Three Vital Questions in a Classroom Observation

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The favorite part of my day happens when I enter classrooms to see the dynamic learning experiences that permeate throughout our campus each day. I refuse to allow a day to go by when I am not in a classroom supporting and championing the educators and students on campus.

My two of the main points of interests while in a classroom are to get a quick glimpse of the happenings and to ensure that high levels of learning remains the norm in the learning environment. To that end, there are three questions that I ask students to help me gauge these points of interests.

What are you learning? It is important to note that this question is distinctly different from what are you doing. What students are doing is the vehicle for what students are learning. Educators must design experiences that help learners internalize more than what they are doing in class; learners must value and understand the knowledge or skill to be acquired. It’s funny how students, when first asked this question, default to describing what activities and tasks they are doing in class; however after restating the question, it naturally causes students to reflect and think critically beyond their activity or task.

Why is learning (X) important? Learners must be able to connect what they are learning in class to the purpose (the why) of the learning. Without a clear understanding of the purpose of learning, students cannot move beyond “because the teacher said so.” The depth and richness of a curriculum must be brought to life by effectively designing and planning experiences to ensure transfer occurs back to an authentic purpose/reason.

How will you know that you learned (X)? Learners must know where they are in the learning process and how they will close any gaps to meet their learning objective. If educators design with the end in mind, then learners should know what the “end in mind” is to gauge their own learning.  Learners must self-assess where they are in the learning process, which allows learners to be in the driver’s seat for their own learning. By the learners identifying their individual progress, they will be able to set meaningful goals and targets to ensure their mastery.

The pattern of ‘playing school’ in the classroom is eliminated by asking the right questions. When students successfully internalize the answers to these 3 questions, their learning experience becomes significantly more meaningful. It’s important to note that scaffolding, on the part of the administrator, may be necessary to help learners articulate the content of these questions. However, once internalized, students are genuinely unleashed on a purposeful pathway of learning and understanding. 

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