The teachers I remember the most made connections with students. They built relationships. But they were also creative. They didn’t just teach lessons. They provided learning experiences. #edchat #FutureDriven #satchat – @DavidGeurin
My post is inspired by this Twitter comment. I fully agree with the sentiment regarding great teachers however it made me consider what is great teaching and what is a great learning experience.
In Wales at present we are creating a new curriculum that is driven by 4 purposes, 12 pedagogical principles and 6 areas of learning and experience. I have always been intrigued with the terminology, area of learning and then partnered with experience. In my interpretation, a great learning experience inspires the pupils to use creative and critical skills that builds on prior learning.
How does this look in a Classroom?
One of my favourite lessons over the years was a Year 2 Science lesson. We were discussing ice, snow, cold etc and in previous lessons we had built on our knowledge regarding how and when ice forms, we had discussed melting and then we arrived at the experiment. I’m a massive Doctor Who fan and I had decided to set the task that the pupils had to free the Doctor from a sphere of ice where he had been trapped by the ice warrior. Once the task had been set, the pupils worked in mixed ability groups and set about releasing the Doctor.
The pupils could choose how to record the results and the enthusiasm was palpable. It was truly a learning experience built on prior knowledge that allowed me to facilitate a lesson that evolved according to the direction each group created and followed. Learning was fun, facilitating the opportunity for pupils was a real buzz and the work and how pupils chose to record the results were brilliant.
However, not all learning experiences have as much prior knowledge. A trip can spark the imagination of a child. When I was a young teacher we took pupils to see ‘Starlight Express’ in London. Working in Merthyr at the time, trains were an important part of the history of the town but the trip inspired the pupils to such creativity especially after talking with the cast.
A learning experience that will forever remain in my heart and mind was when we invited a Grandmother of a pupil to discuss her experience as an evacuee in World War 2. Her heart wrenching experience of leaving her mother, living with strangers and feeling alone brought the period alive for the year 6 pupils. It made a historical event feel very personal and if ever a group of children showed empathy and care, it was that class.
A learning experience can therefore be planned, building on prior knowledge. It can be an enriched experience, going on a school trip or having a visitor to the school but sometimes a learning experience simply happens and you are led by events rather than keeping to a closed plan.
Knowledge needs to be taught to facilitate exciting learning experience but teaching and learning need not stand apart as great teaching often if not always implies wonderful learning.
To return to the original quote, the teachers I remember as having an influence on me built a rapport of trust and care. The connection is very important.
As we continue to develop areas of learning and experience in Wales, I hope we allow sufficient breathing space that gives the teacher the opportunity to develop enriched learning experiences.