Teach Less, Ask More

So here’s the thing. It is not your job to do all the talking… An odd idea for a teacher, I know.

But too often, classrooms are filled with teachers who talk and students to listen. Gone are the days where this is our job.

If you are doing more talking then your students, you are working too hard. Our job as teachers is to make our students think, which means less talking and more asking. Yes, asking questions. How many things do you say in a lesson, which could actually be turned into a question instead?
Just because your students are listening does not mean they are learning. We need to ensure our students are actually thinking to be learning, and the best way to do this is through asking questions.

Now, this does mean you have to think of other creative ways to teach in order to get students thinking, but it also means the learning will be far more engaging than you just sharing a bunch of facts and showing them what it is they are doing (let’s be real here, your students don’t need to listen to you talk all the time).

When I teach, I have a few go-to questions I use over and over again:
What are we learning?
How do you know?
Explain that in more detail?
Can you add to that?

These questions can be applied in any subject, and mean our students have to actually think about their learning, not about the activity.

Why else are using questions a great idea?

Because it means your students are talking, listening, connecting and challenging each other. A great bonus about teaching through questions is it means our students have something to do other than listen. Think/pair/share, talking partners, clock partners, see/think/wonder; these are examples of different ways we can have our students think and talk about learning, not just listen to us talk about learning.

So how does this look in a classroom?the teachers coach

1. Ask more questions than you do share facts and content.
2. Think of and plan creative ways to get your students thinking.
3. Create key questions which match the essential learning.
4. Include an opportunity for students to talk to each other every 5 minutes or so (they get bored of hearing you talk for longer than that – sorry)
5. Always ask a follow-up question; Tell me more… Why do you think that? Can anyone add to that? What makes you say that? How do you know?

Remember, questions mean the students do all the hard work in the lesson, your hard work comes in thinking about how to put a great lesson together and working with your students on their learning.

*Not sure how many questions you ask or if your students are really listening? A great way to see is to record yourself and do a question audit recording how many questions you ask and noticing where you could have asked a question instead of giving a fact.

With NAPLAN upon us, let’s talk Data.

With NAPLAN upon us, let’s talk Data.

For teachers, it comes in many forms, from NAPLAN to taking notes, running records to observations, from tests to talking – it is all some form of data. But what’s the big deal with data anyway? And why do some teachers find it so hard to see it for what it is?

It is not uncommon to sit in meetings with teachers where a conversation about the data in front of us quickly turns to, ‘yeah but that’s a low cohort’ or ‘that class had 3 different teachers in 1 year’ or ‘they aren’t getting the support at home’. This is something I am sure we have all experienced, have heard of or are even guilty of ourselves. However, whilst all of these things may be true, we still need to acknowledge and respond to the data in front of us.

I know it easy to want to attach a story to data, and yes we can always argue that perhaps a student wasn’t having a great day, they were unwell, or that the unit we planned wasn’t great. Whatever the story though, the data is still the data.

Now there is no denying these reasons do come from good places, we want the best for our students and we want to be able to defend them, but that actually isn’t our job.

Part of looking at data is to do so without judgement, the need to justify or the need to blame. It’s just to look, to note what is there, and to see the data as just that – data. No story needed.

One of the best ways to discuss data is to use what is known as Discipline Dialogue Questions, from the work of Neil Dempster at Griffith University.

  1. What do we see in these data?
  2. Why are we seeing what we are?
  3. What, if anything, should we be doing about it?

So why is this important? Well once you start to see it as just data, you can begin to use it for it’s intended purpose – to inform your teaching. This might be teaching as an individual, a team, looking at teaching across a whole school.  Look at the teaching, improve the learning. This is the reason we have data.

The data isn’t about you, it’s not about your story, your justification, your excuse – it’s about the data. Once you have established this, then data really can achieve it’s intended purpose – to help you be a better teacher, so students can learn what they need next.

 

Data – it’s not about what you didn’t do, it’s about what you need to do.

Data.

data

For teachers, it comes in many forms, from NAPLAN to taking notes, running records to recording observations, from tests to talking – it is all some form of data. But what’s the big deal with data anyway? And why do some teachers find it so hard to see it for what it is?

I know it easy to want to attach a story to data, and yes we can always argue that perhaps a student wasn’t having a great day, they were unwell, or that the unit we planned wasn’t great. Whatever the story though, the data is still the data.

It’s more common than not for teachers default reaction when looking at data to be to justify. I know we all know teachers, have been in a conversation, or perhaps we are guilty of it, where the first response is something like…’Yeah but that was a really low cohort’, ‘Those kids never do well’, ‘It doesn’t matter how I teach it they just don’t retain anything’ or ‘They were very unsettled that day’. All of these are ways we justify the data.

Now there is no denying these reasons do come from good places, we want the best for our students and we want to be able to defend them, but that actually isn’t our job.

Part of looking at data is to do so without judgement, the need to justify or the need to blame. It’s just to look, to note what is there, and to see the data as just that – data. No story needed.

So why is this important? Well once you start to see it as just data, you can begin to use it for it’s intended purpose – to inform your teaching. This might be teaching as an individual, a team or even looking at teaching across a whole school.  Look at the teaching, improve the learning. This is the reason we have data.

The data isn’t about you, it’s not about your story, your justification, your excuse – it’s about the data. Once you have established this, then data really can achieve it’s intended purpose – to help you be a better teacher, so students can learn what they need next.