Why Think About The Process Of Teaching To Improve Learning

Improving Teaching by Focusing on the Whole Process of Teaching and Not Just Parts! Teaching is a complex process; it is more than just asking perfect questions, or getting students to talk to other. Think of a car engine, if we only have few working parts of the engine or even missing parts, the car won’t run. Similarly, we need to think about the whole process to support students’ mathematical learning. ( I highlighted learning because it is so easy to forget this part during the process of teaching. Many times as a teacher, I get caught up on getting through the activities of teaching and forgetting to think about what my students are learning or need to learn. I made this note to keep reminding myself to make learning the center of my decision-making.) So what is the big picture to support mathematical learning? The Common Core standards outlines the content that students need to learn and it also outlines the Standards of Mathematical practice that explicates process students must learn. We need to figure how how to integrate the Common Core Standards and the Standards of Mathematical Practice so that it fits naturally with the process of planning and teaching. For learning to take place, we need to think about the “big picture”. This is particularly true about implementing the Common Core standards. The National Research Council identified three environments that need to intersect to optimize learning. These include the Learner centered environment where what students prior knowledge and learning styles are considered, the Knowledge Centered Environment is what content and curriculum that students need to learn and the Assessment Centered environment involves adjusting teaching based on assessment. Learning takes place within the community and the broader community of the classroom. Let’s examine what a teacher does daily in the classroom. 1. Set up the classroom environment this includes designing the physical space and the social environment. (The classroom culture, development or routines for participation.) 2. Planning lessons 3. Delivering the lesson – how we structure time ( think about when and how whole class discussions can be effectively used to optimize student learning.) 4. Assessment. The most efficient way to improve teaching involves visualizing and understanding the big picture. What does effective teaching look like? What is the process involved in teaching this way? How do the various pieces mentioned above fit together? It is certainly overwhelming to improve everything at once. However, once the big picture  is understood, it is much easier to focus on the smaller parts of teaching and work toward the big picture. This is why when I wrote the book Whole Class Mathematics discussion, I organized the chapters around the daily life of what teachers do. Having a support system such as a (professional learning community, math coach, or a grade level team) is helpful to improve teaching. Many times, teaching becomes routines that we know longer pay attention to. This makes changing classroom practices difficult because we aren’t aware of what we are doing? Part of being able to improve teaching involves the ability to professionally notice.  The Whole Class discussion PDToolkit contains many resources for making teaching visible. We need to constantly ask ourselves: what are our students learning? Are we being effective? What can I improve and change. This was one of the reasons that I created this blog. It forces me to reflect on my teaching. Check out the Whole Class Discussion Framework that reduced this process to 3 pages. Click on the link that says Whole Class Discussion Framework.

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