Welcome to ‘The SQ’ where I talk about the state of education from multiple angles. Here I compare mainstream, reform and radical approaches in education and also consider contextual socio-political factors that impact learning environments, both locally and globally. This week I’m talking TALK IN THE CLASSROOM!
Do teacher’s talk too much? The research suggests so. In this post I will be looking at some practical approaches to decreasing Teacher Talk Time and increasing Student Talk Time. Find out what Teacher Talk Time and Student Talk time are here.
We’ll start at smartclassroommanagement.com. A well-known and popular teacher support website run by Michael Linsin. You can find a link to his article about decreasing TTT here. (https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2011/04/16/improve-classroom-management-by-talking-less)
To summarise, Linsin explains that while it can be tempting – and feel necessary - to narrate and dictate every expectation of your student’s day, the reality is that the sound of your constant, unrelenting nattering might well become like a radio on in the background – a slightly inconvenient audio disturbance that your students can simply tune out.
Linsin advocates rethinking – no let’s say “remarketing” - your TTT kind of like how De Beers remarketed diamonds back in the day, so that everyone started believing they were suuuuuper valuable. Talk less, says, Linsin, and what you say will seem more important.
His tips on how to do this all rest on two very conventional cornerstones of schooling – teacher authority and teacher control. He advocates strongly that what teachers need most in their classroom is a watertight plan for every conceivable moment. If students know exactly what is expected of them at any given moment, the teacher is less likely to have to remind them every second moment of their expectations. If students are taught to see their teachers voice as something rare and valuable (like a diamond) they’ll pay attention to it.
But is this kind of rigid, inflexible approach to classroom management really the only way to decrease TTT? And just because you are talking less, is your student’s talk getting richer and is their learning experience deepening?
Approaches to getting students to talk more are a signature part of educational reform. Many of these strategies are based around principals of respecting children’s agencies and capabilities and trusting them to take a more active part in their learning. But these approaches still exist on a spectrum, with very conservative efforts on the one end and radical efforts on the other.
For example, it is undoubtedly a common practice in most mainstream classrooms to give children turns to speak. To answer and ask questions, demonstrate their knowledge or share stories with their class. All of this ‘counts’ as Student Talk Time but how much does it really contribute to student’s enrichment and development? I use strategies like this all the time in my class room, with hugely varying success. Read a snapshot here!
Further along the spectrum, you start seeing approaches that encourage students to talk to each other, rather than just to the teacher/ whole class. A well-known one is called “Think Pair Share.” A problem/ question is presented or arises naturally, children are asked to think about it in private, then share their thoughts with a partner and finally present their findings to the class. This kind of tactic gets more children engaged at once and helps to diffuse the teacher-as-total-authority atmosphere that can easily clog up the air in a TTT-heavy class. The website Teacher Vision has a well-explained article about the Think Pair Share strategy here. Collaborative learning strategies like this represent an important shift away from the ‘student as empty receptacle’ trope, which has been a mainstay of traditional Education for so long.
However, even more radical approaches exist and are gaining traction as research increasingly shows ‘student-led’ or ‘self-directed’ learning may well be the most powerful approach to education that there is. As the terms suggest, student-led or self-directed learning flies in the face of traditional hierarchical education models. The teacher is not seen as an overarching all-knowing authority and their role shifts to one of co-learner, facilitator or simply observer. The learner’s role also shifts to one that is inherently more respected, trusted and responsible.
Student-led and self-directed learning are big, BIG topics all on their own - and probably a thousand little subtopics too. I am planning to dig a whole lot deeper into these approaches in the coming weeks. But while we're still talking TALK, head over to The Visionary where I will look at 5 radical student-led approaches to increasing student talk in schools.
Thanks for reading!
You know a topic is picking up heat in academia when it is given an acronym. Nobody got time to say the whole damn moniker each and every time it comes up! TTT and STT stand for Teacher Talk Time and Student Talk Time respectively. Research into how they each occupy the classroom is a big topic in educational research.
One of the most crucial, now widely-recognised findings is that TTT tends to hugely outcompete STT in traditional schooling models. This can be easily traced to the conception of education whereby a knowledgeable source (the teacher) transmits information to a less knowledgeable or possibly even ‘empty’ receptacle (the student). Now this conception sounds pretty bad – and it really can be – but it is also very, very prevalent. For example, even though it is definitely not the only model I make use of in my day-to-day teaching, I can’t deny that it comes up. Because there are times when I transmit new knowledge to my students and simply hope that they absorb it. TTT.
Buuuuut ‘simply hoping they absorb it’ is a catch. I can’t pin my teaching prowess on that kind of hope – I am accountable, largely, for what my students absorb during their time with me. And even though this sounds like serious pressure (which it is) there are ways to deal with it that don’t just fall back on more TTT.
In fact, another really important finding in TTT / STT research is that – surprise, surprise – increased STT is actually the talk time that really impacts student learning. Well who’dathunk?
In my next SQ post I’ll be comparing some practical approaches to decreasing TTT and increasing STT. More specifically I am going to compare traditional and mainstream approaches (which are still predicated on a hierarchical view of teacher vs students, teacher having total authority, children being subordinate) with more radical, alternative and anti-establishment approaches that recognise children’s agency and the huge need for educational reform – and even overhaul.
Go to The Snapshot. Go to the SQ. Go to Start.
A daunted but determined teacher irons out the fabric of her brain.