Coaxing Learners to Think for Themselves

Aloise, a high school English teacher, is relating her experience to colleagues at a workshop of adopting a more planned and methodical approach to her teaching, in this particular case, the Learning by Design scaffold.

I think that by using the framework I am also making very clear the connections between what I am doing and why I am doing it and what I am hoping to achieve. For example in the unit that we have just done looking at the meaning of visual images, in the past I would have been much more teacher centred. I would have given the kids less time to discuss ideas amongst themselves, I would have assumed that they had far less knowledge and less capacity to respond whereas now, as I step through each part of the framework I am able to really draw on the students’ own experiences and they are becoming much more aware of their learning.

‘The reflections that we got from the kids about the unit showed that they had done some really deep thinking … They were aware that they had had to think deeply … and they could see the value of this thinking … I mean, sometimes when you ask kids to think they don’t like it, they don’t like you pushing them to think, asking them to put mental energy into something. They resist. But because we were scaffolding it with the framework, we were going step by step, starting with their own experiences and broadening it out. Moving through each of the knowledge processes, we were actually coaxing them to think, coaxing them to think for themselves, and then at the end they could see that what they had learned was really amazing.

It’s changed the way I think about teaching. It’s changed the way I plan and the way I approach learning … I have found that I am much more strategic. I’m designing the learning now, putting the jigsaw together, finding the right pieces, adopting strategies to build cumulative learning experiences.

The image that I am using here of the tunnel looking out on to the landscape represents the way I have broadened what I practice and the way I plan my teaching. In the past I was going through the tunnel only seeing this much (gestures to indicate the circular shape of the tunnel) but by using the framework I am seeing a much broader landscape of practice … (gestures with open arms). I can see the mountains and the sky … and I know this is going to sound corny but the sky is really the limit … because I feel I have so much more to work with.