Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Another Gem of an Idea

I can remember being told on Teacher Training over 20 years ago about the amazing idea of sitting bright pupils next to dim ones so that the clever ones could help the unclever ones. (I think they were probably described as 'less highly achieving children' or whatever the fashionable term was back then.)

I can also remember foolishly suggesting that we could take it one stage further; pair off the pupils into bright and thick, then just go home and leave them to it.

Although my comment raised a few hastily smothered giggles, the bearded blatherer delivering the lecture was not amused. We must embrace new techniques and look to more modern methods blah...

I eventually nodded off, as I did in virtually every PGCE lecture and thought no more about it until last week when a friend told me that he had been in a 'Best Practice Session' (Note: Chalk's 9th Law states that the importance of something is always inversely proportional to how important its title makes it sound). He had been forced to sit for half an hour listening to some imbecile expound the virtues of this exact same idea.

Can you imagine how delighted you would be as a parent; to find out that your child was doing their teacher's job rather than pushing ahead and learning more for themselves? I would go absolutely mad and immediately storm into school ranting, raving and waving my arms about like a loon.

This is a classic case of an idea which appeals to those who believe that as long as every child gets a 'C' then that's ok. It also conveniently lets the teacher off the difficult task of stretching the bright kids.


Anonymous said...

I had that issue with my daughter, in primary. Whe ws sat next to a very disruptive pupil with loads of letters behind his name (dys, ADHD, that sort). After a short time, she frequently complained that this boy wouldn't leave her in peace and would always try and distract her and even scribble all over her work. I wnet into school and told them in no uncertain terms that my daughter's role in the classroom was that of a pupil, not of an unpaid nanny. And I insisted that she no longr sat with this boy. Worked a treat.

Infoholic UK said...

What's even worse is, they allow them to mark each other's work. Which results in the more able of the pair getting lower marks than they should, 'cos the dumb kid marks correct answers as wrong !

Anonymous said...

The method does work, PROVIDED neither child has behavioural problems. Having to explain something to someone else is by far the best way of clarifying one's thinking and fixing it into memory. Like most methods, it's disastrous if abused, but it's what got me A grades for double maths A level 30 years ago and I'm damn grateful for it.

George H said...

Anon 11.09 I think that a pupil will improve a lot more if they are answering challenging questions from a textbook (which after all, have been carefully designed for that purpose) rather than listening to "I don't geddit!" repeated ten times from the less able child that has been sat next to them.

Lilyofthefield said...

Pity the poor kid who was seated next to me in Maths then. I was crap and wouldn't have known if my neighbour's answer was right or wrong or how she arrived at such an answer, much less explain it to her.

My friend rang me last week and asked me to have a look at her son's short story. His GCSE English teacher said it could be peer-assessed in class but she actually wanted it to be assessed by the person qualified and paid to assess it.

cartermagna said...

"Chalk's 9th Law states that the importance of something is always inversely proportional to how important its title makes it sound"

What, like Chalk's 9th Law? ;o)

I was sat next to a kid who was crap at maths by my teacher. I feel bad about it now but I resented not being able to sit next to my friend and having a numpty foisted upon me.

He failed but I maintain it was not my fault. He'd of failed even if I had given a damn and tried to help him.

Anonymous said...

Cartermagna: "He'd of failed..."

Subtle irony?

Anonymous said...

It does work but only when it is mutually beneficial. I had a mate who was struggling at A Level physics so we sat together; when the teacher would talk "over his head", I would break it down into simple terms and coach him through to the results. We both learned in the end; myself by breaking it down and him by working it through.

It also highlights that a very clever physics teacher had absolutely no idea how to teach. Even the kid who sat in front of me (who now has a PhD) would sometimes get lost with this guy.

cartermagna said...

I only said I was good at maths Mr Anonymous, not English. However I'll note that, I always get that expression wrong but in my defence we do say "He'd of [insert adjective here]" down in deepest darkest Somerset.

In fact now I come to write it down the term is actually pronounced heeduv so yes, it breaks down to he would have failed.

Much like I have here.

phatboy said...

We seemed to have something like this at my school, but the teachers often, incorrectly, assumed that I was better at stuff than the other kids. This was unforuntate as I was not good and many things, especially maths and French although neither teacher would believe me.