Lecture session1: First thoughts on pedagogy

Today’s lecture highlighted some really important and relevant points for me when considering teaching and the pedagogy of teaching.   The three main points  discussed during the lecture included, what makes an effective teacher, learning in the digital age and what constitutes effective learning.

The lecturer suggested that effective teaching consists among other things, of observation and questioning. The video that we watched confirmed to me how important  speaking, listening, sharing knowledge and questioning are when children are learning, forming connections and thinking creatively and outside of the box. The children in the video were encouraged to engage in the process of learning, having to think for themselves and make connections to prior and other people’s knowledge. This technique allowed the children to internalize the subject matter. I found it quite interesting that some people in the audience were debating whether questioning is actually teaching.  In my opinion questioning is central to teaching as it facilitates a deeper more internalized understanding of what is taught. Teaching without questioning is surely facilitating the skill of memorizing without any scaffolding or scope for development or creativity? Dawes 2010, as cited in Arthur and Cremin 2010 draws attention to the fact that children do not just learn through experience or observation, but by talking in-depth about what they are doing or have learnt.

The lecturers pointed  out that  when questioning  you should allow time for the children to think and respond and not make hasty answers for them, and that you should be fair in the selection of who will answer ( citing the lolly pop sticks as an idea). In the video we observed the children were allowed to talk freely, though the down side to this was it led to some of the children dominating discussions. Turn taking would be the obvious solution to this, though the lecturer pointed out that this can sometimes hinder learning, thought processes and creativity. I’m not sure what would be the best approach, maybe it would depend on context and the nature and maturity of the group of children? Medwell 2010, as mentioned in Arthur and Cremin 2010 suggests that questioning is only one tool  and that we need to be careful not to place too much focus on the child. Food for thought.

I found it very beneficial in my personal development as a teacher, to have a chance to reflect on the use of information technology in the classroom and the pros and cons of this. In conclusion to these discussions I felt that information technology is a tool to aid learning and should be seen as having it own limitations and benefits in terms of learning. For me information technology is central to our society and is therefore important in schools, it can enable the acquisition of information and skills, but can not in of itself facilitate deeper or creative thinking and understanding. So you may have a programme that gives you the opportunity to create some fantastic artwork, but the inspiration for that art work needs to be on a much more internalized level gained though practical experience and interaction . Fisher 2010, cited in Arthur and Cremin 2010 believes that computers do not themselves enable learners to think and make connections, therefore it would be very unlikely that they support higher order thinking and creativity. He goes onto suggests that computers can develop thinking skills when used as part of a larger dialogue and discussion and that good teaching is helping children to think for themselves. Can the computer not be a tool for this? Surely video conferencing enables dialogue and social discussion.

On the other hand information technology can make learning much more accessible for many  students. It is interesting that the students in the video conferencing section during the lecture felt they would not be without information technology. The children who took part in  Cambridge Review 2010 were also very keen to have the latest technology. The review suggested that for sustainable and effective innovation to take place in primary school, teachers needed greater engagement in the learning potential of ICT. In summary  I believe that to create deeper thinking and learning, information technology should be used as a tool to facilitate this process and to be used to evoke rather than limit discussions, social interactions and practical real life experimentation and creative exploration.

In the final part of the lecture Sheena brought to light for me the importance of recognising and enabling effective learning through some simple considerations. Offering children the chance to play, explore, make connections, be active learners and think creatively and critically. I found in poignant that she used a baby’s learning to demonstrate these processes, highlighting that leaning takes place from birth not just five. I think I will find these considerations a great source of help when  planning effectively. Giving the children the chance to explore and investigate on their own by making lessons practical. Facilitating them in making connections through discussions and questioning. Providing them with the motivation to learn by making the lessons fun. By enabling creativity and critical thinking by offering them opportunities to explore their own ideas. Robson 2006 as cited in Hansen 2011, suggests that learning is a necessary consequence of thinking, which includes the use of imagination, playful dispositions, persistence and the ability to learn with and from others. Hansen 2011 believes it is therefore important for you to be aware that children are not merely recipients of learning, but that they are active partners and investigators.

Great lecture; some food for thought.

References

Hansen, A (2011) Primary Professional Studies. Learning Matters Ltd: Exeter

Arthur, J & Cremin, T (2010) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. Routledge: New York.

Alexander, R. (Ed) (2010) Children, their World, their Education: Final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review. Routledge: New York