Richard Canning is a teacher and the co-founder of GroupU, a startup company committed to using technology to enable high-quality group work in lessons and teach lifelong collaboration skills to students. Prior to this, he was an assistant headteacher (director of ICT) in secondary schools and worked on whole-school improvement programmes.
Here we are in a new academic year. For those in leadership last year, analysis will be done regarding the success of the initiatives under their remit in bringing about positive changes in staff and student performance. Inevitably, there will be room for improvement somewhere, and so we start the vital process of listing our existing initiatives, programmes and tools in order to sort the wheat from the chaff.
As teachers, we find it challenging to plan and manage high-quality group work in the classroom. Undeterred, we try to find ways to make it happen because we know that effective classroom group work makes differentiation easier and allows us to spot and tackle individual needs. We also try to make it happen because well-structured classroom activities are the only way we can teach young people the skills they need to work successfully with others. It follows that, if we can equip young people with these skills in school, they will take those skills out into the world and stand a better chance of becoming successful employees, entrepreneurs, partners and community members.
Different students have different needs, but how do you go about catering to these requirements? Essex-based teacher and tech-entrepreneur Richard Canning discusses how each student is unique and constantly evolving.
As teachers we’re fully aware that each child has different strengths and weaknesses. In our classrooms we employ every trick we know to try to meet each of their needs and move them forward in their understanding. We’re familiar with the term ‘differentiation’ and know that it should be included within our planning for every lesson. But we’re also aware that effective differentiation in every lesson is often a difficult task, given we need to vary our approach and resources in order to ensure that we cater for what is often a diverse group of around 30 individuals. We don’t attempt this in isolation of course; today’s teacher has a myriad of data, information sources and professional networks to help them.