Sunday, 30 March 2014

Going SOLO...

I have a confession to make.  I have been in this profession for nigh on 20 years and I have never really thought about pedagogical methodologies before.  Now, this is not to say that I am a poor teacher.  I think I'm quite good at my job; the fact that SLT regularly send NQTs to see me teach reflects this (unless, I'm an example of what not to do....). 

So, how have I managed? It's a good question and I think, in my opinion, one that is quite easily answered.  I have not needed to know the names of the things that I have done in class with my students.  I have always considered the varying steps that are needed to enable the learners to proceed from remembering and garnering knowledge to creating and evaluating.  I have been aware of the importance of techniques such as differentiation and assessment for learning and I have enjoyed thinking about how best to make these work in my classroom. 

Yet, thanks mainly to my MA and my new teacher friends on the twittersphere I am more savvy.   I now have some names to the ideas that I was implementing in my classroom and I have picked up a great deal more along the way that have inspired me and made me rethink my approach.  Thank you twitter and my MA!

So I've been going solo, but no more. Now that I have picked up some great new ideas - blogging as means of reflecting and sharing, for example - I want to try them out and do the right thing and feedback to the tweachers who taught me.

Appropriately, my recent foray has been into SOLO taxonomy. 
SOLO Taxonomy (structure of observed learning outcomes) provides a simple, reliable and robust model for three levels of understanding – surface deep and conceptual (Biggs and Collis 1982).   
Also check out John Biggs SOLO Taxonomy for further information.

I'm a real fan.  In a SOLO kind of way, it has pushed my own thinking and teaching beyond the relational.  I could immediately see, for example, the advantage of SOLO thinking in literature teaching at A2 and planned some essay planning lessons using the following as a guide:

Thanks to @MikeHarrowell for sharing this grid structure which he used for a different purpose with his more able students to review progress.  

The grid and the goals expressed within each row was well received by my Year 13s.  They do not always have the confidence in their ideas (but they should) and this gave them some focus on which to build or indeed, it gave them the go ahead to move beyond the question to hypothesise and formulate their own thoughts and reflections.

So SOLO was working for me and for my older pupils.  How could I incorporate such thinking with my lower year groups.  Surely, in language teaching this was not possible because students do not have enough language.  Well, happily, I've managed to prove myself wrong.  With my Year 10s I've created my Imperfect House through which the students move up the stairs from plain old explanation of their house in the past to how things are now with some one off actions in the past thrown in to show off.  To move up to the attic area I asked them to think about what would move them beyond the relational (in this case the top floor) and take them to the extended abstract.  I was delighted and very pleased with their ideas.....

My house will be like a palace... mine would be like a palace, if I had the money.... 

  So, it's been good for me and my students to go SOLO.