One of the big ways that I have improved my practice in recent years is by reflecting on the way that tasks are monitored in my classroom.
Striking a balance between encouraging independent practice and guiding learning is sometimes tricky, especially with the time constraints imposed upon us.
There are numerous ways that you can monitor and guide the learning taking place; here are just a few of the considerations that have made my monitoring more productive.
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Teaching new topics will inevitably lead to misconceptions. Pre-planning for these misconceptions is a good way to ensure that students are not overwhelmed and that you are able to intervene when required.
It can be argued that if you know what the misconceptions are going to be, you should plan to avoid them…but they will arise anyway.
Look out for vocabulary, concepts and ideas that have proved to be difficult in the past. Monitoring understanding and progress in these areas means that bigger misconceptions are less likely to arise.
Teaching is a responsive business and often misconceptions arise where (and when) we don’t expect them. Monitoring for actual misconceptions and addressing them as learning is taking place means that learning becomes more efficient.
By circulating as students are working, you can to highlight any individual issues, but also pick up on wider issues that may have arisen for the whole class. Coming away from your plan is really important – there is no point moving on and not addressing the issues.
These are bound to be consolidated and more difficult to address at a later time. Moreover, we can’t expect students to complete complex tasks if we haven’t ensured they have a firm base of understanding. Monitoring for misconceptions in the lesson hugely reduces your workload after the lesson too.
If you’re giving feedback in the lesson, you’re marking. Taking the opportunity to read your students’ work while you’re circulating and monitoring tasks means that you can provide them with the feedback they need to overcome issues, or allow them to stretch themselves further.
You may not get round the whole class in one lesson, but over a week, it’s possible to give feedback to students whilst they are learning with the added bonus of them instantly being able to respond to your feedback.
Feedback also becomes about improving student skills and less about improving individual pieces of work. The merits of this approach for students and teachers are not celebrated enough.
Can you evidence how well you monitor tasks? Is it possible to measure? Does it really matter? Effective circulation is shown in student confidence and the atmosphere in your classroom, not though written evidence in books.
By effectively monitoring your students’ learning, you are also modelling how they should monitor themselves. One of the biggest shifts in self-awareness I have noticed in my classroom has come about from the way in which I consistently circulate and intervene with my students.
Making your input explicit trains them to become more rigorous with their own checking of their work against outcomes. Stepping away from book-based evidence has been really empowering and has significantly changed the types of discussions I have with students when monitoring.
How each teacher chooses to monitor their class is down to personal preference, but ask yourself: are you making the most of this valuable time?
Adam Riches is a specialist leader of education and lead teacher in English