Whilst visiting a new student for the first time I did my usual orientation with the family to introduce my pedagogical ideas about the way children learn. As a new business, Nepean Tutoring has had its ups and downs in terms of accommodating the influx of students whose parents enquire about our services and thus working out how to meet the growing need for one on one tutoring is a bit challenging with a limited staff base.
When I visited the family in question, the child’s mother suggested the idea of learning pods. A Learning Pod is a new term used to delineate a small group of students learning together where a teacher facilitates the learning. In a classroom, it is a child-centered learning environment where a number of “pods” are created to meet the demands and learning needs of a busy curriculum and to give children an interactive environment in which to learn.
Now, Nepean Tutoring advertises as a “one on one” tutoring service where tutors target the weaknesses of a student and fast track the learning to fill in the gaps in the student’s shortcomings. While I still believe this is the most effective way to fill the gaps for most students, I became open to the idea of learning pods as an expansion of our services.
Research does demonstrate the benefits of small group learning, particularly for on task students. The other benefit is a financial consideration for families who are unable to afford the fees for one on one tutoring. A small learning pod of three to four students would allow a more focused learning experience for the members of the group along with an affordable alternative to the one on one method.
With some apprehension, I tested this idea in the Secondary School where I teach “one on one” on a part time basis. I targeted a small group of three students who were struggling with some particular writing concepts and made the instruction very specific to those needs. Concepts such as sentence structure, forming paragraphs, proof reading and vocabulary development were used to pilot this idea and I found it extremely productive and time effective to work with the small group and achieve the same level of progress as the “one on one” method. The students were engaged in the learning and demonstrated improved quality writing over a period of five lessons of instruction.
As a result, I am toying with the idea of introducing Learning Pods as an additional service to the business. I can see many benefits to this approach, especially in the area of writing as discussed above.
Another area where I can see the benefits of this approach is in Science. Learning Pods would be an ideal method for Science instruction where very small groups were given the opportunity to engage in hands on science investigations at a level which is often impractical in a large classroom of students. Similarly, I can visualise Learning Pods as a means for rich Mathematical investigations where students are given Mathematical problems to solve together that crosses over more than one Mathematical strand. For example, I recently worked “one on one” with a student on a rich Mathematical task where we created a symmetrical 2D piece of art where I reinforced their knowledge of a variety of 2D shapes, and the measurement skills of length, area and perimeter. I could see this approach working in “Learning Pods” and am very excited to hear any other similar ideas you might have for me to consider.