Building a Better Teacher - NY Times

by frances 4. March 2010 19:04

"Building a Better Teacher" by Elizabeth Green* and published in the New York Times on the 3rd March 2010 is an excellent article to read! [although 9 online pages long!]

In essence, Green reports on Doug Lemov's investigations on what makes "a quality teacher". Lemov explored the problem of different student outcomes based [as collated through standardised American tests] solely on the quality of teacher classroom management, after all the other extraneous elements were accounted for. Lemov has created his taxonomy of good classroom management [The official title, attached to a book version being released in April, is “Teach Like a Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College.”]. You can read some segments of the book (PDF) here to get an idea of the classroom management techniques explored.

Lemov ignores the content of the lesson and concentrates purely on the classroom management techniques as a way that all teachers can teach and all students can learn.

But what about the passion of the content? What about the way content is delivered to students?

However, the article is balanced as it provides another dimension. Green goes on to ask the question... "Is good classroom management enough to ensure good instruction?" She describes the work of Heather Hill, an associate professor at Harvard University, who realised that even if a teacher has good pedagogical techniques but they don't know their subject matter very well - then students still do badly on standarised testing.

Hill is a member of a group of educators, who, like Lemov, are studying great teachers. But whereas Lemov came out of the practical world of the classroom, this group is based in university research centers. And rather than focus on universal teaching techniques that can be applied across subjects and grade levels, Hill and her colleagues ask what good teachers should know about the specific subjects they teach.

The wellspring of this movement was Michigan State’s school of education, which, under the direction of Judith Lanier, one of the original Holmes Group members, took the lead in rethinking teacher education. Lanier overhauled Michigan State’s teacher-preparation program and helped open two research institutes dedicated to the study of teaching and teacher education. She recruited innovative scholars from around the country, and almost overnight East Lansing became a hotbed of education research. (Green, 2010, NY Times, p 6)

This group of researchers consider both the mechanics of teaching as well as teachers knowing their subject matter as essential to be a quality teacher.

I think it is extremely important to give all teachers Professional Development (Teacher Professional Learning - TPL) in pedagogy. Lemov's taxonomy could be a good tool especially for student and beginning teachers but teachers also need to know their subject material very well and be passionate about it!

One way to address both these requirements is to use great WebQuests - they have sound pedagogical techniques behind them (Problem Based Learning, Higher Order Thinking Skills, Constructivism, Cooperative Learning, Social and Emotional Learning) and the content should have been created in such a way to get students to think and become passionate about the learning.  

*Elizabeth Green is a Spencer fellow in education reporting at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the editor of

Here is some video examples from the Uncommon Schools that use Lemov's Taxonomy as classroom management techniques

Bloom's Glorious Blooms!

by frances 15. December 2009 13:00

This is an email that I received as part of the ABC Teaching Science Discussion List, earlier this year, from Jennifer Riggs, a Brisbane Teacher, who has written about Bloom's... here is an extract:

"The aim? To work towards higher levels, to produce excellence. Even when the given topic only asks the student to ‘give an account of’,  an account that is developed to the point of evaluation will be recognised as superior work.

Teachers of ‘the gifted’ are advised to keep them working at the end of the range – why only the gifted?


Parents and teachers who inspire and encourage the young to higher levels are encouraging giftedness, raising performance towards potential. (In fact teachers, and sometimes parents, don’t always recognise giftedness and the more we treat every child as gifted, the more we can expect some really nice surprises – with late Bloomers?)

The beauty is that it works. Quite easily too. No need to conscientiously work through the whole lot every time - the more basic stages take care of themselves. At the top of the ladder the lower rungs have already been negotiated. In ‘Bloom’ each category includes or subsumes the one before it (one can hardly apply something until one knows and comprehends, nor can one analyse or synthesise without having mastered the previous stages).

How to do it? Simply by moving towards higher stages in informal ways. A child who from early days understands the word and the concept of ‘house’ (knowledge and comprehension) could be led to think about:
•           what it takes to build one, what goes into a house (analysis)
•           planning an ideal house, making a cubby or a model (synthesis)
•           evaluating one’s own product and houses in the environment or in illustrations (evaluation)

An assignment could well follow the Bloom pattern, starting with explanation and definition, as the introduction (Knowledge & Comprehension) followed by function etc. (Application) and going on to a breakdown of the topic (Analysis) and constructive thinking on the subject (Synthesis), culminating in the necessary conclusion, which is a fitting place for evaluative thinking …

A more sophisticated assignment model could differentiate tasks, so that students aiming for excellence can go straight to a complex product, subsuming earlier stages, whereas others could choose to do a similar amount of work at a lower level of consolidation and/or enquiry. The final evaluation could include the peer review that is such an essential part of high level academic work.

Every missed opportunity to press on to evaluation and metacognition denies the challenge that leads to an improved product.

When students know about the Bloom strategy, they begin to activate it in their own work, and that is the way to lift themselves from C’s to B’s to A’s." Jennifer Riggs (2009, 4/6/09 - Email to ABC Science Teaching Discussion List).


This position and thinking is very important when teachers are constructing lessons, resources and, particularly WebQuests! Raise the benchmark when giving students Higher Order Thinking Skill Activities! They will relish the challenge!


If you would like to contact Jennifer yourself, here is her email address: Jennifer Riggs []


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Research & Case Studies | What is a WebQuest?

Leaders in Education Must Encourage Creativity and Innovation!

by frances 18. June 2009 14:35

"Sir Ken Robinson, a leading thinker on education, creativity and innovation, argues that it is an economic imperative in a world where imagination and innovation are crucial to the future, that education becomes more diverse, more creative and fleshes out the kinds of schools he says are part of the solution." (Source: ABC 7.30 Report)

To see a wonderful video of Sir Ken speaking on the topic: "Do Schools Kill Creativity?"

"Creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it as such"! (Quote from the video)

This video and Sir Ken in the interview on th 7.30 Report was inspiring!

Sir Ken Robinson

We need to educate our children not out of creativity and innovation but into them!

I think one of the best ways is to provide children with real problems to solve and to come up with solutions in a cooperative way! Allowing them to express themselves in a creative way needs to be encouraged!

One way I have found is to use Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and especially WebQuests!

However, this is NOT going to happen without our Principals (UK: Head Teachers) leading their staff to change the way they teach! We have to break out of the Industrial model that has been imposed on our systems of education since the 1800s.

We need to prepare our students for a totally different world to the one we live in - if they are to survive and flourish.

Have a go at creating a WebQuest and ensure that creativity and innovation are encouraged through the tasks presented.

Sir Ken's new book is: The Element! I'm about to go out and buy it.

If you would like to follow Sir Ken on Twitter, click here

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Research & Case Studies

Designing Your Project

by frances 10. March 2009 10:13
Project-Based Learning has been inspiring teachers and students for some time now! WebQuests are a tool to deliver Project-Based Learning as well as Problem-Based Learning.
WebQuests are a sub-set of Problem-Based Learning and the elements involved are common to both.
This website explores these elements on designing your WebQuest or Project.
A sample project-planning form:
1. Begin with the end in mind
2. Craft the driving question
3. Plan the assessment, part 1.
4. Plan the assessment, part 2.
5. Map the project, part 1
6. Map the project, part 2
7. Manage the process
You might be asking the question: Why? Why should I go down this path in teaching my students?
Don't believe me when I tell you that real, great WebQuests motivate students, help them to think, solve real problems, encourages collaboration and cooperation, and, lower classroom management time! Go and have a read of this recent article (you might need to register - but its free) from eSchool News Project-based learning engages students, garners results This is a 9 page paper and it is excellent. Use what you have learnt here to make a WebQuest around your driving question!
If you need help in making a WebQuest, go to SWAT and register - it's free. This is simple to use Web 2.0 tool to create a WebQuest. We will provide you with mentoring help as well.

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In the Classroom | Research & Case Studies | What is a WebQuest?

Effectiveness of cooperative learning: WebQuest as a tool to produce

by frances 9. March 2009 13:07

Effectiveness of cooperative learning: WebQuest as a tool to produce scientific videos by S. Lara and Ch. Repáraz, School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Department of Education University of Navarra 31080, Pamplona SPAIN

These authors examine the use of the WebQuest with students in Year 10 studying Geography in Spain. Although published in 2005, this paper is going to be presented at the International Conference on Multimedia and ICT in Education, 22- 24 April 2009, Lisbon, Portugal.  

The WebQuest can be found here - in Spanish.


The Authors Conclusion:

"The results show that the use of a WebQuest helps and guides group members in their investigation work and in the production of their videos. It motivates group members to learn in a different manner, and in collaboration with others. It helps them to divide the load of the task among the members of the group. It helps them to seek solutions, share their information and to take into account the information of others. It contributes towards each group member working at his task. Everyone learns things of real value. In short, this way of working is positively valued, as opposed to individual classroom work. A WebQuest definitively secures the development of competences related with scientific investigation such as: the capacity of information analysis, synthesis and evaluation, of initiative and the taking of decisions, the capacity of observation and of adjustment to specific facts, evidence, and data, of simplifying what is complex without losing the global vision, of the development of critical thinking, of planifimcation and organization, of the performance and the evaluation of what has been planned. These are all competences which help students to assimilate knowledge, to integrate them, relate them with others, and thus attain more solid learning." (Source: Conclusion, Paper)

It is worth noting that this paper cited a few other (older) research papers on the effects of WebQuests. Unfortunately, the authors are using the old version of the definition of Dodge and March, and, the WebQuest itself is in Spanish so we have get to review it.

Anyone out there that is a teacher and speaks Spanish, we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at

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Article Review | In the Classroom | Research & Case Studies


<<  September 2014  >>

View posts in large calendar

Other WebQuest & Educational Blogs

As I come across other WebQuest Blogs (& Educational ones), I will list them here.

Jane Hart's Blog (Jane is a Social Technologies Guru in UK)

Scot Aldred's Blog (Colleague at Central Queensland University and guru on Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

The Innovative Educator

Digital Education Blog

Blogging Corner Carnival

eLearn Magazine Blog

Dr. Lisa Neal Gualtieri, Editor-in-Chief, eLearn Magazine

Primary Blog

Charlie Sullivan - Charlie does a fantastic job collating websites for Primary schools.

De Tools Blog

This blog by and for online educators and features free web based tools applications and resources. Author: John Goldsmith.

Bright Ideas: a blog by the School Library Association of Victoria

The Book Whisperer

This blog is written by Donalyn Miller, a 6th Grade teacher in Texas, who is reknown for encouraging students to read!


Clustr Map

Created WebQuests

Champions of Justice
Gold Force
Community Shopping Centre Planner
Can you get the party started?
Reminders of our moral conscience
The Petrov Affair
My Business Rules
Pluto's planetary status