I listened to a Radio 5 Live programme this week.  It was in response to the Pisa tables which show that the UK fails miserably in achieving a sensible place in Literacy and Numeracy.  Some points of note are that countries with emerging high-ranking achievements are also a) educating their children for 10 - 12 hours per day and b) noticing an alarming increase in suicide rates of students.

During the programme there were many diverse viewpoints from callers as to why/how the UK may not be doing so well and what we might do about it.  Here's a summary:

  • we can only work with the raw material (ie crap students)
  • we have a cluttered curriculum (too much to learn)
  • behaviour is the problem (really?)
  • we should increase student learning hours (suicide rates?)

This got me thinking, especially as none of the above seems to resonate with my experiences.   But one caller to the show was a first-year trainee on a fast-track graduate teacher training programme.  He said that the "joy and wonder of learning" is the key to keeping students' attention.  He went on to say that "If you're teaching a boring subject you need to bring enthusiasm and expertise to the lesson".  I must point out that he was not claiming to be speaking on behalf of the teacher fraternity.  But his observation of many lessons has demonstrated that point, he says, by the behaviour and participation in the class of those teachers who revved it up a bit (my words, not his!).   What do you think?

After reading about the horrendous learning hours that 'more successful' countries subject their young people to, how can we maximise the success in our regular classroom time?  After all, the college experience is viewed as the 'last chance' to succeed.
Toss those dreaded worksheets to one side for a while and improve class participation with questioning.  Here are some tips.  I've also added a picture here with the 'how'.  I hope it helps.  (Click the picture for a larger, more readable view.)

5nsimple questions