Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Towards a more active classroom

Before becoming a teacher I worked in public health in the UK. One of my roles was to help disseminate data, involving seminars, workshops etc. I remember a specific occasion when I was involved with a one day workshop, delivering various public health data to a range of professionals in the field. When I came to analyse the feedback questionnaires after the event I was struck by the wide variation of responses. For example, one delegate noted that they were happy the event had been held over a full day, but would have preferred it to be held over two days so there was more time for discussion. On the other hand, a different delegate declared that they felt a full day was excessive and the proceedings could have been dispensed with in a morning. What I took from these responses was that the timing of the event was probably about right!

Similarly, when I analyse my anonymous course feedback questionnaires that I have students complete at the end of my biology course, if I see a range of responses like this I feel that I am probably getting that particular aspect of my classes about right. However, what has become clear from administering these course evaluations is that my students felt that some of my classes did not result in a suitably active classroom. Therefore this is an area that I am currently focusing on in my lesson planning. 

I'm aiming for a more active classroom with all of my classes, for example I have increased the number of lessons where students are engaged in peer-teaching. The photos below show Grade 10 students preparing for and delivering a peer-teaching activity relating to protein synthesis. 

I am also re-designing a section of my course relating to nervous systems. I have all the materials I need from previous years, but I am going to take a different approach with them in the classroom. Some classes will be problem-based, while other work will provide learners with an opportunity to develop a final output of their own choosing, e.g. an infographic, a poster, or an animation. This is also an excellent opportunity to make students' learning more visible, by including a section looking at how the human brain learns, together with recent developments in neuroscience and the way we understand learning, and encouraging students to reflect on how this relates to their own experiences as learners.

I will know in a few weeks time whether or not my attempts to make a more active classroom have been successful…