Lesson planning in the 21st century

Lesson PlanningDesigners follow a reason centred or action centred models to develop their content. We are in the technological age and technology is part of our classrooms and so looking at teaching through a designer’s lens provides insight and clarity. Technology in a classroom means tablets, smart phones, interactive white boards, laptops, computer screens. Screens, images, placement of content, visual literacy. Design. Planning lessons ought to be centred around design principles and, as it turns out, they serve us well. The image I have put into this post is by no means definitive. It is a way to demonstrate how we already use reason centred and action centred lesson planning and as you look at it you will think of other things. There is a bit of tension between the two in education because some would like to abandon or down grade the reason centred approach and focus more on the action centred approach. As a designer you wouldn’t do that until you were really experienced and had mastered the foundations of design through theory and research. As teachers we will often be champing at the bit to try different things and technology can increase that feeling  because there are just so many great things you can do with it in a classroom. So approach needs to be tempered. We need some commonality, consistency and coherence across the curriculum. ACARA has done much to try to ensure that and to ensure we have content based on good practice and evidence. We are in a data driven world and we are able to access a lot of information about learning which was previously rather sparse. We can use that to our advantage. We can also use the benchmarking of NAPLAN, exams and national tests to inform our decision making as teachers. By contrast we can also take real advantage of anytime, anywhere learning and students, as well as attending lessons at school,  can be participating in online learning, community based learning, project based learning, industry based learning – in other words – lifelong learning. Aitsl encourages us to create lessons based on reason:

1.1 Select from a flexible and effective repertoire of teaching strategies to suit the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.
1.2 Expand understanding of how students learn using research and workplace knowledge.
1.5 Evaluate learning and teaching programs, using student assessment data, that are differentiated for the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.
1.6 Work with colleagues to access specialist knowledge, and relevant policy and legislation, to develop teaching programs that support the participation and learning of students with disability
2.3 Design and implement learning and teaching programs using knowledge of curriculum, assessment and reporting requirements.
2.6 Model high-level teaching knowledge and skills and work with colleagues to use current ICT to improve their teaching practice and make content relevant and meaningful.
3.6 Conduct regular reviews of teaching and learning programs using multiple sources of evidence including: student assessment data, curriculum documents, teaching practices and feedback from parents/ carers, students and colleagues.
6.2 Plan for professional learning by accessing and critiquing relevant research, engage in high quality targeted opportunities to improve practice and offer quality placements for pre-service teachers where applicable.

The action-centred approach in aitsl comes largely through the encouragement to initiate ideas and collaborate with others.

6.3 Initiate and engage in professional discussions with colleagues in a range of forums to evaluate practice directed at improving professional knowledge and practice, and the educational outcomes of students.

6.4 Engage with colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of teacher professional learning activities to address student learning needs.

7.4 Participate in professional and community networks and forums to broaden knowledge and improve practice.

aitsl asks us to inform our action centred approach through a reason based foundation so that we consult widely and adopt  professional insight into pedagogy.

Again it is coming back to the design and agile thinking principles:

Design thinking is : Understand, Explore, Prototype , Evaluate

Agile Thinking is about bearing the end user in mind, making incremental improvements and gaining feedback before you move on.

The reason centred approach and the action-centred approach are not in opposition in education. They operate together to stimulate growth and that positive mindset we keep talking about.

Project Based Learning

This video has been made by a teacher. It is good to see teachers give insight into how they manage , initiate and sustain different ways of teaching and learning. He gives a link to his website at the end of the video. Not too many teachers bang on like the teacher at the beginning of this video. Not any more. I have been in a position of privilege where I have been able to go into other teachers’ classrooms and the thing which has always amazed and impressed me is the number of different ways in which teachers interact with students. The sage on the stage noun phrase has done much to damage being there at the front of your class in a good way . It tends to hark back to  what was the chalk and talk and endless copying. That  is how I was taught. The teacher stood out the front and banged on incessantly and then we had copious notes to take , exercises to do and homework on exactly the same thing. I learned a lot. When you are not allowed to say and do then you are in your own headspace and a good teacher would get you thinking and that headspace would create all sorts of connections and ideas because there was nothing to distract you. Much of it was mind numbing, though. Different era. The student faces at the beginning of this video are classic. I have seen that. The blank almost comatose look. I have never taught for more than 10 minutes at a time and that is of value. I am a teacher. I know a lot. In 10 minutes I can clarify, intrigue, contextualise, ideate, stimulate and set the scene for learning. Most teachers do that these days. They create a rationale or narrative and create their lessons around that.

So where does the project based learning fit in? The notion of it can confuse. Is it actually doing a practical project or is it doing a research and analysis project? This article by TeachThought explains it well. Learning projects come down to challenge based, place based or activity based. You could do a challenge based project on finding out about Shakespeare and his plays. You could do a place based project by going to Stratford on Avon and finding out about where he lived and his cultural heritage. You could put on a Shakespearean play and learn about Shakespeare as an activity based project. Virtual reality will give us other options. Technology gives us yet others. It will always be about the students and the sorts of projects which help them learn best. You then have to balance that against time allocation for the subject , personal teaching load and expectations and then ease of access to resources.

The aitsl professional standards also easily enable you to take project based learning into account :

1.1 Select from a flexible and effective repertoire of teaching strategies to suit the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.
1.3 Design and implement teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
1.4 Design and implement effective teaching strategies that are responsive to the local community and cultural setting, linguistic background and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
1.5 Develop teaching activities that incorporate differentiated strategies to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.
1.6 Design and implement teaching activities that support the participation and learning of students with disability and address relevant policy and legislative requirements.
2.2 Exhibit innovative practice in the selection and organisation of content and delivery of learning and teaching programs.
2.4 Provide opportunities for students to develop understanding of and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages.
2.5 Apply knowledge and understanding of effective teaching strategies to support students’ literacy and numeracy achievement.
2.6 Use effective teaching strategies to integrate ICT into learning and teaching programs to make selected content relevant and meaningful.
3.1 Develop a culture of high expectations for all students by modelling and setting challenging learning goals.
3.2 Plan and implement well-structured learning and teaching programs or lesson sequences that engage students and promote learning.
3.3 Select and use relevant teaching strategies to develop knowledge, skills, problem solving and critical and creative thinking.
3.4 Select and/or create and use a range of resources, including ICT, to engage students in their learning.

3.3 goes to the heart of project based learning but the other professional standards apply. There are others too which you would meet if you were engaging with colleagues to develop big projects or if you were involving yourself with community organisations and /or parents as part of the project based learning.

Effective ICT in the classroom

Sarah Hardie made this VideoScribe video in 2014 as part of her university degree to illustrate why ICT is so important to engage the 21st century learner. I wonder if she is teaching now and whether she is implementing her ideas? If she is, I wonder if she has changed any of these thoughts? There are some sound issues with the video but Sarah talks so much common sense and makes some good points and observations . As a young person with fresh eyes on ICT in the classroom and how to use it effectively she has done three things. She has demonstrated a real willingness to master visual communication with quality software. She has advocated for students and then she has looked at ICT from a professional viewpoint and created some sound arguments to support an ICT approach in a classroom not a mere use. The only thing I’d dispute is that students are expert in technology. They are experts in certain sites , apps and techniques but they do not generally have a broad range of ICT capabilities and skills. It is important to update skills , explore different devices and to constantly share what you know with others. People tend to become experts in particular ways of using technology. The constant conversation about the best app, best software, have you seen this, do you know about such and such has to be there . Teachers and students need to form learning partnerships because that is how it works…connecting and setting up a feedback loop so there are constant ICT conversations.

She is meeting aitsl professional learning standards:

1.6 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of strategies for differentiating teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

3.4 Demonstrate knowledge of a range of resources, including ICT, that engage students in their learning.

3.5 Demonstrate a range of verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to support student engagement.

3.6 Demonstrate broad knowledge of strategies that can be used to evaluate teaching programs to improve student learning.

4.1 Identify strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities.

4.5 Demonstrate an understanding of the relevant issues and the strategies available to support the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.

6.4 Demonstrate an understanding of the rationale for continued professional learning and the implications for improved student learning.

Not a bad effort for one video at undergraduate level. I wonder what grade she received for it? YouTube has given her 771 hits and that is a really sound feedback result.

Ten resources over ten days

aitsl resourcesI signed up for the Ten resources over ten days from aitsl, our professional standards organisation. It was a sound idea on their part to get teachers off to a good start in the first two weeks of the year with some positive reminders about what our professional standards are, what we can do to enable them and what our professional organisation is prepared to do to help us and work alongside us. That is important. A professional organisation can set and monitor standards but it needs to work in conjunction with the people who are upholding those standards. The other advantages of having these ten resources popped into your email each day is you can read them when you have time and then you get an opportunity to go to the aitsl site and see what is there to help you. We are up to day five and they have certainly covered a number of really useful and practical resources which are available on their site which is now a rich source of information for creating a – dare I say it? – growth mindset for professional development and engagement. My favourite set of resources so far came on day three: Essential Guide to Professional Learning Series. I liked these resources because they keep clear what teachers and educators should have front and centre of their daily routine and M.O.

aitsl professional learningOne of the guides is The Essential Guide to Professional Learning : Leading Culture. In that guide it spells out quite clearly a paradigm which is crucial to teacher strength and well being :

What support is provided to teachers to inspire them to change and to give them feedback on their progress?

• How are teachers supported to try new initiatives in their classrooms?
• When do teachers receive feedback about their efforts to improve? Who provides the feedback?
• When do teachers work together on collaborative inquiry?
• How are teachers supported to share their expertise with others and to learn from others?
• How do leaders work to minimise the factors which distract teachers from their professional learning?
• How are teachers and leaders supported to be innovative and to try out potential new solutions to enhance student learning?

It represents a culture of collaboration, professional sharing, professional mentoring, and opportunities to discover what is available and new. The world is changing quickly. Teachers need to work together, with structure and support so they can feel comfortable and knowledgeable about new approaches, new devices, new ideas, different methodologies. Love it. Yes, let teachers try out new things but let them work together on them and work out how students will learn better from whatever it is they are thinking about doing. Peer support and peer review are part and parcel of that approach. You can still sign up for the resources. They come up on the slide show in the header at the top of the aitsl site.

Everyone needs a PLP and an IDP

learner_diagram Image: my-iPlan

In South Australia students develop a PLP as part of Stage 1 SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education). We  can work in different ways towards that from the time they walk into a school because it is not something which can be suddenly arranged and produced in Year 11. It is learning about organisation, capabilities, possibilities, collaboration. There are skills to be learned which help create an effective PLP. This provides foundation skills for life long learning and participation in one’s own development. Students can learn they are responsible for what happens to them and their future and that they can work positively towards that . They also realise helping others helps them. A personal learning plan now, though, has an additional meaning of tailored and customised learning. Why not? We live in the age of technology which is ubiquitous. Many of us have the capacity to engage with technology at any time and so can create a personal learning plan whenever we want. We can consider what we want to know and learn, how to go about it and where to get training or skills. How we learn new things has become so much easier and we do not have to be in an educational institution. Creating a PLP is part of a growth mindset. The Individual Development Plan is something I see as different. We have professional conversations at our school, we have Step 9 conversations as part of our system and we have different opportunities to engage with other teachers and our professional organisations. The way I see it , you have a discussion with others about who you are, what you stand for and what you have been doing. You can look at the professional standards, the assessment criteria for the national curriculum or you can use a video clip or article to promote discussion. Others will often see you in a different light. They will shine the light on the shiny spots and dig into the dingey corners. As you speak with them you can be reframing yourself and what you would like to do and achieve. You can say what you were thinking of doing and suddenly you have 10 more things to think about that you had not even considered. I accept it is hard to work 30 students through a PLP and then to look at an IDP would be huge. If we did that for all school staff it would be big! What if we made it a part of the culture? What if there were tools we could use to plan our learning and then our development? What if we learned that we are capable of taking responsibility for it ourselves but we need to be pointed in the right direction and we need opportunities to get feedback and input? The SAT and Self Reflection Tool on the  aitsl  site are good for that sort of thinking and responsibility for your own development. There are things there which we need to collate and promote. We could then go to the next stage of peer review in an online community!

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