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#16 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 01 May 2003 - 06:04 PM

Research has been recently carried out at the United States National Learning Lab in Maine to assess the most effective way that young people can learn. The researchers employed a variety of different teaching methods and then tested the students to find out how much they had learnt. From this the researchers were able to calculate what they called the Average Retention Rate. The results were as follows:

Teacher talking to a class (5%)
Student reading a book (10%)
Student watching an audio visual presentation (20%)
Student watching a teacher demonstration (30%)
Students taking part in a discussion group (50%)
Students involved in an activity that is related to what the teacher wants them to learn (75%)
Students teaching others (90%).

These findings aren't surprising at all. Most students, in my experience, turn off after a few minutes of teacher input. In Inset sessions it's usually very clear that teachers have done the same after 10 minutes or so, so it should hardly come as a surprise that students do so quickly.

My current school has, along with several other local schools, adopted an approach called 'Critical Skills' which addresses findings such as these. Essentially this teaching style is collaborative learning but it's been adapted to task into account the findings of research in the US. The methodology is fairly straightforward. For any given topic, for example the causes of the First World War, students are given a challenge. They work in groups that are given specific tasks to perform - for example different groups might be asked to look at the Arms Race, the Scramble for Africa etc... Within each group students are assigned roles. These include facilitator, timekeeper, and resource manager amongst others. Students are then put in control of their own learning. The teacher provides prompts and tips via resource packs but each group has to create a presentation alongside information packs covering their area. I've adapted this to make use of ICT applications and include info sheets,. PPT’s, Image galleries and student created multi media resources that can be used with other classes. Once the allotted amount of time is up each group has to present their findings to the rest of the class. This often means that the input from students is the only time that that element of content is presented to the whole group. Other students are given note sheets, which they are expected to annotate during the presentations and feedback is given at the end of every talk.

This method has proved quite successful. Though there are many Americanisms within the pedagogy the principles can easily be applied to suit the style of the individual teacher. Teaching using this method has increased awareness of Key Skills, enhanced student’s social skills as they are working with people whom they wouldn't usually opt to liaise with and are being required to manage their own work, thus developing their independent learning skills. The presentations have a significant impact as well, peer pressure clearly impacts upon the students desire to perform well.

There are many advantages to this approach. First it provides students with an opportunity to select the learning approach that best suits them, the research is student controlled and given ample resources many learning styles can be catered for; It requires students to teach other students via presentations and creation of resource sheets / accompanying notes - which also make for outstanding displays that generate lots of interest; it allows discreet differentiation to be built into lessons for groups f any ability, challenging the most able to analyse complex issues whilst allowing for the less able to be working on more appropriate tasks - without it being obvious that people are dong 'different' work; content is covered briskly and in an environment that is positive, challenging and highly engaging; teachers are enabled to facilitate rather than spoon feed and most importantly as far as I am concerned it provides students with an environment in which they are willing to collaborate, experiment and develop their skills, having removed many barriers to learning that 'old fashioned' approaches tend to place upon them.

I've not yet received formal training in this approach but have observed many lessons where it has been adopted. Students who are often disruptive have always been on task, work has been of a higher standard than in many other lessons and the student - teacher relationship has been very positive. I've used these observations to introduce aspects of the approach into my own teaching, with astounding results in Year 10 (Creation of websites relating to the development of Public Health in the 19th century) and Year 9 (PSHE, lessons on the local community, the potential impact of specialist status on students experience of school and History lessons relating to religion in Tudor England).

#17 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 02 May 2003 - 11:48 PM

I've used pupils to teach others as a part of their revision and it was incredibly successful in promoting the pupils' own development of research, presentation skills and it was clear that a great deal came from this technique. I asked students to prepare OHTs on Nazi Germany with a view to teaching each other the key elements of life under Hitler. I asked each group to do a special presentation, on a topic that no other group would teach about and to make their work as lively as possible. In large part it worked well for the following reasons
1) A new style of learning that made pupils responsible not just for their learning but also that of their peers.
2) The newness of this technique which clearly no one else has used.
3) The high quality notes and research that came from this exercise.
4) The positive atmosphere this created within the classroom.
5) An excellent series of revision notes that each group produced and which I am having typed up as part of their revision materials.

However I also have to add a few points that I learnt from the whole experience that may be useful to others in planning something like this.
a) One group did next to nothing, their notes were poor because they were incapable of organising themselves as a group and in taking the initiative individually so that it became easier to chat about what they might do, rather than what was needed.
B) The newness of this meant pupils were overawed by the task lacked experience and just weren' t up to the job in their first go
c) Some pupils lacked the confidence to participate and let others do the work whilst staying in the background (this will disappear over time) and some groups where individuals took over altogether, even to the detriment of other students. (group dynamics needed to be more carefully considered)
d) The embarrassment factor lead to some very quick and quiet presentations that I felt it necessary to recover afterwards.
When I do this again I will consider changes to allow more time, better group planning and probably some quizzes or tests to show how much each group has taught and to show them the measure of their success as a positive way of reinforcing this technique for later use.

I wouldn't use this topic all the time, once or twice a year as I believe strongly in giving pupils a complete mix of teaching styles, poster one week, extended writing the next etc.... I read an article by John D Clare which offers loads of differing teaching styles that he uses but the most important thing I learnt from it was that variety was essential, trying out new techniques every week to meet all pupils' differing learning needs. I'd need more than one or two ideas to get this working effectively in my classroom though!
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#18 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 08:21 AM

If I can quote the case of my own daughter, rather than my own teaching experience. As an A Level History Student members of her class were each allocated a topic on Stalinist Russia to research. They were then to prepare a presentation using OHPs, a summary handout for the rest of the class and a short introduction to a discussion of a central question connected with the topic. ...However the presentations of others in the class were not necessarily of the same standard and I know that my daughter felt that whilst she had learned far more about Collectivisation than she would have done if she had relied on more passive methods of learning she was angry and disappointed that she then had to do a great deal of work to 'plug the gaps' left by other students. The whole process had also taken a lot longer than it would have done if the teacher had been the presenter of the material.

This comment really made me sit up. I am actually doing this Stalin lesson with my IB students at the moment. Almost exactly as Carole describes it. My original motivation was simply to avoid lecturing for eight hours but I have to admit that this would probably be the most efficient way of getting the content across in as short a time as possible. On other topics this is exactly what I have to do. Letting the students teach it, takes about a week longer and I always have 'to plug the gaps' afterwards. This is what I will be doing next week. Yet despite this, I will do the same lesson again next year. Why? If I am to be honest, my reasoning has always been instinctive. It feels right to be doing this lesson, at this time in the course. If the IB course was modular, I could never justify the time. But for my students the exams are still a year away.

I use the activity for lots of non-exam based reasons. It is the students' third PowerPoint presentation and I use the lesson to move the students away from using PPT as a 'crutch' for 'click- read' presentations. All the students are DV filmed and we analyse presentation skills (eye contact, tone, body-language etc.) The IB syllabus has an integral philosophy course TOK, which requires students to make presentations. So it contributes to that. The students DV edit (an ICT skill that has to be taught) all the filmed presentations in to 5 minute summary over their Easter break and we compare them afterwards. This makes for an interesting lesson on subjectivity. They also have to revisit the content over and over and over again! The best are also published for next year's students. The students are currently preparing for coursework assignments that require independent research skills. The lesson helps with this. The students prepare handouts for the class (this is the third time in the course) we evaluate how these are improving. This contributes to enabling the students to make good revision notes for each other in nine months time. It also helps with the non-academic, social skills. It helps break down barriers between students and between students and teacher. I get to work individually with students, preparing presentations. I get to know them better. It gives students responsibility for each others learning. They get to know each other better. It gives them confidence to stand up in front of an audience (this in itself justifies the activity for me). It helps give the group a collective identity of having all experienced the same ordeal. It is variety. It can be fun.

But is it the best way to get historical content across in as short a time as possible? Perhaps not.
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#19 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 10:44 AM

Very interesting post by Richard ..... Firstly my daughter's experience was 4/5 years ago and one can only hope that her teacher (not Richard B) ) has learned from his experiences. All I know is that he kept all my daughter's materials when she left. I can only guess at his purpose in asking for them.

Secondly, I think Richard has hit the nail on the head when identifying the time factor as an inhibitor especially at AS/A2. I would like to work in the way Richard describes in his post much more often, but just can't afford the time to do so. In the days of the old A Level (2 year course) the time pressure was not so great.

#20 Nichola Boughey

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 02:16 PM

I suppose I have been a backseat driver on this post for a while so I shall add my short and somewhat inexperienced contribution to this seminar forum.

As part of our Yr. 9 Modern World History Course we a pupil led activity. It is based upon the new technology used during WWI and involves the classes dividing into groups of four and preparing a different presentation to deliver to the class about a number of different technologies.

These presentations are always fantastic and the classes remember them well. We have had:

1. Leaflets prepared for the whole class to take away with them.
2. Interactive aspects of the presentations.
3. Role plays.
4. PPT presentations.

We were revising last week and some of the girls pulled out the leaflets prepared by the rest of the class, people were remembering somebody pretending to throw up, with cold spaghetti soup, and this was evidence that pupil led activities work.

My lesson on the Treaty of Versailles - right out of their minds! Oh well back to the drawing board.

Though I do believe that this method should not be used too much as it too would become 'old hat'.

#21 John D Clare

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 07:18 PM

May I introduce a note of cynicism?
1. I know that History teachers say: ‘I never really knew about History until I started to teach it’. But how true is this? I have taught History for 30 years, and I could pass GCSE with my eyes shut!!! But my recent forays into further education have taught me that maybe an absolute appropriation of the skills needed for GCSE History is not sufficient grounding for an MA essay.
2. Yes, teaching something is a way to appropriate it – Professor Carol FitzGibbon’s work with poor readers has statistically proven this. But the crucial point, I suspect, is that I found this out by attending a lecture by Professor FitzGibbon. As a general principle, I find that most advocates of modern teaching techniques tell you their ideas by means of didactic lecture. She certainly didn’t ask any of us to go up there and deliver chunks of her lecture for her.
3. The time involved in allowing pupils to study, manipulate and then deliver their ‘teaching’ makes it a technique that cannot be used frequently.
4. As Carol Faithorn pointed out, the problem with pupils is that they usually make poor teachers. It is not just that nobody else in the class learns anything while they are speaking. It is often bad for the ‘pupil-teachers’, too. Just as exams are an impure way to assess pupils (because they involve other skills than simply the understanding of the History content), so ‘delivering a lesson’ is just the very worst way you could ask some pupils to present their understanding.
5. As Stephen Drew and Andrew Field, I do sometimes use a presentation by a [group of] pupils as a vehicle for an assessment. But I think there is a difference between ‘teaching’, and ‘delivering a presentation’ which is apposite here – what makes us, as teachers, ‘learn’ the work so effectively is the imperative to present the material is such a way as to get the audience to appropriate it too, and to overcome their learning barriers. It is in struggling with these problems that we get to the nub of what makes this subject tick. But any fool can stand up and read out an essay, or some facts that they have found out – that is not teaching. I do not believe that it teaches the pupil any more than being asked to write an essay, and it certainly does not teach the other pupils as much (or as interestingly) as I can in the time available. Making a presentation to the rest of the class does force the pupils to present the material in a different (more ‘popular’) way, but does it make them learn it any better?
6. Many of my attempts to get pupils to teach something to other pupils have been less than satisfactory – a wasted time listening to more or less turgid, halting speeches. This has been particularly true when the ‘teachers’ have been pressed men, but even volunteers have been little better. The other pupils have always been most forgiving, but that it not the point. I only use it now as a ‘special’ to stretch a particularly able pupil, and I do it for the individual, almost at the expense of the class.
7. Surely the key to this is that having to teach something to others INTERNALISES the content. The student has to work with and on the content towards another end. It is this internalisation, not ‘teaching-the-subject’ (in some kind of magical way) which makes it effective.
I tend to use techniques which achieve this internalisation of content and issues which fall somewhat short of a full ‘student-as-teacher’ approach, but which are more appropriate in a classroom situation:
- Ask the pupils to write a novel for other school children to read.
- Get them to prepare one side of a class debate – and give them an incentive (eg extra HWK if they lose) to do it well.
- DRAMA is a wonderful way for pupils of ALL abilities to internalise issues and content – particularly if you give the drama an issue to address which goes beyond the immediate taught content (conjectural history).
- Ask the pupils to prepare a public display/ a departmental magazine/ a powerpoint presentation or webpage for the departmental website etc..
Reading the contributions, I am very aware that other contributors to this debate have posted similar and better ideas. But the point about them all is that they are didactic/persuasive in principle, without going the whole hog of forcing the pupils to try to be teachers. And as such they work much better.
8. Perhaps the key, as Stephen Drew points out, is that, if you are going to use any of these techniques in the classroom, you have to teach the technique as well as the History. Typical is the lesson where – clearly in an attempt to liven up the written element of the lesson – the teacher tells the pupils to write up (eg) the story of Franz Ferdinand as a newspaper page. The children draw a line down the centre of the page and write the narrative JUST AS THEY WOULD HAVE DONE ANYWAY, only in two columns. The Literacy Strategy has emphasised how unsatisfactory this is. A ‘newspaper article’ has a certain style of writing and, if we are asking the pupils to write in the style of a newspaper article, we have to teach them how to do that (as well as the story of Franz Ferdinand).
It is just the same with any ‘pupil-as-teacher’ approaches. The key is in the briefing. If you are using a drama, clear parameters have to be given – the History teacher needs to be able to teach the pupils how to do drama, as well as about the History. The same applies to debates and static presentations. Similarly, if we are asking the pupil to teach something to the class we need to teach that pupil what ‘teaching it’ involves, and how to do it. Does the idea, at this point, go beyond what we can comfortably normally accomplish, certainly in a KS3 classroom?
[As a final concomitant, if you are asking pupils to use a special technique to present their work, you must remember to assess separately the technique, as well as the History content of their work.]

#22 Leslie Simonfalvi

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 07:28 PM

Hello

I'm Leslie Simonfalvi, director of the International Teacher Training & Development College in Budapest, Hungary. We train teachers of English as a foreign language and we also train teachers of other subjects, including teachers of History, to use communicative techniques in their teaching. It is very important because subject matter teaching, especially in a bilingual setting, is language teaching to start with.

Pasted below please find a project in which teacher trainees and students are teachers.

Title: Creating, maintaining, and further developing a safe, person-centered learning environment

The aim is to create, maintain, and further develop a safe, person-centered learning environment where
· Students can learn-acquire, and learn how to learn-acquire better,
· Trainees can learn, learn how to learn, learn how to teach, and teach how to learn,
· Teachers can learn, learn how to learn better-differently, learn how to teach better, learn how to facilitate learning, learn how to create a safe learning environment, and learn how to assess-examine better,
· Trainers can learn, learn how to teach-train better, learn how to facilitate learning better, learn how to confront supportively and give supportive feedback.

The ILS Group is a network of Schools and a Teacher Training College. Students (aged 4-6, 7-10, 11-14, 15-18, 18+adults) and Trainees learn in their groups, but on Wednesdays they mix for an open day. Visitors, students and teachers alike, come as far away as 300 kilometers from the Capital.

We have these unified classes in a multimedia library where teachers and trainers can pick and choose from a complex system of atomised study-materials for all levels and ages. The main aim is to act as a practice ground for teacher-trainees where both students and trainees feel safe, dare to make mistakes and learn a great deal. We follow the Humanistic - Person-Centered Approach to teaching and the Non-Directive - Self-Directing Approach to learning. The group's teaching / learning is organised in the light of the Learner-Centered Principles Prepared by the Learner-Centered Principles Work Group of the American Psychological Association's Board of Educational Affairs.

In this learning environment the exercises are chosen on the basis of a Cognitive Style Mapping - Computer-Based Level Testing for all concerned and follow the
· Information gap – opinion gap – taste gap principle
· Information transfer principle
· Jigsaw principle
· Task dependency principle
· Correction for content principle
· Personalisation and localisation principle.

This is a standing culture with Ground Rules where the following changes are possible:
· Students’ and Trainees’ defensive pessimism and attributional egotism develop towards a higher level of empathy, and
· the learning processes develop towards a higher efficiency .

The Project has been running for the last four years and we have trained hundreds of teachers of English, re-trained and further trained hundreds of teachers of German, French, and Hungarian as a Foreign Language, and other subjects, and accommodated thousands of students.

We study the learning processes present through
· a revised Bloom-Taxonomy, and
· a detailed needs–wants–means analysis.

In this learning environment
· the Gypsy students present can be successful in some of their multiple intelligences, and
· the physically handicapped – blind - LD students show development on the learning disability > learning difficulty > learning difference gradient.

We have to further develop
· the transfer rate from learning into teaching, and from teaching into teacher training,
· our supportive confrontation techniques towards self-directed peer-learning.

We have to make such pedagogical ‘big’ names’ ideas as Montessori, Vygotsky, or Comenius, more and more present and actually a working reality.

Edited by Leslie Simonfalvi, 04 May 2003 - 07:57 PM.


#23 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 08:35 PM

The key is in the briefing.  If you are using a drama, clear parameters have to be given – the History teacher needs to be able to teach the pupils how to do drama, as well as about the History.   The same applies to debates and static presentations.   Similarly, if we are asking the pupil to teach something to the class we need to teach that pupil what ‘teaching it’ involves, and how to do it.   Does the idea, at this point, go beyond what we can comfortably normally accomplish, certainly in a KS3 classroom?

I think that John (dclare) has raised a number of interesting points, but at this stage I would just like to address the above question as to whether this can be managed in the ks3 classroom. My short answer is yes, but this needs to carried out over a sustained period of time. Of course we need to instruct our students how to carry out different tasks, for example I like to use role play quite regularly in the classroom, but when I use it with year 7 it is tightly structured - students have information about their characters, they have suggested sentence starters and they role play in pairs. As we move into year 8 the structure is loosened; the students have to research their own characters, they write their own script, groups become larger etc. I see it in the same way as I see the teaching of their historical skills; we can't expect students to be able to evaluate the usefulness of a source in year 7. That is why we build these skills up over the course of 3, 5 or 7 years. There was a thread not so long ago about teaching source skills (See the discussion relating to Nicola Boughey's Source Skills Booklet)and myself and many colleagues remarked on the need to address these skills early on rather than expecting the students to miraculously pick them up in year 10. Progression is built in to the National Curriculum and should be in the schemes of work that we use. Likewise progression in the learning experience of the students needs to be carefully planned as John suggests.

The best History teachers are constantly striving to ensure a varied diet in the classroom to enthuse our students and make sure that their needs are met. The student as teacher is but one way of pursuing this outcome.

Edited by Carole Faithorn, 04 May 2003 - 08:48 PM.

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#24 Nichola Boughey

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 11:58 PM

But I think there is a difference between ‘teaching’, and ‘delivering a presentation’ which is apposite here – what makes us, as teachers, ‘learn’ the work so effectively is the imperative to present the material is such a way as to get the audience to appropriate it too, and to overcome their learning barriers. It is in struggling with these problems that we get to the nub of what makes this subject tick. But any fool can stand up and read out an essay, or some facts that they have found out – that is not teaching. I do not believe that it teaches the pupil any more than being asked to write an essay, and it certainly does not teach the other pupils as much (or as interestingly) as I can in the time available.

By John D Clare



May I address a two points here if that is ok?

Firstly:

As a 'relatively' new teacher I often find myself learning new information to teach the night before I actually teach it. This is due to the fact that many modern History degrees leave prospective teachers woefully lacking in actual applicable History knowledge to current KS3 and some KS4 courses. By learning this subject matter the night before in order to effectively communicate the knowledge is a skill I possess and when students deliver information or 'teach' it to a class they too are forced to undergo the same preparation as I do and begin to hopefully develop the same skills - as the teacher. And yet more tellingly sometimes they can interpret a subject matter in a more simple, yet no less historical manner, for fellow pupils - especially if G&T students deliver to SEN.

Secondly:

You are right any fool can get up and read an essay or deliver a presentation - I do on a regular basis. I do feel however that when we talk about students as teachers are we talking just G&T or can we also refer to SEN as well. Because if that is the point then I must politely and respectfully disagree with John D Clare and state that in some cases it is quality of education and not just target grades and assessment that are important. Delivering a presentation or 'teaching' fellow students can teach them something other than History skills, because for a few short minutes they may proudly speak in front of others, look people in the eye and prove that they can do a task that others find very simple yet they may see as a mountain to be overcome.

I agree with Dan that it is essential for teachers to vary the teaching that they do and I do feel that at times a student led session is a very good way to go. :teacher:

Edited by Nichola Boughey, 05 May 2003 - 10:35 AM.


#25 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 02:02 PM

The division of the curriculum into subject areas, the nationally imposed NC with the pre set "levels of attainment, measurement and reporting all imply the social control of knowledge and the social control of the child's personal development. Philosophically this contrasts sharply with John's child centred approach. I would argue John's approach with its emphasis on choice, investigation, and open ended outcomes would actually subvert the aims of the NC - thus more strength to his elbow :D :D

#26 Richard Drew

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 05:49 PM

I would argue John's approach with its emphasis on choice, investigation, and open ended outcomes would actually subvert the aims of the NC - thus more strength to his elbow :D  :D

yes. it is the difference between learning to improve your mind and better yourself, and learning to jump through hoops pre-set by bureaucrats.

i think that as always it is horses for courses.

in certain circumstances and with certain topics this approach is very suitable, but not with others. I think that the most important thing to always bear in mind is that this approach should never be seen as an easy option for the teacher (asw sadly can often be the case), indeed the opposite is very much the case, but the effort is 99% in the preparation of the tasks and resources, instead of the delivery of the content. a very well planned and structured (by which i do not mean excessively structured) lesson in theis format will avoid many of the problems john raises of pupils 'reading out' their presentation, and the process becoming too time consuming.
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#27 Juan Carlos Ocaña

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Posted 08 May 2003 - 09:12 AM

It is very interesting to realise that all over Europe most of History teachers debating about the same topics and problems.

I basically agree with John Simkin and the opinions he set out in his first post. Active learning and students playing the role of teachers are more fruitful teaching methods in comparison with older ways.

I also think that Andy Walker (national curriculum), Carole Faithforn (pressure for achieving the best results and different students' performance and the need of "plugging the gaps"), Richard Jones-Nerzic (like it or not, lecturing is the most efficient way of getting the content across in as short a time as possible) and the "cynical" comments of John dClare (we are teachers not students, students very usually make poor teachers, at the end a lot of times we use a specially abled student to play the role of teacher...) have contributed new approaches and nuances that help us to understand a so complicated matter.

I would like to tell you briefly what has been going on in Spain last years:

In the early 90s, with a Socialist government a very progressive general educational law (Ley Orgánica General del Sistema Educativo) was passed. As far as history teaching is concerned the new law brought different innovations:

• Regional governments got important competences, which brought about a paradoxical situation, while Spanish curriculum was expurgated of "nationalist" opinions (John Simkin wrote about Spanish Armada in Franco's schools) in Catalonia and, specially, in Basque Country a new nationalist history, full of lies as every nationalist history, was build up.

• The old "closed" curricula were substituted by new "open curricula" that, theoritacally, may be adapted to local features and students' necessities. un currículum abierto que los centros pueden adaptar en función de las características de sus alumnos y su entorno social.

• Active learning is fostered as well as students' research activities. One of the main objectives of the history teacher should be introduce the historians' scientific approach in the classroom. Research activities (working with texts, statistics, images, maps....) that would let the students reach and produce their own knowledge became one of the main points of teachers' job.

• History and Geography were completely were impregnated by other Social Sciences features. In the case of History, old features as chronological approach were played down and sometimes completely abandoned.

• Social, economical or cultural aspects were highlighted to the detriment of political features. Great historical structures were emphasized and great personages and events were minimized.

• More recent times were given precedence instead of more ancient times...

The new law had mixed results.
There have been a great debate on history teaching in Spain that reached the main newspapers a few years ago. Although the discussion was essentially focused on nationalism (Catalonia, Basque Country and all that), indirectly topics as active learning, the importance of chronology or memorizing, open curricula were put forward...

Now, the incumbent government of Mr. Aznar has passed a new law that has sent a message of "no more experiments, let's come back to old ways".

#28 sam_allison

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Posted 08 May 2003 - 10:07 AM

I am surprised that most seem to have accepted the basic premises of the original study quoted by John at the start.To my mind, watching audio-visual presentations would rank lowest here in N.A. because so many watch so much T.V. Second,what about the "Hawthorne" effect, the novelty value?Kes is arguably one of the best movies on teaching and learning, but it should not blind us to the sheer grind of learning in schools for children.Billy Casper went over well in the class, but if Billy Elliot did his thing on ballet next day, Jimmy Watt told them about steaming kettles on the third day and so on, the interst of the class would sag and the U.S. rankings would be changed. Anyway, it was all tried before with the Bell system or Lancastrian system whatever they were called, in the 19th C. and that was not so great.
Here in Montreal, we have students debate history topics a good deal, and make up web-sites for this. The method is fun but has its dangers. For example, when debating child labour, in the 19th.C. factories here in Canada, the classes I teach invariably vote FOR child labour on the grounds that the little elves liked skipping around moving machinery(that's evidence from one of the brilliant Brit websites, I think by the Brt. Musm. or Brt. Library) I think students-as-teachers is an important arrow in the quiver of teaching methods, but it is only another arrow, not a fundamental weapon in itself.
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#29 clare_h

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:40 AM

I was fascinated to come across this discussion as I too have been playing with different methods of active learning. My own starting point was the research of Geoff Petty which reflects the findings of the American research quoted. I teach in FE and so am blessed with smaller classes and students with generally a more mature attitude to learning. The College's emphasis this year has been on the students their Improving own Learning and Performance and these forms of active learning encourage this.

:D We have long used presentations on various topics. This is a motivator for many students and encourages them to engage with their topic in some depth- however information/presenations are uneven. There needs to be a back up- eg reliable references to ensure quality.

:) I have been particularly -pleased with results of peer and self assessment (primarily becuase it saves me marking time).I tend to run these sessions as examiner conferences. Students swop scripts for each question and therefore see a range of responses and styles; they understand what skills the examiners are looking for and are then able to work on areas of weaknesses.

Unfortunately I should be planning a lesson and have no more timne to share activities.one parting thought though....my students are scared of traditional lecturing- too long to concentrate, how can you write everything down? What's important? etc. I have had to reintroduce lectures on sometopics to prepare them for University!

Clare Ham

#30 John Simkin

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Posted 13 May 2003 - 01:24 PM

Dan Moorhouse

I really like the sound of 'Critical Skills Strategy’ being used at Dan’s school.

"There are many advantages to this approach. First it provides students with an opportunity to select the learning approach that best suits them, the research is student controlled and given ample resources many learning styles can be catered for; It requires students to teach other students via presentations and creation of resource sheets / accompanying notes - which also make for outstanding displays that generate lots of interest; it allows discreet differentiation to be built into lessons for groups of any ability, challenging the most able to analyse complex issues whilst allowing for the less able to be working on more appropriate tasks - without it being obvious that people are dong 'different' work; content is covered briskly and in an environment that is positive, challenging and highly engaging; teachers are enabled to facilitate rather than spoon feed and most importantly as far as I am concerned it provides students with an environment in which they are willing to collaborate, experiment and develop their skills, having removed many barriers to learning that 'old fashioned' approaches tend to place upon them."


I think it is an excellent idea to get students to test out their ideas in a small group before presenting the information to the rest of the class. It could be argued that this should be built into any ‘student as teacher’ strategy.

I believe that this kind of group work is now a common strategy used by large companies when interviewing graduates. The son of a friend of mine recently had an interview with a multinational oil company. All the applicants were put into small groups and were given the task of producing a board game on the oil industry. When the task was completed individuals had to present one aspect of the game to the interview panel and all the other applicants. He said afterwards that his schooling had been of little help in preparing him for such a task.


Dave Wallbanks

"I also have to add a few points that I learnt from the whole experience that may be useful to others in planning something like this.

a) One group did next to nothing, their notes were poor because they were incapable of organising themselves as a group and in taking the initiative individually so that it became easier to chat about what they might do, rather than what was needed.

B) The newness of this meant pupils were overawed by the task lacked experience and just weren' t up to the job in their first go

c) Some pupils lacked the confidence to participate and let others do the work whilst staying in the background (this will disappear over time) and some groups where individuals took over altogether, even to the detriment of other students. (group dynamics needed to be more carefully considered)

d) The embarrassment factor lead to some very quick and quiet presentations that I felt it necessary to recover afterwards."

The ‘student as teacher’ strategy, like any other activity you set a class, will produce a wide variety of different responses. The task of presenting back to the rest of the class clearly motivates some more than others. I have noticed that this is sometimes a problem with students who are successful when the teacher uses traditional methods. At the same time, this strategy appears to suit those students who normally have difficulty with their written work. This in itself is a good argument for using the “student as teacher” method.

Some students will attempt to use the situation to chat about other issues. Keeping students on task is obviously an important factor when using this teaching method. The structure of the lesson is a vitally important in helping the teacher do this.

Even when the students work for a time in a group it is important that they have individual tasks to do. This is why with the Home Front simulation each student has their own tasks to do. This has always been one of the rules that I have applied to all the simulations I have created.

Nichola Boughey

"As part of our Yr. 9 Modern World History Course we have a pupil led activity. It is based upon the new technology used during WWI and involves the classes dividing into groups of four and preparing a different presentation to deliver to the class about a number of different technologies.”

New technology has definitely made it easier to use this strategy. When I first started using this approach I found it difficult to organize the distribution of all the different sheets of paper that the students needed to have. On several occasions I came close to saying “this is the last time I do this”. However, it was always the enthusiastic response of the students to the lesson that convinced me to try again.

I remember in my first year of teaching a Y10 student asked me if the headmaster knew we were playing games in the classroom. He was a very conformist student and was genuinely worried that I would get into trouble for playing this simulation on the growth of railways. Further questions revealed that he thought because the class were having so much fun, I must be doing something that was going against school rules.

John Clare

“As Carol Faithorn pointed out, the problem with pupils is that they usually make poor teachers. It is not just that nobody else in the class learns anything while they are speaking. It is often bad for the ‘pupil-teachers’, too. Just as exams are an impure way to assess pupils (because they involve other skills than simply the understanding of the History content), so ‘delivering a lesson’ is just the very worst way you could ask some pupils to present their understanding.”
I would accept that the main reason for using this strategy is for the good of student doing the teaching. However, I completely reject the idea that “pupils always make poor teachers”.

Many years ago Harry Harlow carried out a series of experiments on monkeys. Some young monkeys were left with their parents while other monkeys were separated from them (very cruel I know). These monkeys were then brought up with monkeys slightly older than themselves. Harlow discovered that the second group of young monkeys developed new skills faster than the first group. He concluded that the second group of monkeys found it easier to communicate with slightly older monkeys than with their parents. I suspect this is also true of children as well.

As others have rightly pointed out, the tasks given to students need to be highly structured to be truly effective. They also need to encourage interaction between the student (teacher) and the rest of the class. For example, in the Home Front simulation the student has to make proposals that are debated and voted on. This encourages both the student presenting the material to think deeply about the subject and the rest of the class to listen carefully to what is being said.

My experience of these kind of lessons is that they are a very good way of teaching certain types of knowledge. For example, they are a good way of helping students understand the variety of different opinions that existed at a certain time in history. For example, for many years I used a simulation on child labour. Each student is given different character (factory owners, doctors, MPs, journalists, factory workers, parents, child workers, etc.) Each student then carries out research to discover: (a) details of their character; (B) their views on child labour. Each student writes a brief biography of their character and prepares a speech for a debate entitled: "Parliament should pass legislation making it illegal for children under the age of twelve to work in textile factories."

In the debate that follows the students discover just how complex this issue was in the early part of the nineteenth century. The students discover that some factory owners, such as John Fielden and John Wood, were actually leaders of the pressure group trying to bring an end to child labour. At the same time, social reforming journalists like Edward Baines were totally opposed to any attempt by Parliament to regulate the use of labour. This was also true of reforming newspapers like the Manchester Guardian. Even doctors did not agree that it would damage a child's health to be standing for twelve hours a day in a factory where windows were kept closed and the air was thick with the dust from the cotton. What the children discover from their in-depth studies is why the individuals felt the way that they did. In the debate that follows, this is revealed to the rest of the class. I have found that the student as teacher approach is the best way of teaching this difficult subject.

Andy Walker

The division of the curriculum into subject areas, the nationally imposed NC with the pre set "levels of attainment, measurement and reporting all imply the social control of knowledge and the social control of the child's personal development. Philosophically this contrasts sharply with John's child centred approach. I would argue John's approach with its emphasis on choice, investigation, and open ended outcomes would actually subvert the aims of the NC - thus more strength to his elbow.

While I agree that this approach does have political implications, I have no desire to subvert the national curriculum. If teachers are to be persuaded to adopt more progressive methods of teaching they need to be convinced that these methods have the power to deliver the national curriculum. This is also true that these methods must also try to support the current examination system. However, much I might disapprove of the system we have, I am completely committed to working within that system. There might come a time in the future when government prescribe to such an extent that this will not be possible. However, I think we are still a long way from that situation.

Juan Carlos

It is interesting that this debate is also going on in other countries. I have had emails to say it is a big issue at the moment in France. I note there have also been postings from Hungary and Canada.

Juan Carlos points out that teaching strategies are often linked to the political situation in the country concerned. Progressive teaching strategies emerged in both the United States and Britain during the 1960s. There was a quick backlash in America and it did not make a long term impact on its educational system. The Thatcher government began its campaign against progressive teaching in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, this did make a big difference to people’s attitudes. This was supported by the introduction of Ofsted, National Curriculum and SATs. As I have argued earlier (see response to Andy Walker), teachers still have scope to experiment. However, there is no doubt that many teachers were more apprehensive about doing anything too different after these changes were made. Also important was the government’s attacks on those delivering PGCE courses. I remember one speech by Kenneth Joseph where he said that these courses were under the control of Marxists. He was particularly concerned about those courses provided by the Open University.

Our present government is also very interested in the teaching methods that we use in the classroom. So far they have concentrated their attacks on English teachers but maybe it is only a matter of time before they consider what is going on in the history classroom. For example, I hope Charles Clarke has not read Andy Walker’s comments about me trying to subvert the National Curriculum (it’s not true, honest).

Sam Allison

The method is fun but has its dangers. For example, when debating child labour, in the 19th.C. factories here in Canada, the classes I teach invariably vote FOR child labour on the grounds that the little elves liked skipping around moving machinery (that's evidence from one of the brilliant British websites, I think by the British Museum or British Library).

My experience of using my Child Labour simulation is different from Sam’s. I find they are very good at keeping in role and reflect the views of the character they are playing. However, they do have strong views on the roles they want to play. They tend to want to be wealthy factory owners rather than child labourers. They quickly identify with their characters and feel a sense of pride at being wealthy. It is as if they are somehow responsible for the character’s financial success.

I remember on one occasion using the Star Power simulation with a Y12 sociology group. (It is a simulation that teaches the participants about the class system and involves students starting with different colour stickers with different points values). At the next parents’ evening the mother of one of the girls came to see me. She said her daughter was really happy with her sociology lessons and felt for the first time in her school life she was actually doing well in a subject. This surprised me as the girl was doing extremely badly in sociology and had little chance of passing her ‘A’ level examinations. I asked the mother if she could give me any examples of the success she was having in sociology. “Yes”, she said, “the other day she came home and told me she came ftimes convinced they love a subject when in fact they love the teaching of the subject. How many times have you heard students say they want to drop a subject at GCSE/A level because it is not like it was last year?

There is a story thathas some relevance to this discussion. In the 1920s a journalist wrote an article suggesting that Henry Ford was not very intelligent. Ford sued the man for libel. Ford was called to the witness box and the journalist’s lawyer asked him a series of general knowledge questions. Ford had trouble getting the right answers to these questions. Ford eventually interrupted the lawyer and told him he misunderstood the nature of intelligence. He explained that in his office he had several buttons on his desk. When he had a question he needed answering, he pressed one of these buttons and a man or woman would come into the office and would give him the answer he needed. Ford added, an intelligent man is not the person with a lot of information inside his head, he is the man who knows where to find the answers. Ford rightly won the case.

If one of my student ends up with an A grade at GCSE but does not end up with a love of the subject, then I consider myself a failure. The most important thing we do as teachers is to help produce lifelong learners. I think the “student as teacher” strategy helps to do that.




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