Updated: Jan 10
One of the hardest questions to answer as a teacher, let alone a professional learning community (or PLC) is: What do we do if they don't get? I have personally hit the proverbial strategy wall more times than I care to recall with PLCs I've participated in and also coached. It's a frustrating question because as teachers we wish we knew the answer before we even needed the question.
And, let's not forget to mention the gnawing, pesky little fact that many of us already TRIED what we knew to try the first go-round of teaching the skill reflected in the data. We already reached into our tool box to find the best tools, and now...after trying what we knew to try...we're asking ourselves, "What else can we do?" And we honestly feel a bit lost.
In workshops, I often to turn to the research of John Hattie and his Visible Learning work to guide my pursuit of answers to questions. Hattie's Visible Learning research tells us what works best regarding learning acceleration and achievement. When we look closely at this metanalysis, the answers reveal themselves.
Culled from Visible Learning for Literacy research, I have created several free OnDemand video resources that unpack which exact strategies create surface, deep, and transfer literacy skills. To view these OnDemands for free on Keep Indiana Learning, click on the links to each:
And, to directly answer the question, What do we do when they don't get it? I recommend the linked OnDemand session--as I directly tie Hattie's research to this question in the PLC process.
But, all of these session (while yes, I recommend them as I created them!) are longer (30-45 minutes in length) and really ask you to put your lesson design hats on. While they are the bigger answer to the question, they don't provide you with an immediate "What do I do RIGHT NOW?" answer for those moments when you are mid-lesson, mid-check, mid-sentence...and you see and hear the looks of confusion.
For that, I turn to a different strategy shared at the 2020 Visible Learning Conference. This one is all about questioning, which as a teacher, I control with every word that comes out of my mouth. The following video unpacks the pattern of Question-Prompt-Cue-Re-Teach, and it also attempts to provide us answers to the question: What do we do when they don't get it.
Rather than create a split class with various, differentiated tasks and lesson, my response, some times, is as simple as knowing a pattern to take with my follow-up questions.
I share a literacy example because hey, I was an English teacher. However, the same pattern of Question-Prompt-Cue-Re-Teach applies to any/all topics that we ask questions about. I can even apply this to classroom management Q&A moments, or to my own children at home.
What counts is that we as teachers, and then in our PLCs, remember this pattern of questioning to help guide our students' thinking--without simply giving them the answer.