Students and PEEL: What do they say 10 years later?
This article is an example of teaching procedures

Students and PEEL: What do they say 10 years later?

Issue 80, page 19
November 2005
Ian Mitchell

On the second day of the conference we invited six students who had been in PEEL classes to see what impact PEEL had on them. Ian Mitchell asked the students for their recollections. The session was videotaped and much of this article is an edited transcript of what they had to say. Two of the students were involved in the early days of PEEL at Laverton High School. The other four were in Jill Flack s classes in the 1990s.





Christie
(Christie is now in her 3rd year of a primary teaching course, she was in Jill Flack s class in grade 5 in 1994)

(Ian) Were things different in that class (Jill s) and how were they different?
(Christie) .... lots of things stand out, things like concept maps, Venn Diagrams, pictograms .. they were very, very different. I never actually carried on with these tasks. I did myself, but no other teachers implemented them.
(Ian) You continued to make use of these techniques even though the teacher hadn t said?
(Christie) I did in V.C.E. .. a lot with exams and things. I used concept maps to figure out things. In Year 11 they seemed so normal to me, no-one else had ever heard of them. I did one and the teacher said What s that Christie It s a concept map. Oh yeah, show the class   It s a good way of getting my thoughts in order. I like that sort of learning setting ...... a different skill I picked up.
(Ian) Can you think of other things you learned in that class?
(Christie) ..  different because we had to think for ourselves a lot. We were always being told look around the room first don t come and ask me, figure things out for yourself. Now on my rounds I go into classes where the students say What are we doing next, I ve finished this, what do I do now? I was always looking for things for myself. ... Taking responsibility for yourself as a learner.
(Ian) did you continue with this .... taking responsibility?
(Christie) At times .. it s easy to slip back .... to conform with what everyone else was doing. There would be times when I thought I don t agree with this I prefer to learn my own way. It was definitely in the back of my mind.
(Ian) did you notice the difference in subsequent years?
(Christie) Oh definitely. In grade 6 we always used to question things - why are we doing this? It was something built into us in Grade 5. The (Grade 6) teacher thought we were being smart but we weren t we were looking for a purpose I suppose. It was definitely different - lots of group work. In Grade 6 it was back to desks and rows.
(Ian) Did you continue to think like this?
(Christie) At times but not so much
(Ian) Now you are in teacher education ....Do you think back to Grade 5?
(Christie) Yes all the time. I find lots of similarities with Grade 5 - the learner s taking responsibility for their learning. Not just filling them up with knowledge ... regurgitating information like in Year 11 and 12. Group work, scenarios, discussion, questioning - which we always did. Having a purpose for going to school rather than just writing notes on the board.

Natalie
(Natalie was in the same Grade 5 class as Christie)

(Ian) What were your thoughts?
(Natalie) We always had a lot of fun in the class .. .having independence with the learning activities .. follow things through without always going back to the teacher - work things out for ourselves.
(Ian) How was it different in Grade 6?
(Natalie) We didn t have class discussions or freedom for our own initiative to learn? It was just boring, pointless really.
(Ian) You said you never did homework in Grade 5
(Natalie) It didn t really feel like homework because it was always made to be interactive, a discussion about things
(Jill) they did so much homework at home ..  they brought so much back
(Ian) it wasn t painful!

Ashley
(Ashley was in Jill s class in Grade 3 and 4 in 1997 and 1998. She is now in year 10.)

(Ian) You talked to a lot of other kids about Grade 3 - what do you remember?
(Ashley) Most obvious thing - metacognition I loved that word, it made me sound so smart. I m not the only one who remembers that. It s thinking about thinking - I learned that in Grade 2....... Venn Diagrams we used them a lot, concept maps, mind maps. It s amazing, I don t know why I remember it all.
(Ian) Have you made use of this?
(Ashley) I still use a lot of what I did in Grade 3. I use mind maps all the time because once you get to high school the work gets harder and you get to a question and get stuck and you go what do I do from here and I remember back to the mind map and say I can stay stuck or ask for help or use my initiative and find things out for myself. I ve taught a lot of others to use mind maps as I m sick of people saying what do I do now. I ve actually used Venn diagrams a fair bit.
(Ian) You made a comment about the content of what you were learning in Grade 3 compared with what you learned in year 7.
(Ashley) It was interesting what we did in Grade 3. Once you get to high school everything is out of a textbook. In Grade 3 our program was so different to all the other classes. It was interesting it was fun to learn.

Dermot
(Dermot was in the same class as Ashley)

(Ian) What do you recall - did this make a permanent change to your learning .... getting stuck or unstuck?
(Dermot) It really had an influence on me. I don t really use it now, as such, but I still use it in principle ....  I know if I get stuck I ask a question or make a link to try and get unstuck.
(Ian) In other classes do you feel more independent because of that?
(Dermot) Yeah I do actually, I feel a lot more independent in most of my classes ........
(Ian) What other things do you recall as being different in your class?
(Dermot) We learnt how to learn better, it wasn t what we were learning but how we were learning it. In the other classes it was pretty much they taught you what you needed to know to go on to the next level of schooling but in Jill s class it was teaching you how to think and learn so you would be successful later on in school.
(Ian) And do you think you have been more successful because of that?
(Dermot) Yeah I do, it s made a real difference to me. I think I ve been more successful .
(Ian) One very important difference is you get unstuck, any other important differences?
(Dermot) One thing I use often is concept maps. I use them mainly to revise for a test or organise ideas on topics for an essay .... it s all spread out and easy to understand and I can see it better. I can see this goes with this and link it up and I understand how to present my point of view in an essay.
(Ian) Anything else you use?
(Dermot) Another thing I use is linking .....  with maths there are several different techniques to do the one thing, because I ve had different teachers, they ve taught me in different ways. I like to link them up and find out how they work so I can understand often the best way to do it. When you link them up you can see how they work not just that they do work.
(Ian) Is this something you do for yourself?
(Dermot) Yeah I do it for myself
(Ian) The teachers are not prompting you to do it. Do they know you are doing it
(Dermot) Probably not!
(Ian) Did you feel different, this is about interpersonal things in a class, in Jill s class how you feel as a person
(Dermot) The class was a whole lot closer than other classes, everyone was working in one big team, because it was so enjoyable and everyone was friends with each other. Whereas classes now in high school you get the groups who just stick to themselves .... Jill was more a friend than a teacher in the class. In other classes the teacher was the boss and you had to do whatever they said whereas Jill, she treated you as a person and a friend.
(Ashley) We sort of didn t realise because we were only in Grade 3 she respected us and our opinion and what we had to say. In some classes you can sit there for five minutes with your hand up and your teacher might not even notice but if you had something to say in Jill s class it would get taken into account and probably put up on the board and put up around the room so you could look at it later.

Maria

Maria was in the very start of PEEL in 1984 at Laverton High School when she was in year 7 and taught by Judie Mitchell. She then had PEEL teachers for three more years.

(Ian) What have you thought about PEEL making a difference?
(Maria) The first thing I recall is questions, we got to ask questions. I remember Science we had to ask questions and think about things differently .... What if we did this, what would happen?
(Ian) You saw this a striking feature of the classes at the time.
(Maria) I felt there was a lot of communication between the teachers and the students. A lot of energy and enthusiasm. I remember them shaking my hand  and saying great work. Even today I m always asking questions and I ll be in a meeting and making connections between different things. Could we do this and why can t we do that? I m always asking questions and I find a lot of people don t.
(Ian) Would you have had this trait anyway?
(Maria) No I think I am still very shy, I think that when it comes to asking questions I ve learnt not to be scared and thinking about what I don t understand ....  not just asking any questions.

Rachel

Rachel was in year 9 in 1984 she had PEEL teachers in the first two years of the project. She is now a primary school teacher and Assistant Principal

(Ian) What things came back to you?
(Rachel) .....  I m not sure whether I am a product of PEEL or PEEL suited me as a learner.
We had our PEEL teachers and we had our non PEEL teachers and the non PEEL teachers would walk into a 50 minute lesson saying this is what we have to cover. We got to a Parent - Teacher interview and were told that Rachel needs to ask more questions. Well that s interesting this was a class where we are not allowed to ask questions.
(Ian) Was your teaching any different as a result of 85, 86
(Rachel) I m still grappling with that ... in our teacher ed we visited schools once a week and were told to keep a journal. We weren t given any assessment criteria and that s something I was used to in school understanding why were doing a piece of work and why we were being assessed. We also had input into our assessment.
I handed in my journal and I go summoned into my lecturer s office. She said I would like to know where you learned to write like this. Why? All of my students have submitted a recount, however yours is a reflective piece of writing. You re questioning yourself, you posed yourself a question that you are going to seek out next week when you go back to that class. Why did you do that when all I have asked you to do is keep a journal. I said what is the point of doing a recount if I don t know why I am doing it or where the learning experience needs to take me. She said, have you heard of PEEL? She realised that what I was doing was not like the other 38 people in the lecture theatre so I obviously carried on through tertiary.

Comments

What the students had to say speaks for itself.  Things such as making links, asking questions, reflection, using tools such as concept maps and Venn diagrams had continued with several of them, despite their later teachers often being unaware of these tools.
The theme of independence comes through time and time again -  figure things out for yourself. Get unstuck, ask a question, make a link, take responsibility for yourself as a learner.
Ask questions all the time - Christie s Grade 6 teacher though she was being smart - but she was questioning for a purpose. Maria has carried on her question asking, learnt 20 years ago, into her life.
The theme of learning being fun comes through. Natalie felt that she never did any homework in Grade 5. Homework was supposed to be painful and what she did wasn t like this.
Even a term like metacognition was recalled by students with understanding. Students were still using mind maps years after being introduced to them in a PEEL class and using them to help their understanding. Dermot refers to how he linked up different problem solving strategies in Maths to improve his understanding. Rachel refers to her reflective journal - something that came out of her exposure to PEEL.
The interpersonal factors are also clearly important - the class worked as a team, students opinions were respected and made use of. The teachers were energetic and enthusiastic, there was good communication between students and teachers.
Overall what comes through from the conference session is how being exposed to PEEL teachers has had a long term impact on these six students.

 

 



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