How often do we allow our students to rehearse their learning in the classroom? Why is rehearsal important? Boomer (1983) says, 'In my quest to reach competence, I play and experiment and practice parts and wholes. Removed from the eventual arena of action, often in strict privacy, I rehearse in my head, out loud and in action, aspects of that which I am learning. This is how I nut out my plans and develop the skills I need.
As a teacher, I must allow time and space for trial and error activity on operations and tasks dictated by the learners (or at least as I imagine the learners would dictate if they could articulate what they want).'
Under 'Develop Expert Learners' of the TfEL framework is 'Foster Deep Understanding and Skilful Action - the teacher helps students build rich conceptual knowledge and mastery of complex skills.'
Under 'Create Safe Conditions for Rigorous Learning' is 'Develop Democratic Relationships - the teacher shares power with students, recognizing it as a fundamental condition for learning.'
One way to take action on both of these at the same time is to develop the trial and error (or rehearsal) principle across multiple subject areas in your classroom.
For example, when I teach reading, I may use ongoing assessment of my students to determine that I need to focus on 'making predictions' with a small group or the whole class and use a shared text to do so (Big Book, Smartboard, Charts etc). But I then allow students to practice these newly learned skills within their own books or reading materials that interest them.
I make sure they have time to rehearse in their heads, out loud or in action, the prediction skills they need to acquire. During this rehearsal phase of the learning, I observe, interact, and question to find out what learning is taking place, and help students deepen their rehearsal actions and understandings.
When I teach concepts or strategies in mathematics, I allow time for students to problem solve, and to deepen their understanding of that concept using particular strategies. Ideally the task is differentiated in such as way that all students can enter at their own level and can have as much time as practicable to productively rehearse in their heads, out loud and in action, aspects of that which they are learning. During their investigations I help them connect with a problem solving strategy e.g. 'solve a simpler problem', which will help them with this particular problem.
Allowing rehearsal time also recognizes that we are not just teaching what is in the teacher's head. If a teacher imposes the learning steps/content on their students without time for rich, independent, differentiated trial and error experiences on what is being taught, then among other things, we 'impose the logical review of a mind that already understands the subject, upon the mind that is struggling to comprehend it, and thereby obstruct the logic of the student's own mind.' Dewey (1910).
Boomer, G. (1983) 'In Search of a Universal Literacy Program', Every Child Can Read and Write. ARA
DECD (2010) 'South Australian Teaching for Effective Learning Framework (TfEL)'
Dewey, J. (1910) 'How We Think.' D.C. Heath & Co.