#TMBrisbane 2013 (September)
I recently publicised a TeachMeet that my students and I were hosting at QUT as part of a unit on English Curriculum Studies. This particular TeachMeet had the theme ‘What works in education?’ and was designed to facilitate the kind of professional sharing that I want to model for my students – open, generous and friendly with a focus on developing relationships and building communities of practice.
The picture above shows a few of our participants in further conversation during the tea break. This was an after-school session, run from 4.45-6.30pm, and it was great to see presentations from a wide range of contexts. Speakers on the day were:
- Alison Welch – The benefits of collaboration
- Mark Yeates – Use of LMSs from a Year Level Coordinator’s Perspective
- Greg Howes – Designing infographics to promote creativity
- Garry Collins – One little thing that works in teaching grammar
- Nathan Beveridge – Bananas about STEMx: Applications of Fruit and High Technology in C21st Learning
- Lisa Furuya – Gamifying your practice
- Kelli McGraw – The ongoing relevance of the Productive Pedagogies
- Anita Garnsworthy – Inside learning goals: Gathering student insight and feedback
- Josephine Wise – Leading and Teaching: 10 Top Tips for moving from Highly Accomplished to Lead Teacher
- Bruce Lee – Introducing the Scootle Community (www.scootle.edu.au)
The big messages and important links from the TeachMeet have been captured using Storify at this link:
The power of TeachMeet…
Reflecting on the event, I think the best part of a TeachMeet is the opportunity for face-to-face connection with other educators in a non-threatening environment. Although we also had a strong backchannel occurring in both Twitter and Scootle, it was the chance to ‘put a face to a name’ that I valued most.
It was also awesome to see experienced educators modelling courageous sharing for my preservice teachers – everyone authentically attempted the ‘pecha kucha’ or ‘micropresentation’ styles, which are challenging to master!
TeachMeets are PD events run in the ‘unconference tradition’ – they are free to attend and the presentations are short (2 or 7 minutes only). Our TeachMeet had a mixture of classroom teachers and school leaders, as well as a university teacher, a student/pre-service teacher, teachers undertaking research degrees and policy workers. I was so proud of my students for having the confidence to host the event and get involved in professional conversations…they also put on a pretty mean afternoon tea spread ;)
The next Brisbane TeachMeet will be held soon, on Thursday 24th October, at Marist Ashgrove. If you are an educator in SouthEast Queensland I encourage you to attend – you can sign up via the wiki.
It’s been over a year since I went to my first TeachMeet, up here in Brisbane. I presented a pecha kucha on ‘fair’ assessment and Project Based Learning and had a great time meeting a bunch of other educators from a wide range of contexts.
Now the time has come for me to donate space at my institution to the cause. Each semester I endeavour to arrange an activity that puts my preservice students in touch with teachers and practitioners in ‘the real world’, and this semester the TeachMeet will be that event! When I asked my students a few weeks ago if they were keen to act as hosts for this event they were really into it the idea and the planning (mostly of potential snacks) began straight away.
Our theme is ‘What Works in Education?’, which doesn’t really narrow the focus too much but is intended to get people interested in sharing good ideas.
If you follow this blog and live in Brisbane we’d love to see you at our TeachMeet!
Details for (FREE!) registration can be found here: http://tmbrisbane.wikispaces.com/
If you exist in the Twitterverse you can also follow along and add ideas during the event using the hashtag #tmbrisbane
*** Teachers, lecturers, preservice teachers and educators at large all welcome ***
It’s that time of year. Teachers of Year 12 around Australia are scrambling to varying degrees to prepare students for final assessments and exams, which inevitably involves a whole lotta marking.
Of course, all teachers have to grade student work. And they are engaged in doing this all year. But nothing beats the pedal-to-the-metal feeling of marking Year 12 practice tasks in a last ditch effort to refine their examination responses.
In particular, nothing beats the hellish pressure that exists in states like NSW and Victoria where the HSC and VCE exams respectively loom over teachers and students alike. And out of all these teachers and students, I argue that subjects that are writing-intensive (e.g. English and History) have it the toughest; if you have a class of 25 for Year 12 and it’s coming up to an assessment, teachers in these subjects are spending their nights and weekends correcting pages and pages and pages of long form expositions.
Which can leave your eyes (and soul) feeling kinda like this:
I was prompted to write this blog post after watching my friends Justin and Alex tweet about their marking yesterday:
I’ve taught for the HSC three times and this slavish marking routine is the only part I do not miss…having said that, the jolly task I have now of marking as a university lecturer has involved marking binges that certainly rival the pain of HSC workload.
The question is – what can we do about it?
Is there anything we can do about it?
Some ideas that I threw out into the twittersphere yesterday seem promising, but without a class to try them on I’m at a loss, not sure if they would work. The ideas I bounced around with Justin and Alex were:
- Focussing on writing just the introduction, or a body paragraph. This would make the task smaller and more focussed for students, and more manageable to mark 25-30 of them.
- Setting a paragraph writing challenge. To address Justin’s problem of the student that only writes about ‘tone’, each week set a different language feature/form for students to write a paragraph on. By the end of the term they will have a bank of paragraphs on different elements.
- Gamify the writing process. This could be done by putting students in groups, getting every student to write a paragraph (or essay), then each group submits it’s best one (as judged by the students in the group) for marking. This means you only have to mark one essay/paragraph per group, not per student. Keep a chart of which group wins each week and award them a prize at the end of the unit. Change the groups around for each new unit.
- Peer assessment. This can only be used in a limited way, as students don’t have the capacity to grade work to a Year 12 standard. However you could use the ‘medals (feedback) and missions (feedforward)’ framework that Bianca draws on to give students a direction. I think the main benefit is that they read each other’s work and discuss their strengths, not that they actually give each other a ‘grade’.
- Find an authentic audience. Partnering up with another teacher/class would provide an avenue for students to share their work with another class on a platform such as a wiki. This would give students someone to perform for besides their own teacher, which could prove motivating. The teachers could also arrange to do a marking-swap, and grade each other’s student essays…this may get you writing less comments, marking more objectively (?) and just plain old provide a change of pace as you get to read a different set of handwriting!
I really hope these ideas are useful to someone out there.
If you have any other good ideas for getting feedback to students without going through so much of the eye-bleedingly painful million-essay marking process, I would LOVE to hear them!
Thanks to Justin and Alex for inspiring this post and helping me brainstorm ideas :)
Images: Cropped screen still from True Blood, Season 5; Screen shot of conversation on Twitter.com
Postscript: If you liked this post, you may also like the post Matt Esterman wrote today, ‘The home stretch for Year 12′. Looks like we all have Year 12 on the brain this weekend!
In most English Curriculum units I run an activity where students work in groups to design their ultimate English classroom.
Here are some of the elements that come up in many of the designs:
- Really big bookshelf
- Reading area/chill out zone with bean bags
- Lots of windows
- Blackout curtains around the room for cinema viewing & drama background
- ‘Drama blocks’ that can be used as seating or a stage (or a dedicated stage area)
- An indoor plant
- Projector and screen
- Moveable tables (though note often teacher-centric as default)
Some groups, but not too many, also include:
- Interactive whiteboard/s
- Posters on the wall
- iPad/laptop chargers
- Student work display board
- Different ‘zones’ in one big room
- Coffee/tea making area
- An outdoor area e.g. verandah
The inclusion of a coffee/tea area is slightly worrying, given the adolescent age range of the students in mind!
Other than that though, I can see very good reasons for most of these design elements.
The only problems is…I know that these aspiring teachers have buckleys of fitting all this in to a traditional school classroom space. Until we knock down the walls and invest in new, flexible, comfortable furnishings, these dream rooms will stay just that. A dream.
What do you do to make your classroom more like your ‘ultimate room’? What else would you include in your ultimate classroom design?