Thursday, December 14, 2017

Strategies to Extend Student Thinking

Effective classroom instruction is built around student thinking. In recitations, discussions, and other means of checking for understanding, excellent teachers make sure that students are doing the thinking and supplying answers, making connections, correcting errors, etc. 

The invariable temptation of inexperienced teachers is to rescue temporarily stymied students or class discussion. In the interest of student feelings, or in impatience to get on with things, some teachers will plunge in and either give the answers to their own questions (or worse, fail to even ask questions), or focus only on the students they know will give timely and correct answers. This will move the class along, but it will give a probably false impression that the class as a whole understands the learning.

Excellent teachers instead use many of the following to move past easy answers or awkward silences:

      Remember wait time
Provide at least three seconds of thinking time after a question and after a response

     Utilize 'think-pair-share'
Allow individual thinking time, discussion with a partner, and then open up for class discussion

     Ask 'follow-ups'
Why? Do you agree? Can you elaborate? Tell me more. Can you give an example?

     Withhold judgment
Respond to student answers in a non-evaluative way to solicit further discussion

     Ask for summary
To promote active listening, frequently ask students to summarize

    Survey the class
“How many agree with…?’ Use ‘follow up’ questions

    Play 'devil's advocate'
Require students to defend their reasoning against different points of view

    Ask students to 'unpack' their thinking
"Describe how you arrived at your answer"

    Cold call on students randomly or by design
Not just on those with raised hands

    Student questioning
Let or require students to develop their own questions

    Cue student responses
‘There is not only one correct answer for this question. I want you to consider alternatives.’
          
Effective classroom instruction requires thoughtful planning and great flexibility. While keeping the learning targets central, and checking for understanding frequently, excellent teachers focus their efforts on making sure that all students are engaged all the time, that students and not the teacher are doing most of the intellectual work in the classroom. Great teachers use a variety of means to stretch, challenge, scaffold, support, and encourage students

The link below contains a form for classroom observation using these strategies. 

Resources


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