Image credit: 'Checklist' by Stuart Chalmers. CC Licensed on Flickr
Firstly – what the hell was I thinking submitting that title? I’m not sure there’s such as a thing as a perfect lesson, but I am interested in trying to close the gap between the ‘showstopper’ lessons and the regular, run of the mill ones.
In this year’s Reith Lectures, Dr Atul Gawande spoke about the impact that checklists have had on improving outcomes in surgery. He’s well worth a listen to, and it got me thinking about whether it was an approach that we could use in teaching.
Now, I have an inbuilt suspicious of checklists in education, especially when they’re used for monitoring other people or reducing ideas (like AfL) to observation tick-lists. None the less, the thoughts been rattling around in my head for a while and I thought it might make a good topic for tonight – we can try and harness the staffrm hive mind to produce something we could try out.
I’m going to kick off with two, and then you can let me know in the comments and on Twitter firstly if you think I’m right, and secondly what else should be on our list.
Check 1 - We’re doing this so that…
I picked this up from one of the excellent Teachmeet Clevedon events that Mark Anderson used to organise and were always worth the drive from Swansea. I know this was fairly well established at Clevedon, and I can’t actually remember who I first heard it from, but the idea was to append any lesson objectives with the phrase ‘so that...’ and finish the sentence. If you can’t complete the sentence, or the completed sentence is, at best, a bit woolly you go back to the drawing board.
EDIT: Thanks to Mark for pointing out that credit for this needs to go to Zoe Elder - See here for more
Check 2 – What will they spend their time thinking about?
“Memory is the residue of thought”.
This quote was my biggest take away from Daniel Willingham’s’ excellent ‘Why don’t students like school’. His point is that what is retained in memory is the thing that the person spent longest thinking about. He gives the example of lessons where students can spend more time thinking about the animations in the PowerPoints they’re making than the content. It’s one I know I’ve been guilty of in the past – you design a lesson you know is going to hook and engage the students, but they’re hooked and engaged by something other than the main topic of the lesson.
So there’s my first two. Hopefully they serve as antidotes to the temptation to just dive in and pick up any shiny new teaching idea that we come across. But what else should be on this checklist. Simple things that will help make every lesson a good one.