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  • robertm131

2/5 Excellence by communication: Three point communication and fear of failure

How can I improve communication in my classroom? I don’t mean explanation or modelling as such, or questioning per se or even feedback. It’s more those one-to-one or one-to-a-pair conversations I have with students which, by their very nature, raise the learning and understanding stakes. Now there is nowhere left to hide because I’m talking to Anna and Asif directly and unequivocally and much could go wrong.

Fear of failure. I’m sure this is a hindrance to learning, in terms of the nature, scale or complexity of that potential failure. Is it a greater barrier to understanding in certain subjects eg maths or modern foreign languages which, by their nature, deal in precisely coded ‘right’ answers? I raise this issue in my new book, From Able to Remarkable: Help Your Students Become Expert Learners (Crown House Publishing, 2019)

I was reminded of this by intriguing references in Oliver Caviglioli’s recent book Dual Coding with Teachers (John Catt Educational, 2019) to three point communication (pp41, 54, 70). Building on the work of Michael Grinder, Eric Lunzer and others, Caviglioli posits the value of adding a third point to the two faces of Anna and myself: a visual on the desk to which we both can refer, literally saving face and adding a balancing pole of objectivity to the highwire explanatory learning being undertaken.

Setting a diagram as the focus of our conversation can be modelled and then itself stretched and challenged as a task with the addition of texts: evidence suggests that placing text and image together deepens learning and allows greater use of inference, a concept vital in so many subjects (Caviliogli, p38). The trade-off is potentially that of cognitive overload, so this would need to be monitored and retrieval tested, but it seems to me to be a learning ambition well worth striving towards.

EBI? Even better if our conversation then encourages Anna to pick up her pencil and rough out her own response to the problem with an event sequence or Venn Diagram of her own. A multiplier effect kicks in if she can model this process to Asif, taking steps towards becoming what I term in my book an Expert Learner by leading and supporting others. Asif’s fear of failure with Anna may not be less in intensity than with me but it will be of a different order, and the learning/sketching conversation they share may be equally or even more effective than anything I could offer. More power to their pencils.

1/5 Excellence by design

3/5 Excellence by definition

4/5 Excellence by collaboration

5/5 Excellence by aspiration

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