Weekly reflection: The teacher needs to be lead learner in a classroom

Over the last week or so I’ve had to do a lot of thinking about cooperative learning, mostly because it’s a topic that will come up in my models and strategies exam tomorrow. But also as a result of Wednesday’s #edchat on technology in the classroom.

When I was out  on Teaching Experience I was relieving for a class where the students composing mihimihi (an introduction in Maori). I noticed that a number of students put down an English name for a local waterway. I knew that there would likely be a Maori name for the area, but like my students had no idea what that name might be. So the question became how do we find out this information? One student hopped on google and eventually found our answer.

This little incident shows how technology has changed the art of teaching forever.

In the last 15 years or so we’ve gone from information scarcity where students needed to go to school to get the information because that’s where the information was; in the teachers’ heads and the books in the libraries, to information overload. In a modern classroom the teacher is no longer the master of knowledge, we aren’t there to fill our students heads with facts and figures because the students can get that information likely from someone far more knowledgeable than us in seconds from a computer or, even better, they contact a person who would be able to help them.

But if teachers are no longer the knowledge master what is their purpose in the classroom?

As a student teacher I often found myself terrified that at some point the students were going to figure out that there were times when I had no idea what I was doing and call me on it or my content knowledge,  as in the case of the Te Reo example, was lacking to help them.  Had I failed them?

It depends on your point of view. If  as I was a teacher I saw myself in the role of a knowledge master, then I had definitely struck out. However as a lead learner, being open to new ideas and having a student teach me perhaps not . Being a lead learner requires a huge change in mindset from what we experienced as students in the classroom, what popular culture tells us makes a good teacher and even what is considered best practice by some now, teachers standing up the front dispensing knowledge to their class.

What would be my principles of implementing the teacher as lead learner in a classroom?

Teaching is about learning

Being a teacher in the 21st century means being open to learn from anyone at any time, including their students.  Teachers are informed by their own learning, they seek out new ideas and people to challenge their existing practice.

Why is as important as how and what 

In age where answers can be found on in micro seconds and there are people who can do the how better, good teachers put the why at the forefront of their classroom planning.  How is your teaching adding meaning to their students lives? How are you helping them make sense of the world?

Teachers are skilled relationship managers

Teacher know when they need to step back and let the learners take control of learning. They get that  the power of the internet isn’t in technology itself, it’s in the ability to make new relationships and construct new knowledge. They include as many people as possible in their students’ learning both inside and outside of the classroom.

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About Stephanie

Stephanie is a teacher of a fabulous class of year 7/8 students (11-13 year olds). She bakes, goes to the gym and geeks out in Wellington, New Zealand.

Posted on June 19, 2011, in educational philosophy, weekly reflection. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hmmm…. yes. I’ll reflect on this, and work on applying it in my tertiary teaching this semester. I think I do this anyway, but not as a conscious strategy, and I suspect that I will do it better if I work towards it, rather than just realise that it has happened.

    If you get what I mean…

    • It’s something that I need to work on a lot more in the classroom. Easy to blog about, much harder to put into practice when it goes against a lot of what I experienced in the class as a learner.

  2. Hmm
    I am smiling at teachers today not knowing everything! Indeed we don’t. I often say to my students, “I don’t know, so how are we going to find out?’ A important skill we do need to help students with is – how authentic is this piece of information- is it reliable? Anyone can have their say on the internet.
    Teaching today is challenging. Well at least I think it is. Not all students are ready to dive in and take control of their own learning. Its a gradual thing. Some are in boots and all and some…..
    I can’t remember where I was on the internet today but it was about video and students and a student named quite a large percentage of their learning comes from YouTube. I didn’t stop to investigate further, but I thought to myself, actually these days YouTube is a place I call into quite frequently myself to learn new things.

    • I just find it amazing home much content is available, but you are right having information literacy, being able to be critical of what you read is really important as the one bonus of the bad old days was that going through the publishing process meant that ideas, in theory, where a lot more valid if they made it into books.

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