Sunday, 27 May 2018

High Expectations - Do You Have Them?

Last Tuesday evening I attended a session facilitated by The Education Hub about how to become a high expectation teacher. I was interested to attend this, as I know deep down I expect all of my students to achieve to the best of their ability and to challenge themselves, but I was unsure how to structure my lessons and classroom to demonstrate high expectations. After listening to the presentations/research (Christine Rubie-Davis - see her slides here) and reading this paper created by The Education Hub, I have taken away many points to reflect on about high expectation teaching.

  • Studies have shown that by having high expectations of students determines student attitudes towards learning and overall achievement. When teachers have low expectations of their students, students' self perception and self belief drops, and evidently their success. 

  • Establishing routines early in the year is important, so students know what is expected of them and when. By creating a classroom culture where students are held accountable for their own learning, and are empowered by their tasks, but are also able to ask for support when needed, will help maintain high expectations throughout the year (rather than trying to set routines or expectations of the students partway through the year).

  • Ask high level questions of ALL students, expect ALL students to achieve the same goals and tasks/activities irrespective of their ability level. Differentiating tasks among the class based on ability is likely to reduce student motivation and achievement, as students who are identified as the lower level learners will perceive their teacher has lower expectations of them to be successful (and their success is significantly determined by the expectations their teacher has), and that the teacher values the high achievers more. Rather than asking different questions, if the student doesn't initially understand a question, then rephrase the question, or scaffold further (so the important thing the student takes away from this experience is that the teacher has the same expectation for all initially, but breaks down the question further if needed). Alternatively, provide several tasks, which the students can select from.

  • Low expectation teachers communicate tasks that need to be complete, whereas high expectation teachers communicate learning intentions and success criteria, and whether these have been met. Therefore, the emphasis is on the learning process, rather than the end product (which is paramount at Orewa currently). This is an area I definitely need to improve, as I feel I focus more on task completion, rather than the learning intentions. As previously blogged about, the WHY is important, rather than simply the WHAT. Moving forward, I would like to encourage my students to read through the success criteria of their tasks, and be able to identify whether they think they have met this (and if not, where do they need to head next in their learning - relates back to the learning tools).

  • Spend equal time with all students, rather than spend additional time with the lower ability students and leave the higher ability learners to work independently. This demonstrates the teacher has the same expectations for all, and can challenge all students as individuals, rather than within ability groups. I do feel I currently spend more time with the students who need more support, and as a result I am not challenging my self directed high achievers. Reflecting after this session, I fear this may suggest to these students I do not have time for them, as I am focused on getting other students 'over the line'. Therefore, I need to consciously attempt to spend an equal amount of time with all students.

  • Spend less time contacting home about things that have 'gone wrong' in the classroom, and more time calling whanau about successes and when students are exceeding your expectations. This is another thing I am aware I need to do more of - positive phone calls. Right before I attended this session, I called one students mother to say he'd had an incredible change of attitude towards learning over the past few weeks and I was really proud at how much effort he was putting into his learning. Surprisingly, she said that was the first positive phone call she could recall she'd had about her son!

  • Finally, Christine suggested videoing myself when I am teaching, to see how I am coming across to my students and whether there were other things I could have said/done during the lesson. A couple of years ago, I filmed and reflected on a lesson, see here, and found the process incredibly useful for reflection of my pedagogy, behaviour management and expectations of my students. I would like to video myself at some point again.
A question to reflect on if you're an educator is;

"What do your practices reflect about your beliefs about your students and their ability to learn?"

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