How effective are you in your classroom? How much do you want to grow your students? Being an effective teacher isn’t as much about your passion, or even about how much you love your students. Being a capital T Teacher—a badass teacher—requires one thing above all: student growth.
What works best? What is most effective?
The good news, before I give you the even better news, is that what works best, what’s most effective, also makes your life easier as a teacher. Imagine no longer needing to sort all the teaching strategies you learned in college trying to determine which is the best fit for a given lesson.
The best news is this: you only need a select few strategies. The best strategies work for everything. Thanks to John Hattie’s research, the path to the greatest student growth is paved with high teacher expectations and student self-assessment.
Being Teacher readers already have high expectations—everyone else already hit the back button on their browser window. So let’s focus and review how to encourage student self-assessment:
- the growth mindset,
- an effort and understanding rubric, and
- plenty of student-to-student feedback through classroom discussion.
The first two strategies are links because we’ve covered before. But I’ve begun to appreciate the third more and more this spring. Here’s why.
With our record-breakingly warm winter, my students are ready to jump out of their seats to get outside. But I have writing to teach. Together, we’re all on a fine line between being in the pit and climbing our way out.
With plenty of effort over two hours, we model good writing, provide feedback, revise, draft a final copy, and grade on a rubric. The two hours are immensely valuable for all of us because the whole time, we have an amazing class discussion about the value of being in the pit, the productive struggle we all feel, and accepting and giving feedback.
Back at the beginning of the year, I set them up for success with class discussion with a poster full of accountable talk poster stems. By now, almost everyone naturally uses phrases such as, “I agree and would like to add on to. . .” or “I respectfully disagree. . . .”
Discussions under those guidelines require students to listen and maintain their engagement. They must listen to be able to speak clearly and be heard.
They have learned to give each other feedback in math, reading, and writing. We’ve also had huge class discussions and many constructive arguments about nearly every material we’ve read or math problem we’ve solved.
I’m amazed day after day at their growth. I’m so proud of their continued effort—this did not happen overnight. But neither did it take hours of planning. It took intention and effort from both them and me.
Self-reflection doesn’t stop with my students. I don’t always execute perfectly every time, by any means. But the habits we’ve established around classroom discussion support me, too. When I slip up, my students step up. They remember to record their effort and understanding, provide each other with accountable talk, and allow me the leeway to make mistakes.
We’re all learning here. They know it. I know it. That’s what being an effective teacher is all about, growing. For them, and for me.