Even before the learning begins, they draw smiley or frown faces on a post-it note to indicate their feelings at the start of the day.
“If there is emotional wellbeing, learning will follow,” Nicole said. “The faces allow me to those who need extra care to settle down.”
Her classroom includes a “Concerns Box” where students can post questions about anything they haven’t understood or share any other issues.
“Emotional feedback is most important, not just the content we are teaching.
“We need to know how our students are finding the lesson, and whether they had a problem at lunch time, for example. All these things affect what they will produce and how they learn.”
Throughout the day, she will ask students to show “thumbs up” if they have understood a concept, or give a “not sure” hand wiggle if not. Traffic lights and coloured cup symbols are also used to quickly sort those who need further explanation in a small group session from those who are ready for further academic challenges.
At the end of each day, Nicole settles her class and asks them what they most enjoyed learning, an activity which reinforces their learning and their positive feelings about school.
At a recent Professional Development session with all IGS teaching staff, IGS Director of Teacher Effectiveness Lisa Kelliher shared research indicating that the most effective teaching was interactive and relational, rather than the simple one-way transmission of information, even if the teacher was passionate and well-informed about their subject.
Students needed to know that they were respected and that their individual concerns and interests mattered to their teacher, Lisa said.
Among the resources she shared a list of ways of engaging the student voice to enhance teaching effectiveness, compiled by staff in Pakuranga College in New Zealand.
Pakuranga students were asked what their best teachers did to help motivate them, support them, build confidence in their learning and seek their feedback.
Students were also asked to comment on what created the most effective learning environment, the level of care shown for them by their teachers, and how their cultural background was made relevant.
“At IGS, we have a particularly special school culture,” Lisa said. “How students feel about their school also matters.”