Essay for Unit 2 is nearly complete and has proved hard work to get going and then harder work to take learning and teaching (the title) to consider the list of criteria that cover Behaviour Management, Group Work and Resources. For ages I couldn't take what my head thought of as teaching and learning and develop an essay around the criteria. Needs must though and criteria have to be met through the essay including the feedback from the last essay that I need less description and more analysis. This to a person who is constantly reflecting and analysing daily ... quite an irony actually. Well the effort to change direction has lead me in a number of directions and yesterday resulted in me checking out the psychology section of the library rather than the education section. I wanted something about working in groups. I have a strong belief that although group work is useful, allowing people to work individually is also important. The feeling from our PGCE lessons and the various documents given suggests that group work is good because it is active and can help the quieter ones come out of themselves working with peers and so on. But I know from experience that in a group we conform and sometimes won't speak up in case we are wrong or go against the grain of the group. So now to find some quotes which support both arguments and support overall my teaching philosophy that variation of teaching styles is key to success with a group of students or even with one. So Hayes (1993:55) says
Asch's studies of conformity, and Milgram's research into obedience, show how people can act quite differently when they are with others than they do when they are on their own. The study of how people behave in groups has become an important area within social psychology - not least, because so many decisions which effect our day-to-day lives are made by groups or committees of one kind or another.
Hayes goes on to define a group as opposed to a collection of people as having the following traits:
  • People interacting over a sustained period of time, rather than just minutes
  • The members of the group perceive themselves as part of a group
  • Norms, roles and responsibilities are formed as part of the group, where there are expectations for behaviour and sanctions for those that don't conform
  • There is a shared sense of purpose or a shared goal for the group
  • Relationships are formed between different members of the group
I can think of many groups that I am part of. On facebook I belong to the Cockapoo Owners Club and there are definite rules which members abide by. Some are written on the club website. These have evolved over time, with an underlying push from the founder members. If anyone goes against the grain or makes a comment that the majority don't like, or pushes someone to feel they want to leave, but hasn't in the eyes of the majority done anything wrong it is fascinating watching and reading the defences and encouragement or even the nicely worded "You can't say that - well you can but it is just an opinion and remember the rest of us think differently!" ... if the one who has made the untoward comment does not retract or justify their comment then there can be a collective push! Fascinating!! As the club has grown that has also created some issues, but the hardy core keep everyone on the straight and narrow ... i.e. following the rules!!

Within a classroom I think this also happens, which is why when we ask the new class to come up with the rules and take ownership of them, this can be very effective. This still needs a facilitator (the teacher). If the group agrees the punishments or rewards then everyone will conform as long as they want to stay members of the group.

However when you want creativity, group work may not help if the rules are not to be outspoken or come up with random solutions ... so groups could prevent new ideas or allow individualism if not carefully managed. Sharing can help, but might equally stifle a less confident but hugely imaginative brain. Hayes (1993: 58) discusses "Groupthink"
As has already been seen, groups tend to develop their own norms and ideas, and members of the group are expected to conform to these. This can present difficulties if the norms within a group become strong as to restrict deviant information from outside. When this happens, the process of groupthink may mean that the group becomes closed to essential information, and can end up making decisions which are disastrously unsuccessful.
Hayes goes on to talk about leadership and how a strong leader can influence "groupthink". In a classroom, mixing up the smaller groups for group work is a must and perhaps changing the leadership role or presenter of information each time. This could help reduce too much groupthink and encourage individuals, whilst increasing creativity through springboard ideas sessions. As well individuals learn about different roles within a team - leadership, follower, ideas person, doer, etc. This brings me nicely onto team roles and Belbin springs to mind Belbin(2012:1) - http://www.belbin.com/rte.asp?id=8 [Accessed 26/3/13] tells us that:
A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them.
So what is the difference between a group and a team and what do we create in teaching? Wisegeek: http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-the-difference-between-a-team-and-a-group.htm (2013:1) explains
A team's strength depends on the commonality of purpose and interconnectivity between individual members, whereas a group's strength may come from sheer volume or willingness to carry out a single leader's commands. ...

A group may use equal parts discussion, argumentation and peer pressure to guide individual members towards a consensus. ...

A team, by comparison, does not rely on "groupthink" to arrive at its conclusions. ... The members use their individual abilities to arrive at a cohesive result. ...

Group building can literally take only a few minutes, but team building can take years. Individual members of a group often have the ability to walk away when their services or input become unnecessary. A team member's absence can seriously hamper the abilities of other members to perform effectively, so it is not uncommon for individual members to form an exceptionally strong allegiance to the team as a whole.
I think in the classroom we create a mixture of groups and teams, and as a teacher I think we need to know the difference ... the whole class will form a group, the common purpose of which is to study for the same outcomes. Groups can be formed for group work, but perhaps as teacher's get to know their students better they can create teams for specific purposes where all members are important to achieve the task at hand ....

What do you think?
 
 
I have just discovered Phil Race (http://phil-race.co.uk) and have just read Chapter 2 of Making Learning Happen (Phil Race, 2005, London, Sage Publications) which uses ripples on a pond to explain the factors to make learning happen. What a simple model to explain something complex. But the thing that has gone click is this quote.
Their [the 5 factors of Wanting, Needing, Doing, Digesting, Feedback] strength lies in their simplicity – at least in terms of the language we can use to describe them. This language is easily shared by teachers and learners alike. But the strength of this way of thinking about learning also lies in its complexity – the way the factors all interact with each other, and don’t need to occur in a set order or pattern. And perhaps the most significant factor is that any or all of these factors can be going on at any instant in our learning – and we can choose to address any or all of them quite intentionally at any moment in our teaching.

The more reading I am doing the more I get the fact that teaching is complex and their are many elements to it, particularly because people are involved! However my using simple models of the parts and recognising that these interact, we come to some kind of understanding or knowledge. However as said before there is no doubt in my mind that to become a skilful teacher it requires doing it, experimenting with different methods and reflecting. For me I am good at processes and getting to grips with them, I like to observe others and review my own practice, I like to analyse (perhaps to death!). However I know that by teaching the coaching processes I get better and better at teaching! Funny that Phil Race has just drawn a simple pond with ripples that explains just that .. check out the link above and tell me what you think ....
 
 
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I am half way through writing essay number two which is about Teaching and Learning. It is coming together slowly and I am aware of some learning for me going on, which is cool! Anyway I came across this diagram on my travels through the WWW and I quite like it as it pulls together quite a lot of concepts of teaching style. As I think about becoming a skilful teacher (see previous blog) I am aware that there is much more to any teaching style than just how the student interacts with the learning. The teacher needs to be a leader, a psychologist, a communicator and so much more. I think this diagram pretty much sums up all the parts.

Back to the essay now! Going to look at behaviour management, which definitely contains some psychology as well as leadership (CLAP = communication, line of sight, avoidance and Position of most usefulness)

 
 
I had a revelation today during a Canoe Coach Level 2 training course that I was co-tutoring.

 "Being skilful is being able to use the right technique for the right situation" : (Leo Hoare: 2013 - www.getafix.com)

I was listening to the other tutor as he was talking about different coaching styles to fit into a framework of a planned session using the model IDEAS (previous discussed). These coaching styles are techniques for teaching our students something. They can be individual work, group work, guided discovery, questioning, shelf-check (where the student has a set of criteria to look for when they are doing the thing), reciprocal or peer to peer coaching/teaching, and so on. There is an endless list of different ways of presenting the information to students and facilitating some kind of learning process, which can be classed on a spectrum of coach/teacher led to student led (Mosston M. & Ashworth S. (2002) Teaching Physical Education, 5th ed. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings).  The Coach Trainees where asked which techniques they preferred to be coached in and low and behold there was a range. We them asked them to consider learning styles from Honey & Mumford (previous discussed) and again we had a variety of answers. The conclusion is that we are all different, and in fact need to incorporate all these differences within a teaching session to satisfy all the students needs ... well some of them anyway.

The course previously had spoken about how to make paddlers with a series of techniques skilful, i.e. able to apply those techniques successfully to different situations. This also relates to the teaching techniques of course. All these different strategies and teaching techniques have to be applied to the classroom (or river bank!) and to teaching students to become better at the subject matter.

So what we are saying is that you need adapt the teaching style to the subject matter and also to the students in front of you on that day in that hour. Yes we need to plan, and perhaps even have a variety of possible ways of presenting information and facilitating learning. But as a skilful teacher we must be able to apply the right technique at the right time in the right place and appropriate for the students in front of us. Adaptation is key, as well as creating differentiation, which may lend itself to certain teaching styles.

So during our PGCE course we are encouraged to try different teaching techniques and reflect on their success or failure. This is part of our journey to becoming skilful teachers. I think there would be a lot of value to reflect on previous years and courses to recognise that in fact for some things we may well have been through this process. Observing other peoples' lessons is also useful and in fact is a method of peer to peer learning, as we should be able to identify those successful styles of teaching and adaptations.

Reflective practice is good to become for skilful as teachers, but at the same time we do need to get out there and do it (lots)