Simple advice to make teaching easier –
slowing the pace of work
in an age of distraction
3rd June 1980
Allan Alach and Bruce Hammonds
This week has an introduction by Bruce
I was asked the other day what would the one thing I would suggest to make a real difference in teaching and learning.
It wasn’t hard to answer ‘slow the pace of student’s work’.
It might seem strange advice in this age of speed and continual distraction. We now live in a ‘attention deficit ‘society where all too often things happen so fast that we miss many important things.
In classrooms students seem to believe that ‘first finished is best’ but all too often this is counterproductive to in depth learning /understanding. As a result of this attitude (all too often encouraged by teachers) the classroom can become a hectic environment and many students get left behind in the rush. One old rural adviser once told me about ‘three quarter page students’ – students who hardly ever complete any task.
Over the years I have written a number of blogs about this issue suggesting a number of ways to develop a more reflective and less hectic approach to learning and I have added links to a number of them.
It is important to encourage students to do fewer things well; to take their time to improve on their previous ‘personal best’.
‘Kaizen ‘- the Japanese word for continual improvement
I’m not sure if students complete much book work these days with the introduction of word processing but if they do then students should be encouraged to show continual improvement – in handwriting, layout and design, quality of illustration. One book that shows this continual improvement are handwriting books, particularly for the ‘new entrants’ because it is easy to see visual improvement. Guess that might sound somewhat ‘old fashioned’? The same improvement needs to be seen in any portfolio of work at and level.
Paying attention to attention
Slowing the pace of work is all about ‘paying attention to attention’. Drawing is one easy area to develop visual awareness but unfortunately the innate interest in drawing is replaced at school by a focus on writing. Observational drawing is one way to encourage awareness and it
’s something all students can do (once teachers get rid of the
’ attitude that many students have pickedup). The strategy is simple. Encourage students to look draw/look draw. Until they have finished. All too often students look once and then rely on memory. And to break down the
’ attitude value the difference in style of all students
– avoid saying that some student has done the best job!
From in-depth observations (through drawing) students will develop both poetic thoughts to be written and scientific questions to be researched and later be the basis of imaginative art.
‘Slowing the pace of work’ emphasizes both process and product.
|Students all have their own style
Getting back to the question I was asked, when students can see their improvement, are surprised by the quality of their achievement, then they feel better about themselves and become better learners. And the class environment becomes less hectic.
Slowing the pace of work also allows the teacher time to come alongside learners to help if
I have included blogs which introduce other writers who encourage this more reflective approach to learning.
Guy Claxton talks about the ‘tortoise and the hare’; others talk about the ‘Haiku Curriculum – simple and deep’. Others (Carl Honore) compare slow learning to slow eating to the fast food outlets
Doing fewer things well in depth is worth the effort making teaching and learning a more reflective act. As Mae West the silent screen actress once said ‘anything worth doing is worth doing well’.
Readings providing practical assistance to develop quality learning.
Quality learning through paying attention to attention
Outlines a range of practical ideas about how to slow the pace of work.
Arts Teach Deep Noticing Arts Teach Deep Noticing
‘Exposure to the arts teaches observation, or deep noticing. There is a difference, as you know, between looking and looking closely. When students are asked to draw something, they must look closely to accurately observe the lines and shapes of the object they are trying to portray. Students learn to see tiny differences and to record them. Doesn’t this sound like what a scientist does?’
50+ Drawing Ideas to Spark the Creativity of Kids of All Ages
‘There are many benefits for kids as they begin to draw. One advantage is building fine motor
skills; learning how to hold a pencil helps a child develop specialized movements with their hands, fingers, and wrists. In addition, drawing improves hand-eye coordination that demonstrates to a kid that what they see has a connection to what they do. Hand-eye coordination is important in many aspects of life, including playing sports.’
Observation as a basic skill
‘Learning to observe through drawing is a great way to start. This blog provides a simple strategy – look /draw/look.’
Observation and learning styles
‘Observational art is now established as a common practice in many schools but, all too often, it is seen as an isolated task and not the beginning of the creative process. This is a shame because, if it is not extended, it may be a limiting process emphasizing realism over imagination. The first thing for teachers to remember is that all students have their own ‘style’ of drawing and if this is recognised then all drawing will reflect the personal style of the young artists.’
Back to the future – Lessons from an old master
‘Teaching observation is important. I believe we look at so much and see so little. Hence my belief that if we slow down our pace and allow ourselves the gift of observation. ‘Without the input of looking ..no future artistic or intellectual output is possible.’ ‘But drawings must go further than factual information, they are also able to convey feelings, impressions, and emotion. People who look harder, see more and understand more.’ ‘Drawing is a way of asking questions and drawing answers.’
More from the ‘old master’.
Looking back to the past – or ideas for the future?
‘Last week I was at a meeting attended by Andrew Little Minister of Justice in the Labour Coalition Government. During our conversation it arose that I had taught Andrew’s secretary in the mid-70s! I said I would find a photo for him to pass on to her. I remembered that there was a photo of his secretary in an article I had contributed to an NZEI Forwards to Basics book edited by Jack Shallcrass in 1978. Note the young lady is now Jacinda Ardern’s secretary.’
More Zen – less zest! Ideas from Guy Claxton
‘While everyone else is rushing around introducing rational thinking skills Guy Claxton is
pushing the ‘slower’ idea of developing intuition, hence the title of his book ‘Hare Brain Tortoise Mind – how to increase your intelligence by thinking less’. Claxton is about valuing patience and confusion which he believes are the precursors of real wisdom rather than the current emphasis on rigor and certainty’
Slow Learning – by Professor Maurice Holt
‘In 2002 British academic Maurice Holt, Professor Emeritus of Education University of Colorado, called for a worldwide ‘slow schools’ movement. in the last decades schools have been forced to rush through a technocratic ‘fast food’ curriculum with endless superficial learning objectives. There is now no time for in depth learning; the curriculum has become a ‘mile wide and an inch deep.’
Slow food Movement – we need ‘slow learning movement’.
‘We need an educational equivalent of the ‘slow food movement’ so as to value the richness and relevance of any learning experience. Students need to appreciate that the act of learning is at the very heart of their identity and a high quality life and as such should not be rushed. The standardized ‘fast education’, as exemplified by the curriculum statements of the past decades, has resulted in a loss of appetite for real learning’
Slow learning needed for fast times!
‘Dean Fink and Andy Hargreaves, in their 2006 book ‘Sustainable Leadership’ introduce the important idea of ‘slow learning’. They draw on the ideas in psychologist Guy Claxton’s books ‘Hare Brain Tortoise Mind’; and ‘Wise Up’. Claxton is concerned with developing students ‘learning power.’