Over the past several years, I feel lucky to have visited several schools and observe many excellent teachers in action through the consulting work I have done. Through these visits I’ve learned so much about what it is that great practitioners do that make a difference in student learning. I’d like to share what I believe to be 5 habits highly effective educators put into practice on a consistent basis in their teaching. I’m sure there are many other excellent habits I could add to this list, but for now, I’d like to share just these 5 in no particular order.
Below are just a few ways that great teachers unpack the learning process and make it visual in their classrooms. These visuals can be done using chart paper and marker or using digital tools that help to capture student thinking and learning.
- Involving students in helping to design assessments so that critical success criteria is identified by the students themselves
- Getting the students to discover what the important learning outcomes are in a unit and creating visuals of these outcomes in student friendly language
- Deconstructing these outcomes as the unit unfolds in a way that captures the key skills and concepts being explored
- Using clip art images and other types of images that capture essential ideas, vocabulary, concepts, skills etc.
- Mind mapping the learning journey that takes place during the units of inquiry in the classroom and the single subjects
- Bringing both fiction and non-fiction reading alive through visuals, posters, and other forms of art including role play
Great educators all have unique ways in which they make student thinking and learning explicit and visual, but the common denominator of success is that they take the time to fill their classroom space with colorful posters and visuals that captures student thinking and learning.
These ways of visualizing help to keep students on track with their learning journey and can be used as a reference point when helping students to better understand the expectations required during the unit itself.
Prior to the beginning of the unit, these powerful provocations are well planned out and always coupled with a driving question that helps to get the students thinking deeply about the topic or theme(s) being explored in the unit. The provocations used are not meant to capture just awe and wonder but to also tap into each students sense of compassion and empathy. When engineered correctly these provocations can have a huge impact on student learning from the very start of the unit and be used as a springboard for diving into their journeys of inquiry.
As the units unfold, great teachers also used mini-provocations with regularity in their teaching on a lesson-to-lesson basis. The mini-provocations used help to provide students with further emotional hooks that spark their continued curiosity and desire to learn more about the unit being explored.
Highly effective educators get as much value from this process as the students do and constantly strive to find provocations that will best challenge and inspire their students to take action on their own learning. Skilled teachers use these provocations to help draw out what students believe to be true about a topic or theme and challenge these ideas in order to reveal inaccuracies that ultimately help to further their learning. Students often remember powerful provocations for years afterward which speaks volumes for the emotional impact that it had on their learning.
They are able to uncover insight and inspiration from outside the world of education and somehow find ways to apply it to their own learning when it comes to improving upon their daily practice in the classroom and their ability to collaborate with their colleagues. The highly effective educator understands that being a genuine lifelong learner is highly dependent upon looking outside the box of education itself in order to expand upon their toolkit of skills and knowledge. They consistently reflect on this learning and always bring it back to the world of education and the work that they do.
How do they better achieve these states of well-being? Usually this is done through regular physical activity such as running, cycling, walking, yoga, hiking, or other recreational sporting endeavors. Many of these educators put different types of meditation and mindfulness practices into action in their lives which help to increase their levels of productivity and well-being and decrease anxiety and stress. Carving out quiet time and better identifying the need to find solitude is also a major factor in maintaining and deepening states of well-being. The highly effective education is able to better design time and space to build this quiet, reflective time into their regular schedule.
These educators are always able to find that ‘just right’ balance in their lives that enables them to not only maintain and/or deepen their well-being, but to ultimately have a much more positive impact on the students under their care and guidance.
Teachers who foster an empowering culture in their classroom admit their errors, model respective language use, avoid criticism at all costs, and allow the voices of their students to shine through. There is a strong sense of warmth, kindness, and encouragement that helps to build a solid foundation for self-directed, autonomous learning and to ultimately increase levels of trust in the teacher-student relationships that are developed.