Recently, I wrote a little about a concept I’m playing around with called Highly Responsive Teaching. Basically, it is centered around the idea that the teacher “moves to the middle”. I first heard of this phrase in Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis, where they talk about being the link that connects people to resources. This concept really spoke to me, as well as reminded me of a lot of what my classroom has transformed into. Long gone are the days of the sage on the stage, nor am I any longer the guide on the side. I’m an active participant, just another one of the learners in the room. The bulk of what I do each class period is respond to the current needs of each student by connecting them with resources, including each other.
While students are learning, I do something similar to an informal formative assessment cycle. What that really means is that I ask a ton of questions and tailor my responses to each individual student. It is a constant state of gathering evidence and responding. Sometimes that data is from observation, sometimes it is from notes that I’ve previously jotted down, but most of the time, it comes directly from questions I ask students.
Here’s the part that I think is the most interesting about moving to the middle. The questions. They aren’t your usual questions. There’s a huge variety. For example, here’s a small sampling of some of the questions I said just today …
What would happen if the results were the opposite?
Do you enjoy writing?
Why did you choose to make that purple?
Would gravity have the same effect if we were on the moon?
Why do you think that is happening?
What else could you use and get the same result?
Why are we learning this?
The last question is always my favorite. Regardless of what question I ask though, the response is what drives my next action. Depending on that response, I either ask more questions or guide the student toward something that will help them progress. Perhaps we will look at a couple of different communication strategies. Maybe we will connect with another student who has a similar idea (or even better, a totally different idea). It is even possible that we’ll look at a video that shows macramé techniques in order to engineer something!
Look around the room, and you’ll see a huge variety of things happening. But don’t take my word for it, you can see for yourself!
De Leon, Vanessa and Allen, Annie. Research Brief: The Informal Formative Assessment Cycle as a Model for Teacher Practice, Stem Teaching Tools, May 2015, Retrieved from www.stemteachingtools.org/brief/16
Sanfelippo, Jose and Sinanis, Tony. Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love. Times 10 Publications, 2017.