Reflective teaching through Twitter and Marking

I have recently started using Twitter on a regular basis through TwitterDeck. I was not convinced when I first heard about it but then started to read more and more articles about professional communities being created online rather than people merely telling the world exactly what they had eaten for breakfast. The key principle benefit I have found is that whilst I sit here working, there is the constant beep from TwitterDeck from people who are doing the same as I am, thinking about teaching. All of a sudden I have found myself sitting in a massive online staffroom with people wanting to share ideas, tools and practical advice on pedagogy and teaching.

The benefit is already clear. Even without commenting, just listening to the conversation reminds me of the 101 things a good teacher should do when preparing, teaching or marking for the benefit of students. It is true what they say – enthusiasm is infectious. Even in the dying days of the Christmas term, there are still hundreds of ideas being shared which gives that boost to help my teaching. However, never one to be quiet, the possibility of sharing ideas and getting constructive professional feedback is brilliant. The day to day workings of a school can remove a teacher from the meta-teaching which is needed for good teaching. The teacher gets lost in a myriad of work surrounding duties, paperwork, updating databases, minor classroom behaviour management issues. Having the chance to take part in the debates such as #ukedchat puts any teacher back in the meta-teaching debate and therefore gives the teacher that chance to think about their own teaching and student learning.

I am sitting here on the second day of the Christmas holidays marking a set of 30 year 8 history books. One of the topics they have been looking at is the Reformation and the impact on the English Church. The marking I have done is different to what I would usually do simply by having access to TwitterDeck up and running in front of me. It’s like have another teacher in the room with you. Constantly reading really upbeat positive tweets about teaching and sutndet learnin has had a positive impact on my marking. Usually I would move through the work and comment on key pieces of work and comment on their presentation and provide some targets at the end of the marking in each book. However, rather than commenting I have this time entirely focused on questioning and getting the students to think about how and why they can improve their work.

A typical answer to one question set has been: ‘They would have needed to think about the rules from the Church and the Monarchy’. Initially my feedback would have included:

  • Write in full sentences
  • Careful with handwriting
  • Be specific

Having been reminded about the value of dialogic learning which can be in written as well as spoken form:

  • Does this response have all the information you wanted to say?
  • Where can you develop this answer?
  • Why are specifics really important when writing for an audience?
  • Do YOU understand what you have written here?

The value of learning has also pushed me back into thinking about exactly what I am teaching and why! Rather than writing about the standard of their writing I have been now focused on the HISTORICAL nature of the work they have produced. This has meant that every book marked so far has had historical related comments:

  • How diverse were opinions on the power of the church and monarchy?
  • What caused people to think about these rules?
  • Which do you think had more of an impact – the Church or the Monarchy?
  • Priests had to listen to the Church and the Monarchy. A) Which do you think the priest should listen to? b) Which do you think the priest did listen to? Why do you think there was this difference?

I am not going to lie – the marking has taking me longer but I certainly feel it is more detailed and, if I give the students a constructive task in the 1st lesson back in which they have to comment on the marking and set their own targets, I feel it will have definitely been a worthwhile task!

It is interesting then how both the marking and Twitter tie together and both provide me with a key review of my teaching and hence student learning. From Twitter there is the constant message of student activity and encouraging the students to learn for themselves. Tweets have pointed me to videos and blogs which have given me ideas of how to make the lessons more student focused. It is interesting then that I mark books and have seen some lessons where I have done all the work and the students have done little. They have had to listen to me talk and then write down ideas I’ve written on the board where I have got into the task they should have done for themselves. Twitter, marking and this blog are all pushing me to become reflective about my teaching. The next step is to become active about my reflection rather than just posting musings! I just hope that I organise my time wisely enough so that even in the middle of term, there will be time for preparation, teaching, assessment and reflection!

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