The most effective teaching techniques have been identified ten years ago and should be included in all faculty development workshops, but according to a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality which has just been published, this is far from being the case. This post gives me the opportunity to recall efficient teaching strategies.
The six relevant teaching strategies mentioned in this report are:
- Pairing visual information and oral explanation. No matter how old the learners are, the two main channels of perception of information are visual and auditory. The learning experience is optimized when both channels are simultaneously used to raise learners’ awareness to new knowledge. In a flipped classroom for instance, it would mean preparing a video clip in which the teacher would explain a concept or a theory..
- Linking conceptual knowledge to concrete representation. In other words, teachers should always keep in mind the importance of giving practical examples to illustrate new concepts in order to highlight the links between theory and real life.
- Asking conceptual questions to learners. ‘Why …?’, ‘How …?’, ‘How do you know that …?’ incites clarification and supports the construction of knowledge in depth. Pair work should be exploited as they promote learning in depth.
- Alternating solutions and problems. As an educational developer, I often have the opportunity to observe that theory often precedes practice during lessons. I am personally deeply influenced by Tardiff’s model, first contextualize a concept asking a failure question to students, then contextualize through theory and then recontextualize the given example through theoretical framework. In Tardiff’s opinion, theory should never come first!
- Providing opportunities to apply the newly acquired knowledge. Giving learners the opportunity to review a subject that was studied a few weeks before allows them to have the new knowledge embedded. In addition, learners should have the opportunity to review the material several times, at intervals, to experience deep learning.
- Re-thinking of assessments to foster deep learning. Formative or summative, an assessment that requires students to master knowledge and be able to demonstrate proof of understanding will promote deep learning.
The teaching strategies summarized above have several effects on the learning experience, as they enable learners to acquire new knowledge, to connect this knowledge to prior knowledge by creating links, and to embed lasting knowledge. The innovation in teaching methods and the spread of new teaching skills should not make us lose sight of these six strategies that research has confirmed as best practice. Ultimately teaching is nothing else but giving students opportunities to learn, isn’t it?