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What if ... not making a resolution for the New Year could help you achieve success in the classroom

Happy New Year! On Monday, approximately 50 million students will head back to their classrooms to continue their learning in a “new year”. For many of us, the beginning of a new year invokes the desire to set new goals or resolutions for the coming year. Educators are often among those setting goals or resolutions for themselves professionally, as well as providing activities in the classroom which encourage their students to do the same. However, as a whole, less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are ever achieved.

This year why not try something new… an “unresolution” of sorts? Rather than emphasize teaching, focus instead on learning. Instead of setting a new goal, take time to reflect on what is already happening in your classroom. Evaluate your current impact on student learning, then choose your next steps based on the feedback. John Hattie refers to this as ‘hearing the learning as it is happening’ in his book, “Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn”. According to Hattie, teachers that view themselves as learners alongside their students (both teachers and students moving from where they are towards where they want to be) have a greater impact on student learning and achievement. The following are simple principles to keep in mind during the process:

1. Listen more, talk less – research shows that students learn more in classrooms where teachers talk less.

2. Teach students how to both give and receive feedback – think of feedback as a map to help bridge the gap between what is known and unknown. This critical part of the learning cycle should always move us forward.

3. Set appropriate challenges for students – these should be based on the data that shows where students are and where they need to be.

4. Have high expectations - communicate these personally and positively to each and every student.

5. Welcome mistakes as “opportunities to learn” – create a positive learning environment where students can, and do take risks both socially and academically.

6. Understand and nurture the “language of learning” – collaborative classroom dialogue (listening, speaking, questioning) which stimulates and extends students’ thinking and advances their learning.

*Follow my blog and stay tuned for a more in-depth look at each of the tips presented above in the coming weeks ….until then, best wishes for a happy and successful New Year!

P.S. For those teachers that feel they really must have a resolution for the New Year, here are a few humorous suggestions to consider!

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