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Advanced motoring in your classroom

Getting side-swiped by a 44-ton articulated lorry travelling at 60mph on the London Orbital Motorway is not much fun. It is even less entertaining when you are on your way to catch a plane for a long-awaited holiday. Fortunately a combination of skills learnt from driving on Swiss skid-pans and luck meant we survived relatively unscathed, but with a greatly enriched perspective on life.

Although I was not to blame for this nerve-wracking experience, it did encourage me to enhance my driving skills, some 25 years after I first got my licence.. My sister bought me the Skill for Life package offered by the UK Institute for Advanced Motorists (IAM). I was led through a series of observations, a tightening up and heightening of skills, and a formal assessment at the level just below that given to drivers of emergency vehicles.

I am pleased to say that I passed on my first attempt but only after much time and careful advice from my assigned coach and mentor.

The IAM’s mantra for motoring is summed up in the acronym IPSGA:

  • Information – to what extent and how rapidly can you take in the world around you and see potential hazards ahead?
  • Position – to what extent are you well placed on the road to see all potential hazards?
  • Speed – to what extent have you adjusted how fast you are going according to the context of your driving and the road conditions?
  • Gear – which is the best one to select to help your vehicle perform at its best?
  • Accelerate – how have you combined the information, position, speed and gearing at your disposal to allow you to make well considered progress?

Whether or not you drive you should be able to recognise the analogy with teaching. When you teach a lesson, plan your school’s curriculum or a programme of study, to what extent do you use all the information available, choose the right tools and appropriately pace what you are doing?

I was reminded of this again recently when I read Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College”, first published in 2012. In this highly recommended book, which has spawned a website and workshops, Lemov focuses on what he has observed rather than what he has read and cross-referenced through research. He describes in digestible chunks a series of very usable ideas to put straight into practice to enhance teaching and learning.

Lemov emphasises the need to help students be ready for college (higher education) and life. In his view, a lot of this is grounded on students understanding how to behave, and on this becoming second nature. He calls this “creating a strong classroom culture.” Only then can lessons have pace in the sense of making good progress.

Lemov’s mantra for this is the acronym DMCIE:

  • Discipline – helping students understand what is expected of them, both in the classroom and the wider world.
  • Management – ensuring students behave appropriately, but measuring the degree of sanction according to whether misbehaviour was intentional or because of a misunderstanding of what is expected.
  • Control – giving students freedom but being there to keep them in check should the teacher see a hazard that the student hasn’t yet recognised.
  • Influence – encouraging students to manage and control their own and each other’s behaviour in order that learning may take place.
  • Engagement – reaching the point where there is little need for management or control because the classroom culture is such that all students are there to learn and progress.

Lemov’s book is not by any means all about discipline. Some of his teaching and learning techniques will already have been tried and tested by many teachers. However, reading such a book is a great way  to reinvigorate your teaching.,

Crashes and collisions will still come out of the blue but taking an opportunity to be observed, to reflect and determine your own mantras may make you better prepared. It should also help create a culture in which your students can always learn and progress.

You can read more about Doug Lemov’s work in another one of our blogs: Cambridge Outlook – sometimes it’s worth taking your eye off the clock.

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