, chat apps). Requires strict oversight and moderation.
- Long, long list of reflection questions to evaluate classroom discussion on page 197.
The two main themes here were communication and discussion. In both areas, I found some material I could already relate to and some that were new which I believe I can put into practice.
Distinguishing between convergent, divergent, and evaluative questions should help me to use questioning more effectively as a classroom management strategy. The online task about well-being showed me how starting with low order questions can help to get questioning going where you want it to go. Sometimes, you don’t have time to listen to a student struggle through answering a divergent question and a quick closed question could satisfy a student’s need for supportive interaction, but sometimes you need to get to an evaluative answer to assess learning.
I already use non-verbal communication deliberately, although I believe that there are times when stress wears me out and this is highly visible to students. I often enjoy ‘dancing’ around the classroom, and when I see that it is activating the students, my motivation to teach increases. However, I suppose I need to be careful that I am not just enjoying a bit of performing arts and that my antics deliberately get students on thought and on task
To be honest, I have never really considered how discussion could be used in the mathematics classroom, besides throwing out a quick “Discuss this with your partner/at your table”. This is mainly because I currently have mostly EAL students. But after reading Killen (2013), I am actually convinced that even basic conversations (and even allowing Chinese to be spoken) can have valuable outcomes. I’ve set a personal task to create a ‘teaching card’ for discussion expectations. And also one for the thirteen I will … statements on page 182. I hope those will help keep the valuable things I’ve read/learned in the front of my mind as I start to implement deliberately structured group and class discussion. In the EAL environment, I think it is especially important to define terms and concepts before starting a discussion.
I also want to use online discussion more. I don’t like online forums (outdated technology) but I do like real-time chat and collaboration platforms, e.g. Slack and Microsoft Teams. I want to lobby my school to activate Microsoft Teams as part of our Office365 for Education suite. (Task added.)
Final note … I will extract the classroom discussion evaluation questions (Killen, p. 197) and put them into my ‘How to teach’ folder. Also, I will start a ‘How to teach’ folder.
- Killen, Roy. “Using Discussion as a Teaching Strategy.” Effective Teaching Strategies: Lessons from Research and Practice, 6th ed., Cengage Learning Australia, 2013, pp. 162–199.
- Groundwater-Smith, Susan, et al. “Teaching, Learning and Curriculum in a Changing World.” Teaching Challenges and Dilemmas, Cengage Learning Australia, 2011, pp. 126–149.
These are personal notes and reflections. Portions of the summary are taken verbatim from the various lectures, presentations, readings and videos. I have not distinguished between what are my own ideas, what is my own writing (or paraphrasing), and what is taken from the source materials.