In general human beings tend to revert to what they know because that is the easiest way forward. Nowhere is this truer than in the field of education – teachers like holding on to what they feel works best in a classroom, based on years of teaching experience. To get teachers to change their point of view and what they feel is proven is not an easy process, but it can be done within an entire staff through the use of planners. I’ll use my experience at the Netherlands Inter-community School (NIS) and the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) as an example. Our dual-stream staff (Dutch/English) included a mix of teachers – Dutch, American, British, Australian, Canadian, Indonesian, etc. We all came with various teaching backgrounds and experiences, some of us had worked with the IPC and some of us hadn’t. The IPC is an excellent curriculum; however, it lacks both language and math curriculums. A school is free to choose curriculums, and teachers are expected to try to integrate those two subjects into all other areas of the IPC. Given our varying backgrounds some teachers were open to giving this integration a shot while others felt that they didn’t teach that way back home, so why should they need to change their approach? Math and English/Dutch had always been taught solely as separate subjects, and students did just fine. Others were neutral on the subject, but couldn’t be bothered to try to make connections between Math and English/Dutch and other subject areas as no tools were provided, and they weren’t going to put in the time and effort required to develop any. And yet another group was just confused on about what it even meant to link the subjects together. So, apart from a few teachers, staff went about teaching the way they had always done, until the new planners came into play and forced a cohesive change.
In the above snapshot of a unit planner, mainstream English teachers started out by filling in IPC subject descriptors, in this case History, and from there listed specific milepost learning goals associated with that subject. The next two columns were crucial, as teachers were tasked with looking through both their Cambridge Math and English curriculums to see if any links could be made. Those two columns were the key in changing the mindset of staff. When this unit planner was first introduced, it was met with a mixed reaction – a few got it right away, some grumbled about extra work, some couldn’t see the point in it or how it would help them in their teaching. That being said, teachers weren’t given the option of not completing the planners, and slowly, after a few months more teachers began to see the light – “Oh now I see how to integrate Math and English/Dutch with other subjects!” “That is what the IPC was referring to.” Others never made the connection; however, the way they planned their units and in turn their lessons changed as they unknowingly began shifting their thought process, until the new way of planning just became second nature. I would say that in about April of that school year, everyone was on board and moving in a cohesive direction. Links were being made between English/Dutch, Math, and other subjects as much as possible, and leftover outcomes that didn’t logically connect were taught during Math and English/Dutch blocks.
The concept of using planners to shift mindset is a simple one – repetition of a new way of thinking. The more you practice this new way of thinking, the more it becomes second nature. Teachers are not easily convinced of change, but when given the proper planning tools, they shift their mindset. And when they do, the impact on the school and the students is incredible to watch!
Passionate educator and resource creator! Owner of Education by Shala Books.