Students Are Credible Observers of Instruction

We spent the last school year working with the same 25 students at a local high school to better understand how inquiry teaching strategies were impacting their learning. At the start of the year, we listened to their visions of great teaching and then helped them recognize research-based strategies in action through video samples and discussions. 

When asked to pick the things that have made the biggest impact in improving their classroom learning experience this year, here is what they noticed (assembled under five main strategies):

Strategy #1: Get Personal

• When teachers base lessons on personal experiences

• Teachers tell their own personal stories

• They are ‘real’ with us

• Connect what we are learning to modern day situations and everyday life

• I love when teachers make funny faces and they relate the lessons to students' experiences

• They tell jokes & stories, not just teach out of the textbook

• Word problems and stories

• Labs and experiments; we have to make up on our own and use our creativity to come to a solution

Strategy #2: Ask More; Talk Less

• Drawing names from a bag so we all participate

• When teachers respond with another question

• Open discussions with the whole class

• Student-led discussions; when students have more of the leadership in class

• Asking students to respond to another student question or answer

• Getting in groups and having conversations

• When they have us explain our thinking

• Voicing our opinions on interesting (relevant) topics 

Strategy #3: Encourage Evidence

• My teachers ask us to present credible sources

• When they ask us “How do you know?”

• Asking “How do you know?” and “Where did you get that?”

• Analyzing the credibility of a source

• Encouraging us to talk more

• They make us go back and rethink our thinking

Strategy #4: Maintain Neutrality

• Teachers use sticks to call on people so everyone has to talk

•  They say "Good answer, that could be right…what does [another student] think?”

• I like Socratic Seminars where we can build off others’ ideas

• In debates…students get the opportunity to share their own opinion

• They give you their honest, logical opinion

Strategy #5: Extend Thinking Time

• Teachers who give us like 10 minutes to think about something before discussing

• Playing nice music while we work independently

• Not calling on the first hand that goes up

• Five-minute breathing/silent time before class begins; love that!

What would your students say?