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Creating Transparency in the Classroom, Especially with Older Students

Many educators feel that classroom teachers should freely navigate the learning process uninterrupted; they want the freedom to utilize their creative strategies until they hit home. Others consider transparent teaching intrusive and feel it merely exposes them to criticism. Some even think the idea squeezes the joy out of natural teaching.

You aren't alone if you feel the same—many teachers felt that way. Elina Salminen, a seasoned educator, admits she once harbored such feelings. We'd like to introduce what made them change their minds. Moreover, it's thrilling to discover the secrets of transparency with learners in class.

Here are a few tested ideas.

Discuss Skill Acquisition Before the Lesson

After years of teaching, Ms. Elina Salminen offers some ideas to kickstart a class's transparency engagement. She reveals what she considers the most successful strategy—talk explicitly with your students about skill acquisition and skills.

The teacher noticed many older students tend to ask valid questions about what they get from a typical lesson. She soon found a way around this: She discussed specific transferrable skills the students were learning; she did so before and after the teaching session. The results were fantastic—the students performed significantly better on their assignments. Why? They knew precisely why they were taking these assignments!

Further, since the students appreciated the work, they went the extra mile and did more. After the assigned tasks, they reflected positively on the new skills; they talked animatedly about applying what they learned in the future. It worked beyond Ms. Salminen's expectations, so she recommends using this strategy.

Guide Your Class to Master Transferrable Skills

Here are some critical transferrable skills you can use (depending on your subject and teaching objectives):

  • Analytical skills: Guide the class to work with raw data, build hypotheses and draw conclusions.
  • Critical thinking: Explore specific problem-solving strategies with your students. Guide them to evaluate the evidence and interrogate whether this supports the conclusion you draw together. Introduce and focus on specific questions, pertinent evidence, and answers to the questions.
  • Flexible and creative thinking: Guide the students to engage with a new field while tolerating uncertainty.

Adopt the Model Excellence Strategy

Give your students concrete, detailed illustrations of high-level work. Those who teach lessons packed with images or text passages might find this strategy particularly practical. 

If you discover that your students seem unfamiliar with image analysis, try to practice with them in class. You can walk the students through what some describe as "A+" answers, then prompt the students with specific questions.

Next, ask your students permission to read aloud a few excellent responses to the entire class. You might discover that this strategy works well in collaboration with "softer" skills, like listening and paying attention. Undoubtedly, such skills are crucial in any classroom setting.

Provide Low-Stakes Assignments, Complete with Feedback

Have your students write what's known as "process papers." They can write these piece by piece. At each point, give the students feedback. Next, grade the drafts as "handed in" or "not handed in."

This will fire up the students' enthusiasm, ensuring they deliver their assignments. Likely, many will feel they can try out new things, and you'll notice a marked improvement in their work over time.

Adopt a Digitized Learning Management System

Jody Passanisi and Shara Peters, two teachers who handle 6th to 8th-grade classes at a Los Angeles independent school, have another idea to share. They suggest adopting a specifically-tailored online learning management system. With these excellent tools, you make the course materials available to all students; ensure they can access these online

The system allows tutors to grade and return student work with comments. Remarkably, you won't leave a trail of physical paper anywhere! The educators advise teachers to let their students revise assignments and resubmit. Soon, the students will be thrilled to discover they can track their work at the click of a button.

The digitized learning space allows teachers to extend their content far beyond the classroom walls; it radically transforms the closed-door classroom into an open interactive session. Can you imagine a better way to collaborate with older learners? Undoubtedly, the digitized learning system effectively eliminates the embarrassment of publicly displaying a failing student's low grades.

The Take-Away

Adopt a practical transparent teaching method; help your students internalize how and why they're learning specific course content in a particular way. Try these tips for a change that accommodates your older students.

Written by John O. Ndar
Education World Contributor
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