Friday, April 13, 2012

encouraging better practice in teaching: snapshots of learning

A few days ago, following conversations with visiting family, I was reflecting on teaching. How do we encourage teachers in their teaching? One suggestion was the use of a journal, shared with a peer, in which together regular reflection on practice occurs.

There were some really helpful comments which have kept me thinking during the week. Plus the fact that my (temporary) “study leave” office is close to a classroom, so I get to hear the occasional lecture as I write.

And this week came news of the sale of Instagram to Facebook for 1 billion.

Which got me thinking about snapshots. A moment of time. A visual media rather than a written media. So what if rather than a journal, you invited teachers to take a snapshot? One per class. Not a literal one. But they are given a blank piece of card, perhaps in the shape of a “polaroid”? On which they have are invited to note down the best teaching moment of that class.

And then teachers meet as peers, spread their “snapshots” and reflect together about what they’re learning about teaching.

Which sparked another possibility. What if you invited teachers to take snapshots not of their teaching, but of their students learning?

Let me explain.

At Uniting College, our mandate is to form leaders. What if each teacher was given a “snapshot” (a blank card), one for every student in their class. And at some time during the semester, they were expected to take a “snapshot” (again not an actual picture, but a quote made, an interaction, an essay, a moment of caring) of that student displaying leadership and ministry. This is based on appreciative inquiry, looking for strength, rather than weakness, in a student.

Imagine being given that at the end of the semester. A fulltime student has 4 topics per semester, 8 per year, 24 per degree. By the end of your time, the student has 24 snapshots of them at their best in terms of leader development.

One of my guiding principles is that ministry and leadership are unique. Each person has a unique fingerprint and our task is to work out how our unique personality and experience form us into leaders. So by the end of the degree, the student has 24 “snapshots.” Spread those over the table, reflect with a mentor on your 3 years of study and I suspect you would have a pretty good mirror on who you could be as a leader. There could even be degree topic toward the end in which you enter a process of leadership reflection – on the snapshots, on your life experiences, on your passions.

What do folk think? Might “snapshots” encourage better practice in teaching? And learning?

Posted by steve at 06:47 PM


  1. I love this idea Steve.

    I think too that students could be encouraged to look for those snapshot moments in themselves and in each other. We underestimate peer learning sometimes don’t we ?

    Comment by stf — April 15, 2012 @ 12:39 am

  2. That’s a lovely idea Lorna. They certainly see a side of each other that staff never would.

    Perhaps a chapel once a semester as a way of creating space for this to happen?

    The problem would be ensuring even coverage – that all students “got something” substantial.


    Comment by steve taylor — April 15, 2012 @ 11:31 am

  3. yeah, I like it – both the snapshots of our teaching, and the snapshots of student learning. like it a lot.

    Comment by sarah — April 16, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  4. I think often as a student i doubt that im growing and learning and its not until i look back much later i can see what i was being taught and how i was growing.

    This idea of a snapshot is a great way to have peers, teachers and yourself reflect back on your growth.

    Comment by Nicole Mugford — April 16, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

  5. Thanks Nicole. That’s really helpful. And I like your comment about the value of feedback as a way of helping name growth.


    Comment by steve — April 16, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

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