Homework, assessments, projects. Grades, lesson plans, conferences. Teachers can get caught up in the day-to-day parts of the classroom and forget to take time to consider whether or not they’re teaching effectively. In her edWebinar, “Make Learning Visible in Your Classroom,” Cari Wilson, innovation and technology lead teacher at West Vancouver School District, BC, explained how she continually evaluates her instruction to improve her impact on students’ learning.
Wilson bases her strategies on Professor John Hattie’s theories on Visible Learning and Teaching. Hattie’s research focuses on enhancing effectiveness by having teachers evaluate their own practice as well as helping “teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help[ing] them become their own teachers.” From this, Wilson identified five key actions she’s adopted that she thinks can have an immediate impact.
1. Make the classroom a safe place
This means that the teacher works on building a relationship with the students and developing a classroom environment where the they trust each other and feel comfortable taking risks. For the room itself, Wilson advocates creating displays that focus on student work over what the teacher wants to share. Give the students visual evidence that their work is valued. Regarding teacher-student relationships, Wilson works to have at least one meaningful interaction with each student every day. For example, when students leave at the end of the day, she says goodbye to each one, asking them a question and acknowledging their presence for that day.
2. Evaluate your impact
Wilson shared stories of teachers who set up their academic calendar a year in advance and who teach the same unit on the same day every year—whether or not the students have mastered the previous lessons. Instead, she says teachers need to take a step back and ask what mastery actually looks like for each unit. Then, they need to adjust lessons accordingly based on student progress. One class may be right on schedule; another might need more time on the first task.
3. Collaborate with colleagues
While teachers do work together on one-off projects, Wilson believes collaboration should be built into their professional schedules. It doesn’t have to be about their students working across subjects on projects, although that can happen. Some of the best collaboration can be teachers working together to explore and improve their teaching strategies. Administrative support is essential, such as building time into school hours for teachers to meet.
Related: How I gave my students voice and increased collaboration