Having experience in a range of educational settings for almost two decades including preschool, outdoor education, primary teaching, secondary teaching and further education, I have witnessed changes in pedagogical practice throughout; from traditional teaching structures to collaborative practices in innovative learning environments. This followed by Covid has led me to reflect on what it is that binds all these teaching experiences. It has made me wonder, what is the key feature of how I teach that has remained prominent throughout?
What do you consider to be the most prominent feature in your teaching?
What recurring feature do you feel should remain at the forefront of your teaching practice among all other change?
Student Agency – Online Forms
I have utilised many technological tools and platforms from online worlds such as Minecraft to hands-on problem solving sessions such as EDU Breakout and VR, and I have found the most important aspect is learners having control of their learning. Currently, one of the most versatile, flexible and efficient ways I let learners have control of their learning is through the use of Google Forms or Microsoft Forms.
Forms are often used for assessment for learning but the ideas below are shaped more towards student agency (albeit one small aspect used to develop student agency (OECD).
Some points/ideas for using online forms in this way:
- Allow learners to reply anonymously (really valuable, particularly at the beginning and as a teacher/instructor as this allows you to use constructive criticism without aligning it to any particular learner, hence avoiding dismissing important feedback)
- Utilise multiple choice questions for on the spot next action in class decisions (a class wide or individual decision on next steps – Are you ready to move on? Do you need more time? What topic would you like to cover next? How/when would you like breaks today? Would you like a practice task/ discussion time/group challenge/quiz etc.)
- Utilise open-ended questions to give learners the space to share, ask questions or make suggestions (experience has shown that many learners, particularly in face-to-face classes, will open up in an online form as they feel a) the teacher/instructor has initiated the conversation, b) classmates cannot view/hear their response, c) it gives them the flexibility to reply in their own time rather than trying to catch the teacher/instructor at a stolen moment or when they themselves are focused on catching a bus etc.)
- Utilise scale responses for well-being check-ins (e.g. How are you currently feeling about course workload 1: Comfortable/relaxed – 10: Highly stressed or How well do you feel you have grasped the content so far 1. Completely lost, need to go over it again – 10. Very confident, ready to move on.)
- Use visuals, audio or videos (some learners can feel uncomfortable writing so audio and video options available in online forms allow learners to share in a format that suits them)
- Use forms for learners to make optional one to one appointments with the teacher/instructor (i.e. time slot selection again this has been initiated by the teacher and can be used to set up online one to one breakout rooms or in a face to face environment)
- Important: Use the responses to direct what happens and when, share how you have made decisions based on responses with the class and take time to respond individually to personal responses.
Some aspects of our teaching are just so important they remain despite all other changes!