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Clearly I’m no regular blogger.  Intimidated?  A little.  Standards are so high that it’s like being on a intellectual beach full of six packs and bikini babes.


As suggested, I’ve had the pleasure of a couple of one-to-one sessions this week and on reflection, they’ve been something of a revelation.

Both students needed time to go through fairly difficult Science concepts (balancing equations and properties of short/long chain alkanes).  Both sessions were very fruitful and a lot of progress made.  In fact, the satisfaction of spending time with a student that wants to learn and the excitement of watching them ‘get it’ or the ‘landing’ (as  one legendary blogger suggests we call it) is worth missing whichever special the canteen had on offer (seriously though, you should try their macaroni cheese!).  It reminds me of a quote (did I dream it?) about the unusual economies of scale in teaching – 100 mins of frustration far outweighed by 1min of joy (misquote heaven?).

The real boon here was that the sessions allowed me to very much teach in the way I would like to teach in my classroom but often find it hard to do so.  It was such a buzz!  For example, I was able to let the students get things wrong then ask pertinent questions that made them question their original answer. I never have time to do that. There was modelling, cognitive conflict, synthesising, teacher led, student led – all in all an Oscar award winning session.  And no, I won’t be offering a grade – haven’t you heard?  I realise that I need to work on my behaviour management if I ever hope to recreate this effectively in the classroom.

Anyhoo, I came away with two very distinct thoughts;

Firstly, as an experience in terms of teacher (teaching?) development, I can’t recommend it enough.  I gained a great deal of clarity about the understanding/workings of the mind of these particular students and the challenges that these topics offered.  Surprisingly, it had a very profound impact on my approach to teaching these topics.  I’ve had a change of perspective in how to teach them and strategies to use in a way that might make it easier for students to understand.  With the benefit of hindsight there’s an almost audible ‘slap-of-the-forehead’ “Why didn’t I see that before?”

It got me thinking, if this is the impact a session has on a topic that I teach would there be any value in one-to-one teaching to the benefit of the teacher as opposed to the student?  Could this be a valid way to test your ideas of how well a student will understand a particular concept?  Map out misconceptions? Discover difficulties? Create conflict? (see what I did?)

Is there any merit in selecting a student or two to trial a teaching idea or even (god forbid!), bring into question or refine a ‘tried and tested’ method that you think works?  I think I might instigate a few more tutorials and explore this idea.  Does anyone have any experience of one-to-one tuition with this effect in mind?  Have you found that one-to-one has made an impact on your teaching?

My second thought is one of wonder and I confess, a little bit of fear.  I believe these are perfectly ordinary students.  By that I mean a good representation of the average student.  Is it wrong to presume that a lot of my students will have gone through a similar cognitive process in terms of learning this material to the same end? Can I conclude that actually they don’t really understand it and maybe did just enough to convince me they were able? Does that mean that generally a lot of my students have a similar poor grasp on these ideas? Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit but I worry.  Then again, in spite of these difficulties, there’s a good handful of students that do make the grade, literally.   A part of me asks how on earth does this learning occur?

I’ve been told that at times I have been an outstanding practitioner.  In a Princess Bride ‘inconceivable’ stylee – I really do not think this means what ‘they’ think it means.

A final thought is that these two sessions will have, I’ve no doubt, a ripple effect on student’s perceptions of you as a teacher which will inevitably be a positive thing.  In a new school where you are an unknown this can be incredibly powerful in gaining ‘kudos’.

All in all, I’m a little bit pleased.  I might have found a new tool which will improve my teaching, help individual students progress and quickly get me some much needed ‘rep’ in great school with very challenging behaviour.

Expect my next post in around 12 months.