Looking Forward, looking back

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by brefoto: http://flickr.com/photos/breff/3568711214/
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by brefoto: http://flickr.com/photos/breff/3568711214/

I haven’t written much lately – I’ve honestly been smashed off my feet being back at school after a time away at PLANE.
I did write a couple of posts earlier in the year about some ideas that I’d used in my teaching – an Inquiry approach for my senior class (“No Spoons”) and a little project based lesson in Year 10 Road Safety (“Road Safety Film Festival”), and its about time to update what happened there. I’d also better mention a video portfolio idea that came to fruition as well with my Year 9 Physical Activity and Sport Studies (PASS) class.
I’ve also got some plans for this semester as well, based on where I’ve come from so far, and where I’d like to go. The name of the post “Looking Forward, Looking Back” is based on that idea, and is coincidentally a Slim Dusty song. I hadn’t really listened to it before this post was written, but it actually mentions poignantly some of the ideas I’m covering. Give it a listen!

Looking Back
“No Spoons” was all about trying to avoid spoon feeding my senior class content for the HSC in PDHPE. It was clear that there was resistance to a change in what the students considered to be “good teaching” (i.e – content driven lecture style delivery with pre-made notes given out to complement the lecture). Our school has two PDHPE classes in the one cohort and comparisons between the teaching styles of both teachers were inevitably made (i.e some students observed that the “good” teacher was the one that taught in the traditional way, and I wasn’t – teaching in the traditional way that is, or good, apparently. That was a blow to my self esteem). Having to think, source their own information and answer questions was beyond some students right from the start. On reflection the way I went about introducing this method probably needed more thought, as what I ended up doing very well was instill a sense of fear in the students via the “change” in the un-negotiated, unilaterally imposed learning environment I created (as discussed in the paper “Managing Resistance to Change” – fear is a significant blocker to change occurring). Since the start of the year, I’ve probably swung too far back toward the traditional style I was hoping to replace as a way to placate some of their fears. My goal will be to achieve some further state of equilibrium that meets both our needs. In fact, in future I’d probably start “traditionally” then ease into an Inquiry based approach, introducing questioning and reflection skills as course method gradually- thus trying to manage the fear of the students that their preparation for HSC exams was in jeopardy.

Road Safety Film Festival was a project idea I had for getting my Year 10 PDHPE class to think creatively about road safety as well as producing an artifact that could be used in future as a resource and timulus for following cohorts. In the end I got one video back from one group of students – in the grand scheme of things, it was a failure. There were some great teaching moments that occurred, but the final product was lacking. The class is possibly my best thinking and motivated class, so their attitude was OK, but it didn’t catch as well as I thought it would. Reflecting on the process and outcomes, I had to admit some blockers had cruelled the idea. Firstly, I only get to see the kids once a fortnight in the classroom and time designated as “production” time – this is too long between lessons to maintain continuity. Secondly, the use of mobile devices to produce the video was problematic. We have mixed messages at my school about student use of mobile phones in class – officially mobiles are banned. This creates suspicion and confusion amongst the student when they are asked to USE them in class. Some kids use the school rule as an excuse NOT to use them for a project like this. We don’t have school owned cameras to fill the void. This was very frustrating. This situation is a work in progress for me.

Sport Academy Portfolio
I haven’t posted anything about this. In Year 9 PASS, we had the students produce a video application for a fictitious Sport Academy. Shot on mobile devices, the students were given a set of skills that needed to be showcased in a video evidence reel.It was left to them to work out the logistics of shooting, what they shot, and the final video production. Some chose to do all their shooting at school, some did it after hours.
This was a bright moment last semester, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because the Year 9 PASS class wanted to use their phones and actually produced some quality work.
Secondly, another member of staff worked with me on this idea, and as a result they appreciated the potential that this sort of idea provided. Too many of my ideas involve being a “lone wolf” – doing it on my own, separate from the faculty, but this one was significant in the way the someone else came along for the ride, and is now an advocate for this sort of work. On reflection, a different cohort of students produced a much different result to the Year 10 group who produced almost nothing. My job will be to work out what conditions existed in one productive setting, and not in the other, and use that as part of my “Looking Forward” planning for the upcoming semester.

As for the “Looking Forward” new projects for semester 2, I think I’ll need another post to describe them. But I know that the valuable experience of trying, failing, reflecting and modifying has to be cycled through continually for ideas to take root and flourish.

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3 thoughts on “Looking Forward, looking back”

  1. As a future teacher, I expect not to get everything right the first time, but to learn from it and build off what I did wrong. My dad is a teacher and he told me that as a teacher we will make a lot of mistakes. Every year will be different because I will learn what mistakes I made the previous year and I will fix them. I am sad to hear that your Road Safety Film Festival was unsuccessful, but I am sure you will come up with more projects that the students will do. Best of luck with you and your future classes!

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  2. Jonesy – great work. I am in very much the same boat teaching my SACE Stage 2 PE class – the adaptation I am attempting to develop reasoning, questioning and understanding with my students is that we moderate each other’s theory and practical work then justify our views – a work in progress!!
    It is great to know and hear your trying different approaches and methods to more fully engage you students – they are lucky to have you as a teacher mate! They’ll be better for the ‘thinking skills’ you develop in them.

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  3. I find the traditional teaching much easier to learn and make a better grade in class. But, I tend to learn more and reatin more knowledge when I am tasked to learn on my own and figure things out for myself. I personally think the approach that you used “No Spoons” to be very valuable and I will plan to use a version of this when I start my teaching career. Thanks for the article, Logan Kirkland.

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