Teaching and Coaching How to Learn

I sat with a group of school leaders examining and questioning a teaching practice they had promoted (some teachers would say forced) teachers to implement: Posting and sharing learning objectives with students. I listened and joined in the conversation as I have worked with many schools whose walkthrough or observation forms include a similar observation component.

My thoughts are that while “what we are going to learn” is important “why we are going to learn it” and “what is required from the learner for learning to be successful” are often overlooked.

Here are some observations, conversations, and blog posts I experienced recently that connect for me around this theme.

I observed a second grade phonics lesson where the teacher provided at least six different practice activities reviewing previously taught letter/sound patterns. Since choral response was part of the expected student behavior, there would have been value in students being reminded that internalizing these patterns is important and requires repeated practice. Students should be encouraged to get as many practices as possible into the next 15 minutes.

Teacher: “Be sure to answer every group response that I request and when I call on one student, answer that question inside your head. When I ask for an example, if you think of one quickly, see if you can think of one or two more while I’m waiting for everyone to get one. See how much practice you can do.”

Donna Wilson posted a blog  around training the brain to listen. She writes:

“Explicit instruction on cognitive strategies that can help students learn how to learn may have a positive impact on both academic performance and classroom management by emphasizing that students are in charge of their own behavior and learning. Teachers we’ve worked with find that classroom management issues decrease over time as students begin to master thinking skills that help them become more self-directed learners.”

Wilson discusses teaching students about the anatomy and psychology of listening- how the brain turns sounds into meaning. She illustrates a specific strategy (HEAR) that teachers can teach and coach to develop students’ listening:

Halt: Stop whatever else you are doing: end your internal dialogue on other thoughts

Engage: Focus on the speaker, turn toward the person.

Anticipate: By looking forward to what the speaker has to say, you are acknowledging that you will likely learn something new and interesting.

Replay: Think about what the speaker is saying. Analyze and paraphrase it in your mind or in discussion with the speaker and other classmates.

A community college professor I worked with shared a strategy she uses called student learning communities. The college hires students who have successfully mastered a course to facilitate these study groups. Rather than tutoring the course content, the facilitators model and coach how to study the course material. Students who had to “study hard” (effort and persist) and succeeded in the course are a great resource and encourager for those new to the course content. Students are acquiring the “how to learn” skills.

Vicki Davis posted a blog, Can You Teach Grit?  which extended an earlier Edutopia blog, True Grit; The best Measure of Success and How to Teach It. s

Davis offers specific teacher actions to help develop student grit.

She suggests:

reading, discussing and sharing examples of grit with students

focusing on a growth mindset and helping students reframe problems as “to be expected”

providing opportunities and debriefing situations where students need grit

living grittly

I love this statement she makes:

“As we talked about grit, I made one thing very, very clear to my students: I will work hard to be interesting and engaging but I will never be easy. Never.

As you observe in classrooms look for where teachers can add “how to learn” components. In your professional development activities be sure to include “what teacher learners need to do” to successful master the skills and content.

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2 Responses to “ Teaching and Coaching How to Learn ”

  1. Deidre Parish Says:

    Hi Steve! Thanks for sharing the HEAR strategy! We can all use tips on how to listen. Modeling listening and teaching learning – essentials for adults and students alike.
    Thanks again.

  2. Amanda Campbell Says:

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Steve. I love the connection between metacognitive strategies and grit. I think about our work teaching kids strategies that help them reflect, monitor, and question as they read. So often we as teachers “think aloud” with kids, modeling the invisible processes “that good readers do” for instance, but we don’t stop and explain the kind of dedication and work that it takes to actually act like that kind of reader. It’s GRIT that you need to be a “good reader.” I really like the idea of teaching that directly.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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