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Is It Rote or Does It Promote?

25 Nov 2013 by Julie Rand

When I went through the Pre-K CLASS Observation training, I struggled scoring the Instructional Support (IS) domain. I generally gave higher scores than the master coders … but why? I saw a ton of interactions and conversations; however, after lengthy discussions, it was determined that the interactions were actually quite low-level and did not truly promote higher-order thinking. In the end, I was giving too much weight to the more rote IS interactions. I am hearing that I am not the only one, so I wanted to highlight this issue and discuss it further.

With MyTeachingPartner (MTP) coaching, we start our IS coaching with Quality of Feedback as a beginning step towards interactions that move away from rote instruction and into more meaningful conversations to help reach a deeper understanding. Even if the end goal is to increase Concept Development, it can help to begin with Quality of Feedback. Effective Concept Development happens through activities and discussions, so that effective feedback must be there for us to really see depth and duration.

I have seen the following scenario many times when observing a classroom circle time:

Ineffective Feedback:

Teacher and children are all sitting in a circle. Teacher points to the letter poster asking, “What letter is this?” Children, “A.” The teacher may attempt to prompt the thought process by asking, “How did you know that?” Children look at teacher and respond, “Cuz it’s an A”.

Pause and ask yourself, “Is this rote or does it promote?” Can you really think about why an A is an A? No. We were trained to know things like our colors, numbers, letters, etc. This is rote questioning: asking a question that has one answer.

Effective Feedback:

Now, take a look at the video: Asking a Child to Explain His Thinking from the Teachstone Video Library. This is a great scenario of the teacher intentionally prompting the children’s thought process about alphabet letters. Same concept (alphabet knowledge) as the above example, but done in a more effective way. This also shows how the Quality of Feedback dimension has the potential to build on stronger Concept Development.

In this activity, the children are guessing which letter of the alphabet is covered. After a child guesses correctly, the teacher sees the opportunity and asks, “How do you know?” When the child responds, "'Cause," the teacher persists, repeating, "How do you know?" The child is then able to express his strategy, saying, "Because, you would say A-B-C."

Challenge:

Send me your thoughts on the differences between the two examples. How does the second scenario provide the children the opportunity to think through the learning process? What other scenarios are you seeing like this in the classrooms you are observing? How are you helping your teachers to think, “Is it rote or does it promote?”

Check out my previous blog, If I Could Turn Back Time”: How the CLASS Tool Changed the Way I Coach Teachers.