The Micro-Lesson

To enable learners to achieve the necessary outcomes in reduced timeframes, the Global Curriculum Project has developed the notion of the ‘micro-lesson’. The recipe for micro-lessons is quite simple and this process leverages finite timeframes. An example may help to set the scene:

The concept to be learned in this example is: “By stereotyping people, we may judge them unfairly.” (variables are underlined)

The understanding of this concept can be achieved either over 4-6 weeks using a traditional thematic or topic approach, or two consecutive sessions of 25 minutes and 65 minutes. Which pedagogical approach is more impacting and which has the greater effect on the learner’s understanding and their ability to apply the concept and make accurate predictions?

The micro-lesson approach can be applied to both the learning domains or the competencies. This approach shifts the notion of the traditional unit of work lasting 3-4 weeks and replaces it with a two-stage process that will initially take 2–2½ hours, but with practice, should reduce to 80–90 minutes. The key here is to keep the micro-lesson sessions very focussed on the concept that has been assigned to be learned. The process will eventually become part of the learner’s ‘culture of learning’.

 

Stage 1 (18–25 mins)

·      Select a prompt that will stimulate discussion of the concept you are working with (e.g. Always #LikeAGirl)[1] (3-4 mins).

·      Have learners individually reflect on the underlying concept set by the prompt (2 mins).

·      Have each learner share their thinking in groups of 3–4 learners. The session facilitator selects one of the groups to argue against what they think the other groups will be suggesting. This is to instil a degree of cognitive dissonance into the conversation[2] (8-10 mins).

·      Each group has 60 seconds to share the outcome of their discussions with the other groups, each taking turns to present their learning (5–7 mins).

Stage 2 (55–65 mins)

·      Groups come up with a different context for the concept and find an appropriate prompt for that new context (5-7 mins).

·      Groups share their new contexts and find with each one using a prompt (30 mins).

·      Each group develops an artefact to summarise their learning. The learners can create a short video, image or other artefact including a story, poetry, posters, etc. (10 mins).

·      The class decides as a group how they will remind each other to maximise the impact of their new learning to instil the new learning as a new habit (10-15 mins).

It is important to note that educators might initially model these leadership roles, but after 4-5 micro-lessons, the educator reduces their role as leader, with small teams of learners encouraged to take turns taking on the role of leading the process. This can begin with 3 or 4-year-olds taking on small roles and gradually expanding their involvement. The more competent the learner becomes, the greater agency they have over their learning so that educators can focus on driving the learning deeper, along with developing the learner’s ability to apply the Learning Process.

The best evidence we can collect on how the learners are progressing is to video them working with each other and when they are presenting their summaries of their micro-lessons. It is important that we gather ‘evidence of progress’ of the learner’s ability to apply the Learning Process with increasing capability and agency over time. Creating a video of the learner’s progression is immutable and very powerful evidence of their progress.

As learners gain confidence in their ability to manage their learning, educators need to allow learners to gradually build their capacity and become increasingly independent. If learners know their educator will rescue them, each time they have a problem they will never develop the necessary self and group management skills they desperately require. Evaluating and managing this process is a balance that educators need to assess and be comfortable with.

What we are attempting to do via this process is make the educator’s job manageable, so we can support the learning through effective questioning of the learners understanding and recording the development of the Learning Process as it unfolds. Learners can also record their own and their peer’s progress in the same way.

The ‘micro-lesson’ approach is a very efficient way of learning. Learners enjoy the short, sharp nature of the micro-lesson approach to learning and they also enjoy having agency over what they are learning. The micro-lesson can be divided into the two parts over two days, or separate morning and afternoon sessions, or both sessions can run into one longer session. Experiment with each approach and see what works best for the learners and you, as the educator. A very useful tool in this approach is the ‘Swivl’. When a phone or tablet is attached to the swivl it will track and record video of the learner’s or educator’s activities. Videoing of the educators and the learner’s activities is probably the richest feedback we can obtain. A set of 50 questions for educators to support this are available as a free download from www.markTreadwell.com



[1] Always. (2014, June 14). Always #LikeAGirl. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs

[2] In this case the cognitive dissonance can be generated by suggesting to one group that being able to stereotype is an imperative, as it helps us make decisions about our safety, choice of friends, relationships and who we can trust. The one group arguing this, means the other groups must justify their positions rather than everybody all agreeing with each other without question.