Sunday, 3 May 2015

Setting and Maintaining an Academic Ethos

For the following weeks, I am focussing on creating an Academic Ethos by adhering to the techniques advocated by Doug Lemov in his 'Teach Like a Champion 2.0' manual for teachers. This is the second part of my experiment, having previously focussed on high behavioural expectations. This section will be looking to build a "culture of better" within my own classroom.

Week 1 of my 'Teach Like a Champion' marginal gains experiment on Academic Ethos and I am concentrating on 'No Opt Out' and 'Right is Right'.

No Opt Out

Turn "I don't know" into success by ensuring that students who won't try or can't answer practice getting it right.

 Luckily, I work in a school where the students are enthusiastic about their learning and the vast majority want to answer every question. However, there are still some who do not even try to think when answering a question. If these students get away with not thinking and employing the 'I don't know' response to questions, then I am essentially saying to the other students "Don't worry about answering questions; it doesn't matter if you don't".

This policy tries to ensure that students 'rehearse success' (as Doug says) so that they normalise the right answer rather than the incorrect one. If they do not know the answer, when a different student gives the correct answer, the original student has to repeat the correct answer.

On paper, this seems to be one of the more 'American' techniques (without meaning any disrespect!). What I mean by this, is that it seems like a technique that is more suitable to the American culture rather than a British one. However, regardless of this I am going to try and make sure that my students repeat the correct answer, if they were initially wrong or didn't know. At the moment, I am going to concentrate on just getting the students to repeat the correct answer, rather than stretching or reinforcing their answers.

Right is Right

 When you respond to answers in class, hold out for answers that are "all-the-way right" or all the way to your standards of rigor.

 Without even starting to use this technique, I can predict that this will be one of the most difficult for me to employ. Without wishing to offend any teachers reading this, I would also predict that it is one of the techniques that all teachers do not strictly enforce all the time. Additionally, I think it is probably even more difficult for a teacher of English, which is often open to subjects of interpretation.

However, I would like to try and make sure that I don't reply with "close" or "nearly right" when students give completely wrong answers and equally don't try and say "that's right" when students give me a partially correct answer (or "rounding up" as Doug calls it).

This technique is all about holding out for the quality answer that we want every time. Not partially correct. Not missing some details. Completely correct. If a student hears "correct" when they are only partially correct or even worse incorrect, then the teacher is not making clear to the student where the gap in their knowledge is - thus not capitalising on a learning opportunity for that student.

Therefore, this week, I am going to concentrate on ensuring that my questioning picks apart answers until someone in the class gives the correct answer.

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