Strategies for Reshaping Practice – full document
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1. Change the layout of the room
Teachers can change the layout of the room to support their new way of seeing a subject, for example, arranging the chairs in an arc around a painting which is displayed high to communicate the importance of coming with humility to learn. It could involve changing the seating arrangements so that students/pupils work together when learning about communities.
- A teacher can change the layout of the room so that students face the window when studying a poem about a girl looking out of a window and learning to love the city she sees, helping the experience of the learning space reinforce the effect of the poem.
- Teachers can arrange pupils in a circle on the floor for a presentation of a Bible story with small figures in order to draw the pupils in and encourage them to engage with the characters.
In these examples changes in the layout support the teaching approach and encourage a different engagement on the part of the learner.
2. Make tangible changes to the environment
Teachers can make tangible changes to the environment to support new perspectives. This may include creating spaces for different uses such as reflection or hanging question bubbles suspended from the ceiling to stimulate curiosity. A tangible change can signal a deeper change. For example, the temporary removal of books at the beginning of Book Week can be the beginning of a change in attitude towards them. In many parts of the world books are a luxury for which people are grateful.
- Teachers can add delightful objects to desks for a lesson on creating designs that bring delight to others. A reflective space can be created as a result of a personal development (PSHE) lesson for children to think and pray using a soft toy and fleece bag.
- Teachers can add paper litter to the floor for a lesson on the environment or in personal development (PSHE) looking at our responsibility for the environment.
These instances of tangible changes actively work with the new perspective of the teacher. To ignore the role that tangible changes make can mean missing out on an aid to our teaching.
3. Change or create displays
Displays are a use of the physical space that is often taken for granted, but displays have huge potential for teachers when making changes. Displays can include unexpected elements such as art images and poetry in a science display, breaking down subject barriers so that God’s world is seen as a whole. Displays can be places where learners respond to big questions and curiosity is stimulated.
- Teachers can add a title to a display that clashes with the images, so the title ‘Just salt’ can be added above amazing images of salt crystals and salt formations in chemistry.
- Teachers can add arms and legs to an image of a computer on an ICT display with a question bubble saying, ‘How do we differ from computers?’
As these examples show, displays can become active partners in teaching, helping to create a new outlook on a subject rather than being background material.
4. Embody the class ethos and outlook in concrete forms
Developing a class ethos is about by embodying values in concrete forms. This may take the form of expectations of behaviour that are on display, or the teaching of some basic sign language so that learners can say a silent ‘thank you’ to each other without disturbing others. It could include the arrangement of desks and the expectation of certain expressions of respect such as raising hands rather than interrupting each other.
- Teachers can develop a collaborative community in maths so that all can achieve. This can include high expectations of behaviour and work, and supporting each other. It involves an acceptance that it is OK to make mistakes, ask questions and make suggestions. Seating can be changed to facilitate this shift.
- Teachers can display a class photo frame where work that shows effort is put on display and its author is applauded and a certificate sent home to encourage and acknowledge progress.
These examples include some basic expressions of ethos. They show that it is important to be intentional, making sure ethos is embodied in some way rather than leaving it as something that is just assumed.
5. Use body language
Teachers’ body language can communicate values and a perspective on a subject. Excitement is contagious and can be communicated both verbally and through the body, for example excitement over the wonders of magnetism. Similarly, talking to pupils while still marking work and not looking at them can communicate disrespect.
- Teachers can work at showing respect through body language by making eye contact, turning to face children and joining in at their level with younger pupils.
- Teachers can change their body language to suit the material they are teaching. For instance, when delivering a poem about a view from a window, stand in front of the window so that the pupils see the view as you speak.
Examples such as these show the difference body language can make. Sometimes a simple move, such as standing in front of a window, has impact.
6. Create the appropriate atmosphere
Creating an atmosphere is about creating the ‘feel’ that matches what is learned. A lesson on delight would be ruined by a dull ambience; a lesson on peace needs a calm mood. Anxiety over tests can be reduced by shifting to a celebration of what the pupils do know, creating a celebratory atmosphere by use of language such as ‘Wow, look at what you know!’ Establishing atmosphere could include using music, noise, silence, lighting, colour, images, body language and posture.
- Teachers can use balloons in a revision class. These can be labelled ‘Triumphs’ and ‘Disasters’. Students can pair up, one student may find an area difficult (disaster) that another finds easy (triumph). They can then support each other and pop the disaster balloon when the student is confident in that area. When done in a playful spirit, this creates an atmosphere of support and fun that diffuses some of the anxiety and isolation round revision.
- Teachers can darken a room and put the spotlight on a painting about hope to create the appropriate mood for a painting that is about hope through difficult and uncertain times.
The changes in atmosphere in these examples bring what is taught in line with the mood of the lesson and help teaching connect with learners.
7. Give opportunities for practice
Teaching can lead to practice, rather than being kept as something that learners need to pay attention to in order to pass tests or gain information. Teachers can provide opportunities for learners to serve each other and the local community. Teaching can turn a class’s vision outwards towards the wider world, and teachers can introduce issues of justice and how we bring about change, providing opportunities to engage, for example, with fair trade and how shopping can make a difference.
- Teachers can teach cooking skills that can be used in baking for the elderly, giving learners an opportunity to serve. Maths and cooking skills can be taught as a way of raising money for disaster relief. Teachers can use a topic as an opportunity for learners to contribute to the community by making posters for the local community day.
- Teachers can arrange for students to practise supporting each other in PE where stronger tennis players are paired with those with a weaker serve.
Teaching in this way helps learners take learning from abstract information to practice. It does not necessarily mean leaving the classroom or adding a time consuming project; it can be practised within the school or in a class period.
8. Change the context/framework
All teaching takes place within a framework of ideas and values and we can adjust the framework or context within which we teach. Maths does not have to be taught within a consumer framework of shopping and spending; it can be about giving. French does not have to be taught in a tourist framework dominated by satisfying personal needs and securing goods and services on holiday; it can be about humbly encountering another culture. A change of image or metaphor can give teaching an alternative framework; for example, seeing the world as God’s playground or garden can promote different thinking about the world and our relationship to it and each other.
- Teachers can use a hospitality context for modern foreign languages where language is used to welcome the stranger from another place. This can lead to using a modern language to welcome a new member of the class.
- Teachers can use a range of biblical images such as gardener and responsible ruler when exploring our relationship to the environment. The image of faith as a cake containing ingredients such as thinking, feeling and acting can be used to frame teaching about the nature of faith in religious education.
These examples show how changes of context and framework can change thinking and create potential for changing behaviour.
9. Change examples and illustrations to match your framework
For a change in framework to be plausible and effective, examples, stories and illustrations need to come into line. For example, maths examples need to move from getting to giving. Stories can move from focusing on individuals to communities if, for example, the framework is changed from studying individual reformers in history to campaigning communities. If an environment topic is changed from ‘our world’ to ‘God’s world’ then images of the world from a ‘God’s eye’ perspective might be appropriate.
- Teachers can change from using cartoon characters to using photographs or images of real people if teaching languages is put in a personal context. Teachers can use different examples of transport serving the community to give a Primary topic a service context.
- Teachers can use stories in maths that show the impact of percentages paid for growing coffee. Real stories can be used in geography when looking at migration patterns so that these lessons reflect a relational framework and do not reduce people to lines on a map or numbers.
These examples show how stories, examples and illustrations can be brought into line with a new framework and work with a new way of seeing a lesson.
10. Put skills in a context of values
Sometimes choosing the right framework and context for learning could mean giving skills a new purpose. That purpose can be defined in terms of values. Design can be taught with a service purpose so that students think about: ‘How will the design serve the customer and society?’ rather than ‘How can I showcase what I can do?' Maths can be taught with the purpose of combating injustice.
- Teachers can present advertising in a values context such as contentment, encouraging students to examine the attitudes some adverts are creating in society. This can lead to creating a different type of advert using skills to encourage contentment.
- Teachers can show how pie charts can make information accessible and bring about change. Florence Nightingale used a form of pie chart to change the way hospitals were built. Teachers can show students how their maths skills can be used in a project to bring about change or bring an important issue to people’s attention.
Examples such as these show how skills can be given a new purpose by putting them in a values framework which can make sense to learners and possibly aid motivation.
11. Focus, identify, highlight, be intentional
As teachers we can focus on the key emphasis by highlighting key words visually and verbally. We can also use objects to focus attention, for example, using chocolate in a history lesson about reformers such as the Cadburys, Frys and Rowntrees. Focusing can involve identifying what is important, for example, a character's choices in a text and their degree of responsibility. It could include being intentional about teaching self-control in sport.
- Teachers can highlight the creativity in a poem such as the ‘Ducks ditty’ and its connection to faith by the way they present it. They can be intentional about explicitly addressing fears about changing in PE.
- Teachers can use a photograph frame to display learners' work in order to be intentional about giving encouragement. They can use objects such as bananas in maths to focus on injustice.
These examples show how sometimes all that is needed is being intentional or highlighting what is already in our teaching rather than making big changes.
12. Change the emphasis
Sometimes we need to move the spotlight in our teaching to put the emphasis in a different place. For example, we may have used different map projections before but the emphasis could be changed to looking at the issue of fairness in map projections. Sometimes we may need to introduce a new emphasis, for example moving from usefulness to delight or from rules to grace.
- Teachers can change the emphasis in personal development (PSHE) from creating rules to the people we need to become to live together in the class we would like to be part of.
- Teachers can change the emphasis in languages, moving the emphasis from first person responses (‘I like … ') to other people’s perspectives ('My Dad likes … ').
These examples show how a change of emphasis can reorient a lesson and create a different teaching and learning experience that can begin to reflect a Christian way of seeing the world.
13. Change key words and metaphors
Highlighting a key focus or a change in emphasis can be followed through by a consistent use of language, emphasising key concepts and phrases and bringing what is important to learners’ attention. For example, teachers can consistently use the phrase ‘God’s world’ rather than ‘Our world’ in a topic on the environment. They can consistently emphasise a key concept such as sin or joy or peace.
- Teachers can draw attention to an African painting in art by introducing it and consistently referring to it as a visitor from another country. The phrase ‘doing sorry’ can be used in history when looking at the repercussions of injustices of the past and how amends might be made.
- A history unit could be planned around the concept of justice, mercy and humility using these concepts throughout the teaching and learning and bringing them to the learners' attention in connection with people and events.
Examples such as these show how a key emphasis can be worked out in language and concepts through the way teachers consistently use them.
14. Change resources, tasks or activities
Tasks, resources or activities can be changed to suit a new perspective. Once teachers see a lesson in a new way, old worksheets, activities and tasks may need to be reviewed. This could be choosing activities that stress the wholeness of people: body, soul and spirit; it could be worksheets that have questions of meaning and purpose as well as information recall questions.
- Teachers can encourage learners to be involved in changing printed worksheets, for example having them change ‘Our world’ to 'God's world' on worksheets. Teachers can provide alternative resources such as websites and information sheets. Such resources can be used in history, comparing modern and historical campaigns. A Fair Trade site can be used when looking at percentages paid to growers of bananas and coffee in maths. Camel library sites can be used when considering books as a luxury to be grateful for in Book Week.
- Teachers can create new tasks and activities or adjust old ones, such as classifying a person’s historical legacy under headings and adding a spiritual legacy heading, where appropriate. They might introduce a maths game in personal development (PSHE) to help students to think about others first.
These examples show the difference a change of resource or activity can make. It does not always involve a complete change. Sometimes just a small adjustment is needed.
15. Change your choice of content
Increasingly teachers have their choices restricted by prescriptive curriculum documents, but where choice is possible different content can be used. If a particular novelist is prescribed there may be a choice of works and teachers could select a work that reflects a focus such as trust. If a particular subject is suggested, such as self esteem, there could be a range of materials that approach it in a different way, for example, seeing it in terms of finding significance and worth through love. If a syllabus stipulates a key figure in history, you could choose a person of faith such as William Tyndale in the Tudor period.
- Teachers can select a particular poem if only the poet is specified. If William Blake is the poet then select one of his poems that deals with an issue of faith and values relevant to learners, such as ‘Poison Tree’ that deals with anger and revenge.
- Teachers can select people of faith if history syllabuses include ‘key people’ of the period. That might be Christian reformers in the Victorian period or you could choose an artwork with Christian imagery in art.
Examples such as these show how a change of content can free a teacher to bring a new perspective to a lesson and still cover the required material.
16. Choose an approach to suit the new emphasis
Adopting appropriate approaches means that we examine the approach we use and make sure it is right for the new emphasis of the lesson and will help learners engage with it appropriately. Approaches can be very specific to subjects; for example, there are a range of approaches in religious education such as a conceptual approach and an approach that looks at religion as a phenomenon. There are more general approaches, such as storytelling, which might be appropriate if we are emphasising grace in a person’s life (unmerited love and favour). It is important to select an approach with the two criteria in mind: appropriateness to the emphasis of the lesson and to the learners.
- Teachers can use a storytelling approach in maths to make it more personal, such as the story of Florence Nightingale and how she used a form of pie chart to communicate her findings even though they were not what she expected.
- Teachers can use a discussion approach in history when looking at the treaty of Versailles, or a co-operative approach in maths where students help each other.
These examples show how choosing approaches can serve both the teacher’s new perspective and the learners'.
17. Adjust your style
Style is a very personal subject but most teachers are flexible and can incorporate a variety of styles within their repertoire. When thinking about style we need to consider whether it is right for a particular lesson with its new emphasis, and will it serve the learners in engaging with this new perspective? Style can be formal or informal and have many kinds of practices within either. For example, if we are exploring sensitive or controversial aspects of sin and brokenness then a formal style is sometimes appropriate to give students/pupils structure and distance. If the lesson is about serving the community by cooking for the elderly and you are joining in then a more informal style is appropriate. If the emphasis is on fostering focused attentiveness then our general style, whatever it is, might have to slow down to incorporate, for example, a slow reading of a text.
- Teachers can use a more formal style when looking at difficult subjects such as anxiety over changing in PE or tackling inappropriate goal celebrations. The formality gives structure that can help students engage with the subject in a way that is less threatening. A formal presentation can create the distance needed for pupils to consider the role of faith in their own lives in relation to a character in a story in English/literacy.
- Teachers can use an informal style if they want to draw children into a Bible story so that they engage with the characters. A conversational style can be used in RE and science when talking about faith and reason.
These examples show how adjusting our general style can make a difference to a lesson and can reinforce a new understanding.
18. Change your planning: timing, sequence and lesson structure
Thinking about lesson or unit planning may mean changing how we introduce or end a lesson. It could include planning to include some silence if we want to students to have time to reflect and wonder. It can be decisions about what to include or exclude; for example, including a faith connection or excluding detail in order to highlight a new emphasis. It could include the pace we set and allowing time for slow contemplation or group discussion.
- Teachers can allow time for students to attend to an artwork rather than glancing at it. This can mean returning to look at it more than once in a lesson as a way of respecting the artist. They can plan time in an English lesson for different ways of reading a text, including slow reading so that students may come to love a text.
- Teachers can change their introductions and endings, introducing a painting as a visitor from another country or ending an art lesson with sitting before a painting and letting the painting having the ‘last word’.
These examples show that incorporating a new perspective at the planning stage is more likely to make it happen.
19. Check what you give significance to, test and reward
What we reward sends strong messages about what we value. If we stress meaning and significance in a lesson but then only test for recall of information, we send a message about what is important. Teachers can give significance by what they notice and give time to in class, the questions they respond to, the behaviour they reinforce. For example, do we reward those who win at any cost in sport? Forms of assessment can be adapted to suit a new perspective. Evaluations in history can reflect people holistically and include their spiritual legacy as well as the political, social and economic.
- Teachers can work round restrictive forms of assessment, such as required electronic quizzes, missing words exercises and simple recall questions. These can be limited by using them for some parts of a unit/lesson only. Assessment that requires engagement with meaning and significance or open ended questions can be used on other parts of a unit.
- Teachers can explore grace in personal development (PSHE) or English/literacy and use a creative assessment such as drama to demonstrate understanding. They can reward effort and perseverance not just high scores in class, and adjust their own behaviour in PE to reward winning well or handling referees' decisions well.
These examples show that assessment does not have to be a straightjacket; we can adjust it. They also show that the informal way we give rewards and give significance matters.
20. Plan time and space for reflection
Time for reflection and wonder at God’s world can easily get squeezed out with the amount of content teachers have to cover. Reflection needs planning in. It does not have to come at the end of a session; it can be way of starting a lesson, for example, by listening to the sounds in the environment in silence.
- Teachers can plan time to show short presentations of images in science to evoke wonder when looking at crystals in chemistry, magnetism or labelling plants.
- Teachers can use reflective poems and scripts as part of English or religious education and build activities that will encourage learners to consider thoughtfully what is being expressed.
These examples show that reflection can be built into a lesson at any time but it does need including at the planning stage.
21. Change the student interaction
Teachers can plan student interaction to match the new emphasis. They can work in pairs or groups, individually or as a class. They can collaborate or work on their own. The interaction should reflect the intended perspective and be appropriate for the pupils. If the teaching stresses community and interdependence then collaborative learning may be appropriate, for example when looking at history and the dependence of reformers on a grass roots community. Pupils could make food chains as groups, each group making a chain with different children adding a link.
- Teachers can use group work which comes together to form a presentation when looking at abolition of slavery in history and how Wilberforce and other reformers were part of a group (the Clapham circle) and depended on a grass roots movement.
- Teachers can use whole class work for singing in unison and blending sound as a whole, emphasising interdependence and humility.
These examples show that teachers can change student interaction to reflect a change in perspective and reinforce their new way of seeing a subject.
22. Ask big questions/change your questioning
Teachers can incorporate big questions in their teaching in order to stimulate curiosity. They can ask big questions themselves or encourage students/pupils to ask them. Big questions are questions of significance and meaning and each subject has its own questions and issues that teachers can focus attention on. For example, they can ask if we can measure everything in maths, or are there some things we can’t measure? Do we value these things more or less? Teachers can structure questions to direct learners to important issues such as interdependence in science. Questions can raise awareness and uncover things we take for granted, such as the idea that the world is ‘ours’. Teachers can pose questions about faith and values in subjects other than RE to break down the divide between sacred and secular.
- Teachers can ask questions such as, ‘Where does our creativity come from?' in music and ‘Can everything be reduced to our genetic make-up?’ in science. Teachers can provide a series of questions for a discussion about justice, forgiveness and peace in the Versailles Treaty in history.
- Teachers can stimulate students to ask questions by holding an open conversation with another staff member about reason and faith or expose assumptions about the nature of love in German using a German song and a series of questions.
These examples show that thinking about questioning can make a difference to how we teach; it can focus our teaching on issues of importance.
23. Provide contrasts and set up dissonance (clashes)
Teachers can provoke thinking by creating contrasts and dissonance. Dissonance is about creating difference or conflict; for example, it might be teaching about caring for the environment in a littered room, or using body language that does not match what you are saying, or playing commercial Christmas music over paintings of the nativity. Including contrasts and dissonance in our teaching can raise awareness of certain issues, and challenge learners to rethink, for example considering the spiritual and relational riches of some past cultures in contrast to modern cultures.
- Teachers can use a painting such as Frederic Watts ‘Hope’ where the title does not seem to match the painting. This can help students rethink hope and move away from classifying it as cheery optimism.
- Teachers can contrast how some sports people behave with the way we would like to be treated in sport. They can compare computers to humans and ask about the difference.
These examples show how dissonance and contrasts can raise awareness and challenge people to rethink.
24. Make connections with faith and life
As teachers we can model making connections and show the relevance of faith by drawing on faith sources in subjects such as history, and using faith examples, insights and images. For example, we can use the biblical theme of ‘justice, mercy and humility’ as a way of assessing reformers in history. Teachers could use images such as ‘gardener’ from the Bible to explore our relationship with the environment. We can enable discussions of faith and values where appropriate, and connect faith to life rather than keeping it abstract.
- Teachers can arrange a local area study around a parish church and look at an area in terms of fulfilling physical, social, intellectual and spiritual needs. Teachers can show different maps and how they tell stories and demonstrate what is important to the people who made them.
- Teachers can link modern foreign languages with being able to respond to people in relationships and show love. Teachers can use stories of people of faith to link subjects such as languages and maths to life.
These examples show how connections can be made between faith and life that do not hijack a subject but make appropriate links.
25. Make connections with the wider world
Teaching can have an outward focus, engaging with the local community and the world, bringing the wider world into the classroom or taking the learner out. Teachers can invite visitors in to be interviewed or invite church musicians into a music class. Teachers can relate learning to wider issues of faith and values relating to what is going on society. For example, teaching about integrity in science and writing up experiments truthfully can relate to integrity or lack of integrity shown in current events. Insights learned in the classroom can be applied to society; for example, thinking of people as whole, not just bodies or minds or spirits.
- Teachers can invite members of the local church community in to share what the church does in the local community as part of a serving the community topic. Teachers can arrange for students to cook for the elderly and invite members of the community into the school to be served. People can be interviewed about faith in religious education.
- Teachers can use case studies in history of real situations, such as child workers on cocoa farms, as a way of drawing parallels between campaigns for change in the past and campaigns today. Teachers can arrange for learners to interview members of their family and friends about their likes and dislikes for modern foreign languages so that they can reflect the thoughts, feelings and choices of people in the community, rather than just their own preferences and opinions.
Examples such as this show the role faith can play across the curriculum and how it can be related to life.
26. Model a new emphasis
Teachers can model what they teach, the ultimate example of personalising teaching. They can model excitement and wonder in science, for example, over the wonders of magnetism. They can model respect and ways of treating students and other staff. They can model puzzlement and confusion before a text so learners feel free to express their own confusion. Teachers can model being challenged by what they teach.
- Teachers can examine their body language and make sure they communicate respect by what they do as well as what they say. They can model serving others by joining in with cooking for the elderly.
- Teachers can model accepting encouragement around the time of tests, sending a card to a fellow teacher. They can model cooperation by working together in a religious education lesson. They can model affirmation in a grammar lesson on complex sentences.
These examples show a few of the ways in which teachers can personalise teaching through modelling so that students can see that what is taught is practised.
27. Add the personal touch
Teachers can use personal stories, images and examples where that is appropriate. This could involve organising visitors in religious education or using real life case studies of people in modern foreign languages or geography. Such stories can challenge learners and evoke an affective or moral response. Teaching in this way can focus attention on others and on service. For example, just a small change in a lesson about sound can make a big difference; instead of talking about the intricacies of the design of ‘the ear', talk about ‘your ears’ and relate it to the students.
- Teachers can provide photographs and images of German students who resisted the Nazis in a German lesson. This enables students to practise their language relating to real people and situations. Teachers could create activities that encouraged students/pupils to use a modern language to foster good relationships. Migrants stories could be used in geography when teaching about population movements.
- Teachers can introduce students to real scientists with different views about faith in science lessons rather than just discuss the issue abstractly. Teachers could focus on the learner as a person who is part of a family and report on the person as whole being on parents' evenings. A topic on heroes can be made personal by encouraging learners to look at imperfect heroes who achieved and relate that to how we see ourselves.
These examples show that giving a lesson a more personal slant can be done with small changes that make a big difference.