Tonight’s 15 minute forum was led by Director of English Kate Bloomfield. Kate is not only a fantastic teacher and Head of English, but also an expert juggler! Kate explained how the experiences of the novice juggler, exemplify the learning process – and so give us much to reflect on as teachers, to inform our own teaching. It was a very hands on session – with Kate teaching a drama studio full of adults how to juggle for the first time, from a single ball, to two balls and then three balls! Part 2 is next week!
The key points stressed by Kate follow and show very clearly how learning anything is supported by our 6 pedagogical principles.
A skill that looks difficult; many people believe they will not be able to learn it. Mindset is key: “I can’t do this yet.” (challenge)
Big picture overview first – then broken down into stages. Master 1 ball; master 2 balls; master 3 balls. (modelling, explanation, scaffolding)
Step by step, and little and often (5 minute chunks done regularly – muscle memory works similarly to the forgetting curve) (scaffolding, feedback)
Mistakes – mistakes – lots of them! They are part of learning. Dropping the ball is learning – as long as you pick it up and try again. Failure is when you drop the ball (make a mistake) and give up. (challenge)
Bad habits – particularly those which become entrenched – are difficult to eliminate, but not impossible. (explanation, modelling, feedback)
‘Short cuts’ tend to lead to dead ends! (explanation, challenge, feedback)
Further debunks the myth of being a visual OR auditory OR kinaesthetic learner. This is a multi-sensory process. We learn by seeing, listening AND doing. (3 routes into the brain are better than 1!) (deliberate practice)
Saying things out loud while you are learning and reviewing can really help. (deliberate practice)
Paired work can help – particularly in diagnosing errors. (A coaching buddy) (questioning, feedback)
It’s useful to have ‘common pitfalls’ pointed out and made explicit. (explanation, modelling, feedback)
Explicit teaching is important, but equally important is the individual practice you put in outside of this. (deliberate practice)
Rates of learning vary across ALL students! Don’t judge yourself by someone else’s rate of progress. Every time you practise, you are a step nearer to mastery. (challenge, mindset, deliberate practice)
Threshold breakthroughs are important to recognise and celebrate (and remember for the next time you are struggling) (scaffolding, feedback, challenge)
Learning never stops! Once you learn a basic 3 ball cascade, test yourself on how many times you can do this. Once this is mastered, a whole new world is opened up: 4 balls, 5 balls, hoops, clubs, tricks, paired juggling, bounce juggling…..! (challenge)
For me – the most significant pedagogical aspects of this are in the areas of MINDSET and SCAFFOLDING. Perhaps this is why, for me, the scaffolding, sequencing, staging process of learning is so important. When I think of the lessons I have observed which have impressed me most, they have been ones where the learning process has been broken down and sequenced carefully to enable complicated concepts to be approached and conquered by students. When this bedrock is in place, learning takes off.