When it comes to PD offerings, the starting point for me is always what we are wanting to develop among our teachers. What you wish to develop always depends on context and right now, I think the most fundamental skill to work on is how best to harness, promote and advance student engagement.
55% of 2500 students interviewed by the Grattan Institute in their 2015 report indicated they were bored and disengaged in their lessons. When it came to teachers we didn’t fare much better - 33% indicated raised anxiety in trying to deal with disengaged students.
If we want to improve the engagement of students in their learning, we need to start by improving the engagement of teachers in their teaching and therefore move from a passive model of instruction to an active one where students are taught to interact with their learning and apply their skills, not just passively soak it up.
We live in an age of technology and content saturation. Teaching has moved beyond the mere transference model of ‘jug to mug” ; it is far more complex than ever, partly because education in general and schools as institutions of teaching and learning are under so much scrutiny from the media.
A new paradigm
Learning too has moved on from when we were at school, but it has actually put us as senior teachers in a very good position to actually apply a new paradigm to the classroom. We have accepted that one size no longer fits all - the classroom of the 19th century which has effectively continued right through until now needs to give way to a new method of delivery which matches how our students learn. The revolution in content delivery and absorption has forced us to think about a paradigm shift in pedagogy, hence the interest and focus on problem based learning, inquiry models, differentiated learning, blended and flipped methodology - so much so that we are closer than ever before to teaching how students learn.
This paradigm shift is the basis of where we, as a company, have pitched our PD - looking at how we manage that change and what change we seek to implement. It is important to note too that the paradigm shift is not one dimensional - it is not just about the transfer of information. At the end of the day content delivery has a great deal to answer for as it has stifled real learning for many years. A more appropriate classroom interaction for the 21st century takes into account both a relational and wellbeing perspective. After all, schools are about people and no matter what changes we have seen over the centuries, the one dynamic that has never changed since the golden age of the Greeks is the relationship between teacher and student. The word ‘pedagogy’ comes from the Greek paidagōgos, a slave who accompanied a child to school (from pais, paid - ‘boy’ + agōgos ‘guide’).
A pastoral pedagogy
To quote educational psychologist Professor Andrew Martin, "it’s a kind of pastoral pedagogy because if there is one major benefit in shifting further along the spectrum towards a more student centred approach, it is the improvement in relationships." Students need two major factors to align in order to taste success - without wishing to over simplify things, nonetheless - it is about positive relationships with their peers and significant adults and engagement with their school community and the teaching and learning process. Nail that and you are a long way toward nailing success at school.
Getting back to what is the single biggest benefit in a more student-centred classroom - once relationships are deepened, a teacher can better know their students both cognitively and on an affective level.
It’s not just about the videos
While we look at and support blended and flipped styles of teaching, the emphasis is always on what can be achieved in the face to face group experience once content is sent offline. While much of the theory behind the flipped classroom is on the curation or creation of video resources, flipped learning isn’t about the videos - it is about what you can achieve in the face to face class time once you unshackle the burden of content delivery.
So in essence, Atomi PD covers the successful integration of video content in the classroom, the impact of digital technology in pedagogy as well as looking at how best to implement and optimise the teaching and learning through a blended or flipped experience. The emphasis is three-fold - getting a clear understanding of the pedagogy, on classroom interaction and its impact on the individuals involved.
As always, I’m interested in your perspective and experience. Feel free to email me your thoughts here.