10 Tips for Teachers
The Institute of Positive Education at Geelong Grammar School (GGS) has been striving for 10 years to place wellbeing at the heart of education. As teachers are at the heart of this movement, GGS has shared tips for designing curriculum, summarised below:
#1 Start big – Gather your stakeholders, whether it is your whole faculty or just your grade partner and synthesise your objectives. Consider your sphere of influence and how widespread the change is going to be.
#2 Define the big ideas – As advocated by proponents of backwards design, it’s important to start by identifying the ‘big ideas’ and determine whether the core issues are meaningful and challenging (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011). These could be core concepts, ongoing issues or overarching principles. Big ideas have many layers and nuances, and yield great breadth and depth of meaning, making it necessary to dig deep to really understand the subtle implications and meanings.
#3 Describe the markers for success – Ensure you can articulate what success looks like. What specific insights do you want your students to have? What essential questions will frame the teaching and learning, pointing toward key issues and ideas? What should students know and be able to do? What content standards are specifically addressed?
# 4 Use data to inform success – Map where your students are, compared to where they need to be, and identify the frameworks that will inform your curriculum.
# 5 Give students a voice – Although there are universal elements to student engagement (such as creativity, curiosity and interest, flow, and motivation), it’s important to also identify the specific types of activities that your students find engaging. How can you incorporate their ideas, suggestions and preferences into your curriculum in a meaningful way?
# 6 Teach students to think about their thinking – Metacognition is not just a buzzword; it’s an important tool that helps students self-regulate their understanding. By increasing students’ awareness and understanding of the learning process, students increase their control over their learning. This could include students evaluating their progress or monitoring their comprehension (State of Victoria DET, 2017).
# 7 Encourage collaboration – There is strong evidence to support the use of collaboration as an effective tool when implementing curriculum in the classroom. Encouraging students to work together toward a common goal can also help to foster positive relationships.
# 8 Peer tutoring – Encouraging students to learn in pairs or small groups is beneficial for both the teacher and the student! The effect size and months of progress that students make as a result of this specific collaborative strategy are significant. (State of Victoria, DET, 2017)
#9 Incorporate digital technology – Research suggests that using technology to supplement teaching can have a positive impact. Students can use technology to engage in problem solving or open-ended research.
#10 Incorporate Social and Emotional Learning – Last, and not least, there is a wealth of research to support the fact that Social and Emotional Learning improves students’ wellbeing and their academic outcomes (CASEL, 2008).
Social and emotional learning (SEL)
Social and emotional learning involves students having opportunities to learn and practice social skills such as: cooperation, managing conflict, making friends, coping, being resilient and recognising and managing their own feelings. SEL is:
- A process for helping children and adults develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness
- The skills we need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work effectively and ethically.
- Areas of learning include recognising emotions, developing care for others, building positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively.
- The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) –
In Australia there are numerous programmes that impact on SEL dimensions. These include Kidsmatter, Mindmatters, Bounceback as well as Circle Solutions.
Some of the successes for SEL programmes, according to various research (especially when delivered by teachers, not outside researchers), include:
- SEL programmes, wither universal, targeted or after school, raised test scores by 11, 17 and 16 percentile points respectively
- improvements in social behaviour, such as getting along and co-operating with others
- decreased in behavioural problems such as aggression and disruptiveness
- Increase in positive feelings about self, others and the school
- reductions in levels of emotional distress such as anxiety and depression.
With the desire for more holistic school environments the connection between students, teachers and communities has evolved into a whole school model which incorporates SEL skills across all groups.