In our teaching, we need to find ways to inspire our students. Like a simple question, I use for my second grade STEAM class and my Algebra II High School class, “what else can we do to solve this problem?” In addition, how do I make this fun. Easy with STEAM, a bit of a challenge with Trigonometry. In what ways can we support the fact, “math is fun?” This applies to whatever we are teaching.
Have students think of new strategies and ideas to solve problems
What I have done that works well is having students think and try new strategies and ideas to solve a problem (which also helps cover a couple of standards or more at a time). This helps them venture into the higher Bloom’s Taxonomy of Analyzing and the learning level of consciously skilled phase. Students need to be able to share their ideas and have practiced routines. Such as using “number talks” (Short discussions among the teacher and students on how to solve mental math problems; ideas: https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2017/10/26/tch-tips-number-talks) and use multiple strategies while having them reflect on their learning. Our classroom needs to be a safe place to “wonder.” This allowed students to take risks and receive effective student motivation from their engagement.
When we are providing avenues of self-refection and engagement, this in turn helps increase the student’s verbal expression, collaboration and critical thinking skills. Such as, begin with a simple number problem and think through the various ways to solve it. Write the answers on the board. Another idea is using “sentence frames” (A scaffolding technique that sets up a structure for students’ writing.) that can help students. Let them know wrong answers and mistakes are okay. Then they will know it is safe to share and that mistakes will help them to learn.
Use peer groups, in so doing, they have to talk to one another and be engaged. They can think of various strategies to solve problems. In this way, assign different leadership roles within the lesson and rotate students and positions. This will help build confidence and be engaging for the students to further the understanding of the lesson. It will also help build crucial problem-solving skills for life. This will also promote students in participating in the lesson and other upcoming lessons too. The students gain confidence through the productive struggle in the classroom. This also makes a strong classroom community and has greater advantages than other traditional teaching models.
“I need your feedback…”
Never discount the importance of student feedback; it is very significant. Without feedback, a teacher will not know what is going on with the students throughout and learning process. For example, give out a list of the most appropriate choices and have students choose which ones would be best or would affect them. This is a good method of seeking feedback and when we have large class sizes and maybe no aids, this may be the only way to get feedback. This will allow us to see where our students are at in emotionally during the process of the learning cycles. You can also use a “Consensogram.” By doing this we will have more tools of evaluation and encouragement, to help her students succeed. Giving detailed feedback builds confidence and helps students know they can reach their learning goals and move students to the highly ordered learning levels and engagement.
Ask students to think about what they can do differently
Asking students to think about what and how they can do something in a different way in class and at home is a key tool to be more successful. When we are Invitational in supporting students is very significant. As the semester progresses make a note if your students are getting the targets or not and why. That is, are they becoming more consciously unskilled, as in “I do not know this,” “I do not think I can do this,” “I do not like this…” Or, “I got this,” “I can help others,” consciously skilled. Then by the reflections we ask and the feedback the students give, we can troubleshoot what to do next.
Our Job as teachers is at the critical learning point where students can learn the most, to move them from the “Consciously Unskilled” to the “Consciously Skilled.” This is further accomplished by guiding and encouraging students, and even have them learn from each other so they do not give up. This is also where students are the most emotional and may have behavior issues. If we coach them with good specific feedback, have them practice those skills and support them, we can build their confidence and move them along in their educational journey. So, let’s be taking in feedback to see where our students are at and if they are on target.
The key to support students Invitationally is that they must receive constructive feedback for them to progress into the consciously skilled phase, even through the stresses of learning. This is the creative tension that builds the learning process. The converse of this is to not seek where they are at emotionally and to give no positive or constructive feedback. Thus, without an assessment, we will not know how to improve, and our students may become stuck in unskilled phase. Especially if we are using punitive feedback. Equally, to support this phase, the students’ needs to become comfortable before they become unconsciously skilled (what this is: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newISS_96.htm).
Just a few tweaks in our Invitational work our students will know how to do good work and what it looks like through the productive struggle to find the answers to problems and challenges. They will see what it takes to improve and recognize when it is good. They will feel encouraged even when they make mistakes. The students will want to come to class to learn and that we the teacher cares about them. All because of some simple changes. Even if we have aids or parts of the lesson facilitated by a student leader, when students are collaborating and solving problems together while being coached by an effective teacher, we will have a successful class. All this gives synergy for a very effective student engagement. No matter what the challenge these strategies will help students’ sort through the critical thinking process and become better learners rising them up the engagement.
Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher, seasoned Special Education teacher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a STEAM teacher and a father of a son with autism.