- Level of preparation: if we don’t have time in team planning, then this is left to the individual. It is a hefty workload on top of normal classroom planning. It requires the time to gather resources. It also requires time to set up assessment and tracking documents as well as comments for reports and feedback. This is one of the most challenging aspects of workshops that I have found.
- It doesn’t suit all students: majority of students love workshops. They love the movement, the short targeted time and even the variety of teachers. However, not all do. Some find the constant movement and need for flexibility challenging. Some clam up with different teachers and in different groups. While it is good to know and address these areas, there are some kids who workshops just don’t allow them to shine and do their best learning.
- A variety of groupings is vital: it is so easy to group kids according to their needs. You get their data, group them and know that they are where they should be. They are getting targeted teaching. However, I have learnt the need for flexible groupings at times especially in maths. I have had low groups who have had no exposure to good mathematicians or good models of thinking. Yes, I can be that model but it is so different than with a peer guiding them. I find that the learners who need support often never have access to good thinkers and models and they miss that peer to peer learning. On the same token, some kids who need to celebrate their success are not given the chance to use their skills. Even in a high flying group, there is still always a lowest. I have had kids who are in a high performing group lose confidence because they haven’t had a chance to see how they are doing a good job. That’s why we can lock ourselves into the data and just grouping according to needs system.
- Noise levels are a factor: as much as we love to think they are not, they are. Even in quiet working communities, distractions, noises and other teachers teaching all can take away from student learning. Noise levels become the focus on some workshops because you are conscious of time of task and noise not just the learning. Even with sensational kids, there is still times when noise impacts the learning.
- You need to be on the same page and have the same expectations as a team: nothing brings workshops undone like disagreements over starting and ending times or when someone doesn’t follow through with the agreed expectations. It is vital to work as a team and have every member follow through on the agreed standards. This includes feedback, data, movement, noise and standard of work. You need to be airtight especially since your colleague’s information is what you often need to share with parents or on your report. There needs to be a level of trust between team members.
- Time is needed for sharing: there needs to be a time when people in the team can just sit and share concerns and data. So many times, during the day I think that I have to catch a teacher and share valuable information about a student. Things that cannot be just written on a document because let’s be brutally honest, we don’t all make time to sit and review and read each other’s data. We just have to trust that our colleague has provided accurate feedback. There needs to be time set aside for continual discussion and timely feedback about students.
I have been doing workshops in different levels for a few years now. I started experimenting with a senior grade and have spent the last few years developing with a team in juniors. So what have I learnt? Stopping and reflecting is still one of the most powerful tools in an educator’s toolbox. If I am being honest, I still love so many elements of them but there is still a long way to go. I don’t think that anyone will ever get the perfect workshop system. There are some great systems that I have seem but I can still see pitfalls in many of them. So what are the current barriers that I experience in workshops.
Annette Palma and Carley Rogozik/ Dawson