At a past principal meeting, we were asked a very simple, yet profound question. What do you hope to see when you enter a classroom? After listing out our top items, we discussed in small groups and then shared out to the whole group (as educators tend to do:). Not surprisingly, many of us listed similar items and we started to group them into broad categories. Now this was a good exercise, but it was just the beginning of a larger process. The next step is to have discussion with our staffs about what quality instruction looks like. This in turn leads to more effective observations and quality feedback. How can we have a conversation about quality instruction without an agreed upon vision of what that looks like? With that background, I would like to start the conversation by sharing my vision of quality instruction and what I look for in classrooms:
Relationships: This is a “must have” in my book. Research shows that the more of a relationship a student has with their teacher the more they will learn. Classroom environment would fall under this category for me. Is it a safe and respectful environment and is that demonstrated through the interaction between teacher and students and students with one another? Relationships are key to learning!
Engagement: (Empowerment) I changed this point after reading “The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros. We need to move beyond engagement and empower students with their learning. This is a priority item that I look for in classrooms. Students can’t learn if they aren’t empowered. Empowerment means having those essential elements of voice and choice in a classroom. They need to be actively listening, actively sharing, and actively creating. Students must be involved and invested in the lesson to learn.
Connected Learning: I had a hard time coming up with this term, but it’s designed to capture the concept of scaffolding or connecting to prior knowledge. It also refers to connecting learning in the classroom to our specific learning objectives. That’s where planning (both short-term and long-term) come into play. I’m also a firm believer in bring the “real-world” into our classrooms for learning and application. Students need to apply their learning each and every day.
Checking for Understanding: “I taught a great lesson, but the students just didn’t get it“. This scenario doesn’t happen when we are checking for understanding during our lessons, and we are adjusting our teaching to meet the needs of the students. Lessons should be fluid and dynamic, allowing the teacher to adapt to the needs of the learners. Good instructors don’t wait until the end of a unit or marking period to see if the students are on track. They continuously monitor, adjust and adapt instruction to meet the needs of ALL learners.
Collaboration: Gone are the days when students worked on problems in isolation and then got private feedback days or weeks later. In today’s world, students (and adults) need to collaborate, share ideas, and play nicely together:). One of the biggest skills that employers look for is the ability to communicate effectively and collaborate with others. Students today need to know how to access information and apply that information for problem solving. That involves collaboration and students first learn that skill in our classrooms.
There are many more things that could be listed when looking for quality instruction, but I think these five items are essential for learning to take place. Educational leaders need to share their vision of what they expect to see in classrooms and teachers need to share their vision as well in order to come to a common set of expectations. If we are looking for different things, then we may walk away from a conversation about learning with very different perspectives. However, if we share, discuss, and come to consensus about what quality instruction looks like, then we can all be looking through the same lens with a focus on what we should see in ALL classrooms.
Photo Source: Pixaby
“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” – Brad Henry
“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai
“Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.” – Charles Kuralt