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Knowing my learners (Linda Ojala)

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Started by linda Ojala 07 Aug 2013 4:30pm () Replies (24)

Up front in my thinking

  • Knowing who is in my class
  • Actively doing something with this understanding so that sustainable options are available to support next learning steps.

Knowing my learners

 How do students share?

Students share about themselves on a daily basis through conversations, actions, images, facial and body expressions.

How do I then take what I know and weave this into the class environment?

I can see areas where students feel stressed, when they put up those barriers and when it’s just not working.

I observe  this when learning isn’t flexible, when I’ve been rushed and “teach to the whole class”, when I haven’t taken the time to consider  “what is your next learning step” and “what options do you need to support your independence?”.

I see some students move quickly from a zone of "I'm feeling ok and can be part of this" to one of stress and anxiety within a matter or seconds. My experience is that this results in a range of behaviours from non -engagement, frustration and reluctance to try anything.

 Developing new ways of thinking with UDL lens

Previously I would have tended to jump into that mind set of “fixing the student” rather than actually “this isn’t working and what can I do about it”.

Let me know what you think.    


  • Roxy Hickman (View all users posts) 18 Feb 2014 9:36am ()


    Share some inspiration: What are you doing to figure out who your new learners are? 

    This thread is a good one to bring up again now that we are into a new school year. Many of you will have a class full of new faces, differing personalities, interests and preferences for learning. What have you been doing to get to know each individual in your class? 

    Image credit: www.flickr.com/photos/camknows

  • Karen Spencer (View all users posts) 26 Sep 2013 10:47am ()

    imageReally enjoying this thread. Thanks, all. It's certainly raising important questions around assumptions that we carry with us, both in the design of learning for students and in professional learning design, too. I've been really keen to trial different ways to offer access to information, in my workshops, using a variety of formats, providing choice of ways to explore ideas and show understanding...but I still feel I've got space to keep growing what I do in this area. The manageability/control gene is still so strong and it often is the loud voice that dictates how we organise learning.

    Patrick - your post on the power of introverts reminded me about the work of Sherry Turkle and her research into the importance of conversation in a tech-rich era when people often post without expectation of response (guilty!) and eulogise the 'social'. I shared a few thoughts on this a while ago but have enjoyed revisiting it again...>> If I want to be alone, will you think I'm weird.

    Image credit: Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • Glenys Rogers (View all users posts) 26 Sep 2013 10:28am ()

    I have enjoyed reading all the postings and would like to offer another persepctive - that of a leader working with their staff.  We do need to consider all aspects of UDL when planning for staff PD, staff meetings etc.  If we believe that we need to consider all the students (staff) then maybe how we approach staff learning (PD) also needs a different approach.  We all have introverts, extroverts, talkers, thinkers, etc on our staff who may never have been able to learn in their preferred "style".  Food for thought.

  • Anne Sturgess (View all users posts) 26 Sep 2013 9:01am ()

    Hi Chrissie,

    I've been meaning to thank you for sharing the video of Dorothy Heathcote. Like you, my teaching approach was hugely influenced by drama work with Dorothy when I was part of a special education year-long study course in Auckland and we were fortunate enough to have her work with us during a visit to NZ. The advice and guidance she provided then (in the 1980s) still rings true today. I would like to pay tribute to influencers who helped lay the foundation upon which our current thinking and practice is built. A few of mine are: 

    Principal of my second school: "Lead with your heart first, then develop the head" (when he asked me to take on the job of supporting ALL kids with special needs in the school & I told him I would love to do it but knew nothing about special education). I studied Spec Ed the year after working in this role.

    James Chapman (lecturer, MEd Superviser): "Your job as a teacher is to move all students forward as learners."

    Reuven Feuerstein (during a presentation when he visited NZ in the 1980s): "My method is to interact with people —not just to make them know something in a passive way but how to produce it, how to create it. I am not just passing on information, but passing on to every learner what they need to know in order to be able to learn by themselves."

    Nicholas Colangelo (University of Iowa): "Our work is to enhance all children’s lives and aspirations."

    There have been many more influencers on my teaching since then but these words helped me develop practice grounded in the belief that every child has an absolute right to be taught in a way that will help him or her move forward as a learner. Carol Dweck has been mentioned by several people and Russell Bishop's work in Te Kotahitanga continues to reinforce my conviction about the importance of building relationships and ensuring that all students succeed as learners.

    Who are your influencers and what wisdom did they gift to you?

  • Patrick Pink (View all users posts) 26 Sep 2013 7:41am ()

    Knowing our learners....particularly our reserved and introverted learners.

    I find that the more I delve into the area of working alongside our learners who are more reserved and introverted, the more I wonder about our school environments and whether they have the options for learners who may require quiet and reflective places where working by him/herself or with one other person or two others may be better for learning.  Again, UDL comes to mind...and the notion that 'one-size-fits-all' may not work for all.  

    I've finished Susan Cain's book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and was moved by the depth of research.  There is a section in the book that looks at our reserved or introverted kids within schools and classrooms.  Here are a few excerpts that rang true with me:

    'We tend to forget that there's nothing sacrosanct about learning in large group classrooms, and that we organise students this way not because it's the best way to learn but because it's cost-efficient, and what else would we do with our children while the grown-ups are at work?  If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialise one-on-one, there's nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the prevailing model.  The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself.'

    Some ideas to help our more reserved kids to practice interaction and 'speaking up'.  Cain suggests:

    'Let him know that it's OK to take his time to gather his thoughts before he speaks, even it if seems as if everyone is jumping into the fray.  At the same time, advise him that contributing earlier in a discussion is a lot easier than waiting until everyone else has talked and letting the tension build as he waits to take his turn.  It he's not sure what to say, or is uncomfortable making assertions in a larger group, help him play to his strengths.  Does he tend to ask thoughtful questions?  Praise the quality, and teach him that good questions are often more useful than proposing answers.  Does he tend to look at things from his own unique point of view?  Teach him how valuable this is and discuss how he might share his outlook with others.'

    Lastly, 'some collaborative work is fine for introverts, even beneficial.  But it should take place in small groups--pairs or threesomes--and be carefully structured so that each child knows her role.'  

    Just some thoughts

  • linda Ojala (View all users posts) 24 Sep 2013 8:03pm ()

    Wow I have just got back to this conversation and have really enjoyed reading all the posts.... keep them coming!  "Knowing my Learners".... I have a couple who always choose when given the option to work by themselves, they just seem to find it challenging working in that peer share situation.  Typically they end up getting frustrated and are really clear about wanting to complete the task by themselves.  I work hard to give options but also like to encourage them to find ways to work successfully with others.  

    One of my challenges this year has been to create spaces within spaces that provide options. 

  • Patrick Pink (View all users posts) 20 Sep 2013 12:30pm ()

    Know your learner...

    Take away the 1953 outfits and hairstyles and the tinny cinematic soundtrack, the essence has always been the same:  How can I best know my learners and with that information create an environment where they will develop and grow?  Through observation, listening to family/whānau, discovering likes, interests and preferences, providing opportunities for learners to share and teach what they know with others, gathering collective insight, experience and wisdom amongst colleagues and using head, hands and heart. 

    UDL all the way

  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 10 Sep 2013 10:11am ()

    Thanks, Patrick, this was a great reminder for me to think not only about my overt attempts to connect with my learners / their parents like greeting them at the door, connecting via a medium they are comfortable with etc. etc., but more so about my covert attempts which include the environment (incl. school culture), my pedagogy and my mannerism (maybe not the correct word here, someone else might think of a better one?). Just because I am an extrovert, it doesn't mean that all people are, all people should be or that I should treat all of them like extroverts. Gives me much to ponder about, so thank you once again!

  • Karen (View all users posts) 09 Sep 2013 8:00pm ()

    Patrick your response about how some learners prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities or to ponder/figure things out on their own made me think of myself as a student.  I know these conversations are about ourselves as teachers but that really made me think about how much I did not enjoy any group type things at school and now (2013) they are even more a part of being a student in a classroom.  It is just another reminder about the importance of knowing your learner and of remembering that what is effective teaching and learning for one learner might not be so great for another.

  • Patrick Pink (View all users posts) 06 Sep 2013 2:18pm ()

    Know your learner...

    I have recently watched Susan Cain's TED talk on The Power of Introverts.  It resonated so much that I uploaded her book, Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and have practically finished it.  Her TEDtalk and book also got me thinking about our learners who may prefer to work in a variety of ways, including on thier own.  I wonder how we provide for learners who like to ponder over things by themselves; who prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities; who prefer quiet spaces and time to think; who tend to think before speaking; who may be seen as 'shy' or described as 'soft-spoken', 'mellow', or 'in their shell'; who like to be with people but need some time on their own to 'recharge'.  It also made me wonder about our classroom spaces and whether they are designed and can foster all learners no matter where they are in the continuum of introvert and extrovert.  

    Included is the Susan Cain TEDtalk.  If interested, it can be viewed on YouTube with the transcript.  Also, here are a few articles that I found online that are thought-provoking:  Teaching Introverts is Different, Caring for your Introvert, Embracing Introversion:  Ways to Stimulate Reserved Children in the Classroom, Introversion and the Invisible Adolescent,  and In Defense of Introverts.         

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