We then decided to have a conversation about it. The only constraint was that we try to describe what we noticed, not explain or evaluate (accounting for), in line with Mason's discipline of noticing.
The objective was to have a conversation about teaching, perhaps with reference to the basic-level actions, or perhaps to create new basic-level actions, or to just talk about anything else that seemed important.
- Sat on desk - close (low social distance)
- "Igor did the same?" - point - other gestures
- "Really?" and "Are there any questions you've got?" - invitations to speak, waiting, letting students speak
- Interested in student responses - leaning in, what else suggests this? Head titled?
- Knowledge of students (poor writing, Igor)
- "Is it worth writing it down as well?" and "I'd tell you what I'd really like from you" - directing
- On a level with girls (being alongside)
We agreed that the teacher was not saying much, prompting the students to talk ("Really?") rather than interrogating them. There was a general sense that the teacher appeared to be trying to understand what the students were doing, rather than (just) assessing and measuring their work.
We talked about what led us (and therefore the students) to believe that the teacher was interested in the student responses; perhaps it was the length of the conversation(s), the body language, asking what seemed 'genuine' questions about what the students where doing, how they arrived at their answers.
One of us said there seemed to be an "infinite amount of time" for the conversation, how it wasn't rushed, how there was "time and space" for conversation to happen. We talked about how the teacher had his back to the class in order to give the students his full attention (and how this can only really happen with trust in the other students in the room).
We noticed a lack of evaluation or judgement of student responses. The teacher confirmed that he was trying to remain "passive", to let students evaluate their own and each other's choices, for example when he did not give his opinion about the students strategy for storing numbers in the calculator - a technique which he had not taught them and does not particularly 'like'.
The teacher also talked about the rationale behind pointing across the classroom ("Igor did the same thing"). He wanted to comfort the student who had made a mistake, whilst connecting the students together.
Interestingly, the teacher then talked about how he found it "tricky" to talk to one of the students in the clip, and questioned himself: "Can I do it better?". This led us to a conversation about students we find difficult to talk to for various reasons, and how there is always a temptation as a teacher to skim over these students. This brought to mind an article I read about the transference relation in teaching by Dave Wilson, something we might come back at another time. We then talked about the idea that some students might go through entire days, weeks, or even years, coming to school, not really talking to anyone, then going home.
- Social distance: What is the social distance between you and your students? Is this helpful or unhelpful? Would you like the distance to change? If so, how?
- Teaching for understanding: Not just assessing/measuring, but talking to students to try to understand them
- Time and space: Allowing time and space for conversations to occur, giving students our full attention
- Not-evaluating: Allowing students the opportunity to evaluate their own and each other's responses
- (Not) skimming-over: Who are the students we find tricky? Why? What can we do to build better relationships with these students?
- Holding conversations: Inviting students to speak, through prompts rather than direct questions, waiting-for and being interested-in their responses
We have decided to carry on with this process next week, and to build a list of basic-level actions that we can use to describe our teaching; watch this space!