Element Four: Teachers Communicate Effectively With Their Students
The Quality Teaching model stresses the importance of substantive communication in the classroom. For students to develop deep understanding of subject content, and to be able to critically evaluate that content, they must be taught communication skills that allow them to question, explore and develop ideas. During practicum, I have found myself reflecting upon my ability to communicate goals, content and concepts to students. I have found that effective communication requires the following:
Strong content knowledge: During prac I spent many hours researching topics and discussing my understandings with supporting teachers. I found that even though I understood the topics I was teaching, I needed to break down the main components within my lessons and learn how to explain these in a stage-appropriate way. I learnt the importance of defining key ideas and appropriate and necessary vocabulary Using syllabus and curriculum documents, particularly syllabus indicators, helped me to break subjects down into more easily communicated key concepts. I found that while this often takes more time, as with my capacity lessons, this scaffolding created better understanding.
Knowledge of students’ developmental levels: I have experienced some difficulties teaching certain concepts to students in whole-class settings. Having an understanding of students’ developmental levels in particular areas means that attention can be focused in on more problematic areas of knowledge, and questioning, practical activities and group work can be designed to assist varying needs. While I feel that I need more experience in grouping, I feel that I am developing a strong awareness of how student needs can be identified.
Good questioning techniques: Before I had begun my professional experiences course, I had given little thought to the importance of questioning. In a report on ‘Questions and their role in enhancing student learning’,my fellow researchers and I began to understand just how necessary questioning is for developing student ideas, assessing understanding and generating lesson focuses. During practicum, I worked with my cooperating teacher to generate questions that could help guide students in their thinking. She provided support at the conclusion of several lessons, asking questions that would allow students to communicate what they had understood, in their own words. I then used their responses to plan my next lessons. I stressed the importance of students being able to justify their answers. In maths, students explained the steps that they took to get their answers, or gave reasons why a particular mode of enquiry did not work. In literacy sessions, I used 3-level guide style questions (Dufficy, 2005) to design comprehension activities, presenting them in an informal way that allowed students to discuss ideas with group members.