The teaching standard “Know your students and how they learn” has 6 areas of focus but can generally be broken up into two aspects, knowledge of your students and understanding how students learn.
Know your students
The focus here is really on the students in your classroom. How well do you know them? Are you familiar with their areas of interest, prior knowledge and skills? Do you know their cultural background and how this influences how they learn? Can you cater to their needs, whether this be intellectual, physical, social, emotional or spiritual?
Knowing the students in your classroom does not come quickly, but it is our job as teachers to gather as much information as we can before we begin and then build on this with speed and intent as the year progresses.
Some simple ways to gather information before the first lesson is to speak with the student’s teacher from the year before. Find out what they can already tell you. Your school probably also has data collected for this student, whether this be NAPLAN results, entrance examinations or simply the data gathered at enrollment, such as parents names and cultural background. I often find that even just learning their names and how to pronounce them correctly can make a huge difference for the first day to help develop rapport and then build upon this.
Once you are in the classroom you can quickly build on your knowledge through student surveys, or more personally through short interviews. I often make a video introducing myself to my class and ask the students to then make a video that introduces themselves in return. This provides me great insight into their character as well as their interests, family background and general desires for their future.
Keeping a simple class profile can be very helpful here, especially if you include photos of the students in the table to help you remember names and faces.
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Know how they learn
One of the things I find astounding about many teachers I meet is the number that cannot tell me their theory of how students learn. So often they can tell me what their students are interested in or cultural background, but don’t know any of the current theories of learning. For me this is a huge loss for both the teachers and students
Amazingly, theories of learning are vast and varied, but recently there has been a lot of research into how knowledge is constructed and seems to combine aspects from many of the leading theories throughout history.
As a teacher I believe that it is vitally important for us to constantly be learning. We should be doing as much learning about our profession as possible. We should be reading books, journal articles or even blogs that help us to deepen our understanding of teaching and learning so that we can continually improve our craft.
What was the last book you read about education or the last professional learning that you participated in (not just attended or sat in the back of)? If it has been a while, I encourage you to attend some of the new PD, or join our online community to do some online at your pace. At the very least grab a book. I highly recommend Hattie and Yates Visible Learning and the Science of how we Learn.