CHECK-INS AND BUDDY PAIRS
Checking-in can involve many things. It can mean checking in on how students are feeling. It can mean checking in on their understanding of a specific theme or assignment. It can mean checking in on whether or not they feel they are achieving their goals for the course. It can mean checking in on any lingering questions they may have about a particular topic. Hence, there are always opportunities available in learning processes – at the beginning, middle, or end – for checking-in with a buddy and, as a result, cultivating the community of learners.
Some concrete examples of the kinds of check-ins mentioned above would include the following:
(1) At the beginning of class, when students arrive and enter the classroom the teacher welcomes them at the door. As he/she greets them, students are asked to give the him/her a high five, a handshake, a pound/fist bump, or a nod. Each of these greetings provide a spectrum of ways for the student to non verbally check-in with the teacher and let him/her know how they are feeling. A high five would be one end of the spectrum and would communicate that the student is excited, happy, and ready to learn vs. a head nod, on the other end of spectrum, which would communicate they the student is tired, distracted, angry – in other words, in a mental place where learning may prove to be difficult. The teacher can then use this information to be more socially aware of the dynamics in the classroom during that day and effectively interact with each student depending on their mood.
(2) Half way through a class that has been predominantly discussion or lecture focused, the facilitator asks the students to check-in with their learning buddy to see if they have any questions about what was just presented. Students can then try to answer the question(s) for their partner, instead of relying on the facilitator to field all questions.
(3) At the end of the class students are asked to check-in with their learning buddy and share one take-away from that day’s class and one lingering question that they would like to explore before next class. Then, when they return for the next class, their intro check-in would involve sharing with their buddy what they learned after exploring their lingering question from the previous class.
In short, the key to check-ins is that learners do it among themselves in order to foster connections and community among themselves, have their voices become more prominent and/or recognized in the learning space, and take ownership over the direction, flow, and impact of the learning process.
The organization, Training for Change, incorporates the “Buddy System” into many of the workshops they facilitate. Click here to see an outline of how they utilize this teaching and training technique.
“Support for learning seems to increase the speed and depth of the learning, whether it comes from support groups or from ‘buddies’ (a partner for learning). Most people aren’t accustomed to intentional support, so they don’t know how to use it or are embarrassed about using it. Many people need information and a framework to get started.” (TrainingforChange.org)
Reflection Question: Training for Change’s outline for using buddy pairs involves what they refer to as, “sentence completions.” What are three sentence completions that you could visualize buddy pairs using in the educational or learning context you find yourself?