Sunday, May 11, 2014

Meaningful Collaboration

One thing is always in my mind: "The effective teaching and learning" for all students from struggling ones to advanced ones. 

Many schools have the Learning Assistant Program (LAP) model to support struggling students with data and Response to Intervention (RTI), which has been helpful in small group settings.  In my previous experiences, LAP teachers use their own curriculum to support academic skills that students are lacking.  It is a temporary bandage fix.  Why?  Because the classroom teachers and LAP teachers don't have enough time to collaborate.  Classroom teachers do not necessarily know much about the LAP curriculum.  The initial data is used for screening purposes, which is reasonable, but we don't know which instruction, instructional strategies, and curriculum will impact their progress without the collaborative team time.

Since the introduction of Flipped Classroom a few years ago, several ambitious educators have tried using their unique teaching approaches and have had successful results.  In the flipped classroom, students preview the teacher's pre-made video, or trusted resources such as Khan Academy, at home prior to the lesson.  During the actual lesson, students have opportunities to discuss their learning and questions from the video.  Based on their mastering level, a teacher can differentiate lessons based on the students' needs.

My idea of a flipped classroom doesn't have to have videos.  However, it needs team time between classroom teachers and LAP teachers.  Instead of using LAP time as "catching up" on lacked skills or a double dose, use it as the "Pre-Learning" of a new concept.  If a LAP teacher pre-teaches new skills to students in a small group prior to their homeroom class, these struggling learners will feel more confident from the start.  Prior knowledge is that powerful.  Unlike the "Double Dose" model, students don't have to be bored when a new skill is introduced.  They have to be active from the beginning because the skill is introduced in a small group first. 

To make this possible, a weekly collaborative planning will take a significant role.  Both classroom teachers and LAP teachers must be on the same page on regards to what academic skills will be taught in each week.  There are some online planning programs that numerous teachers can share.  Tools like those that enable the collaborative planning  of many without daily face to face meetings. 

As you can see, the effective teaching and learning for all students is dependent on teacher's effective collaboration.  Rather than chatting or complaining among teachers, we have to clarify teaching purposes and make plans during the meaningful conversation.