You’ve done your work on the course. The teaching of students has ended. You dressed the cap and gown, crossed the stage, smiled with your diploma and went home after application to complete the application. Suddenly you’re standing in what’s going to be your classroom for the next year and after the excitement of decorating it wears off and you’re starting to plan your lessons, you’re starting to notice that all your lessons are done in the same way, with different materials. But that’s what you know and you’ve been taught, so you’re going along with it. Your students get bored after a while, and so are you. Something must be wrong because this is not what you intended to be like teaching. There is.
It can sometimes be even more difficult to figure out the best ways you can deliver information to students than what students do to find out how they learn best. The reason is that in their theoretical teaching bag each individual teacher needs a variety of different teaching methods to pull from depending on the lesson, the students, and things as seemingly minute as the time the class is and the subject. Using these different teaching methods, rooted in theory of different teaching styles, will not only help teachers reach their full potential, but more importantly engage, motivate and reach students in their classes, whether in person or online.
Teaching methods, or methodology, is a narrower subject because it is based on theories and educational psychology. If you have a teaching degree, you’ve probably heard of names like Skinner, Vygotsky, Gardner, Piaget, and Bloom. If their names don’t ring a bell, you definitely need to recognize their theories that have become Teaching methods. The most common theories of teaching are as follows.
Behaviorism is the theory that each learner is basically a “clean slate” for emotional starting and shaping. The site states that people react to stimuli, reactions, and positive and negative strengthening. The most popular theorists who attributed to this theory were Ivan Pavlov, who, with his dog experiments, many people may know. He conducted a dog experiment that the dogs responded to the stimuli when he rang a bell; then he applied the idea to humans. Other popular, behavioral educational theorists were B.F. Skinner and Bandura’s Albert.
Social Cognitive Theory
Typically, social cognitive theory is spoken of at the early childhood level because it has to do with critical thinking, with the biggest concept being the idea of playing, according to Edwin Peel for Encyclopedia Britannica. Although Bandura and Lev Vygotsky also contributed to cognitive theory, the most popular and first cognitivism theorist is Piaget, according to Dr. Norman Herr with California State University.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, which he created in 1918, has four stages. Each stage correlates with the development of a child from childhood to adolescence.
The first stage is called the stage of the Sensorimotor that takes place from birth to 18 months. The reason this is considered cognitive development is because the brain grows literally through exploration, such as squeezing horns, discovering themselves in mirrors or spinning things that click on their floormats or walkers; creating habits like sleeping with a certain blanket; having reflexes like rubbing their eyes when they are tired or sucking their thumb; and starting to decipher vocal tones.
The second stage, or the pre-operative stage, occurs between the ages of 2 and 7 when infants begin to understand and correlate symbols around them, ask a lot of questions, and start forming sentences and conversations, but they have not developed perspective yet, the website states, so empathy does not yet exist. This is the stage where kids tend to blur out honest statements, usually embarrassing their parents because they also don’t understand censorship.
Children between the ages of 7 and 11 begin to solve problems, can talk about things they are interested in, become more aware of logic, and develop empathy during the Concrete Operational Stage.
The final stage, called the Formal Operational Stage, may continue beyond that, although by definition it ends at age 16. It involves deeper thinking and abstract thoughts as well as questioning not just what things are, but why they are popular, says the site. Many times people entering new stages of their lives such as high school, college, or even marriage go through elements of the theory of Piaget, which is why the strategies that come from this method are applicable across all educational levels.
The Multiple Intelligences Theory
The Multiple Intelligences Theory states that in order to be considered intelligent on paper tests, people do not need to be smart in every single discipline, but people excel in different disciplines, making them exceptional. Created in 1983, eight different intelligences were created by the former head of the Scranton School District in Scranton, PA, although since then two others have been discussing whether to be added but not yet officially, according to the site. The original eight are musical, spatial, linguistic, mathematical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and most people have predominant intelligence followed by others. For those who are musically inclined either through instruments, vocals, have perfect pitch, read sheet music, or have musical intelligence that can easily create music. Spatial Intelligence is capable of seeing something and rearranging it or imagining it differently while being talented with language, writing or avid readers have Linguistic Intelligence. Kinesthetic Intelligence refers to understanding how the body works anatomically or athletically, and Naturalistic Intelligence has an understanding of the ecosystem’s nature and elements.
The ultimate intelligences are about personal interactions. Intrapersonal Intelligence is a matter of knowing oneself, one’s limits, and their inner selves, while the site states that Interpersonal Intelligence knows how to handle a variety of other people without conflict or knowing how to solve it. A primary school still exists in Scranton, PA named after its one-time principal.
Constructivism is another theory created by Piaget that is used as a basis for many other educational theories and strategies because it focuses on how people learn. In this theory, Piaget says people are learning from their experiences. Through active learning, they learn best, connect it to their previous knowledge and then digest this information their own way. In education versus teacher-centered learning, this theory has created the ideas of student-centered learning.
Universal Design for Learning
The final method is the Universal Learning Design, which David H. Rose has redefined the educational community since it was founded in the mid-1980s. This theory focuses on how teachers need their students to design their curriculum. In 2004, when it was presented at an international conference, this theory really gained traction in the United States, and he explained that this theory is based on neuroscience and how the brain processes information, performs tasks, and is excited about education. The theory, known as UDL, advocates presenting information in multiple ways to enable the information to be understood by a variety of learners; presenting multiple evaluations for students to show what they have learned; and learning and using the interests of a student to motivate them to learn, the site states. This theory also discussed how to incorporate technology into the classroom and how to educate digital age students.
Teachers extract and develop a plethora of different styles or strategies of teaching from each of the educational theories. In order to build relationships, keep students engaged and even keep instructors from getting bored with their own material, instructors must have a large and varied arsenal of strategies to use weekly and even daily. These can apply to all levels of teaching, but adjustments must be made based on the age and level of development of the student.
Differentiated instruction is one of the most popular teaching strategies, meaning that teachers adjust the curriculum for a lesson, unit, or even whole term in a manner that involves all learners in different ways. This means constantly changing one’s teaching styles to fit the students based on their learning styles, not only the material but more importantly.
Learning styles are the best way for students to learn. Visual, audio, kinesthetic and read / write are the most popular types, though, others include global as another type of learner. They may seem self-explicative to some. Visual learners learn best by watching instruction or demonstration; audio learners need to hear lessons; kinesthetic learners need to learn by doing or are hands-on learners; read / write learners to the best of their ability by reading textbooks and writing notes; and global learners need material to be applied to their real lives. Instructors have many activities at their disposal that allow their students to find out what kind of learner they are. Typically, students have a main style with a close runner-up that allows them to learn a certain way in the best way, but they can also learn additional material. Instructors can then differentiate their instruction and assignments to these types of learning when an instructor knows their students and what types of learners are in their classroom.
It is important to use a strategy called scaffolding when teaching new material to any type of learner. Scaffolding is based on a student’s prior knowledge and building a lesson, unit or course from the most basic pieces and making the information more complicated with each step. To scaffold well, a teacher must take a personal interest in their students to learn their strengths as well as what their prior knowledge is. This will allow an instructor to base new information on their strengths and use positive reinforcement when the new material makes mistakes.
There is an unfortunate concept in teaching called “teaching to the middle” where instructors focus their lessons on the students ‘ average ability in their classroom, leaving slower students frustrated and confused, and frustrated and bored above average students. This often results in poor scoring of students at the lower and higher levels and a teacher with no idea why. The remedy for this is a strategy called blended learning where differentiated instruction takes place simultaneously in the classroom to target all learners. Teachers need to know their students once again, how they learn and their strengths and weaknesses to be successful in mixed learning. Blended learning can include combining multiple learning styles into one lesson, such as lecturing from a PowerPoint–not reading the slide information–that includes cartoons and music associations while the students are printing out. The lecture may include examples of real-life stories of what the instructor encountered and what the students might encounter. This example includes four learning styles and kinesthetic misses, but subsequently the activity can only be kinesthetic.
Technology is a huge component of mixed learning. Technology allows students to set their own pace and access the resources they want and need based on their level of understanding. In education, it can be used in three different ways, including face-to-face, synchronous or asynchronous. Technology used in the classroom with the student where the teacher is known as face-to-face while being in the physical presence of the student. Synchronous learning is when, students learn information online and have a teacher live with them simultaneously, but through a live chat or video conference program such as Skype or Zoom. Finally, asynchronous learning is when students take an online course or course element, such as a test or assignment, as it fits into their own schedule, but when they complete or submit the work, a teacher is not online with them. Teachers are still accessible through asynchronous learning but, the Library of Congress says, typically via email or a scheduled chat meeting.
In fact, the final strategy to be discussed incorporates some teaching strategies, so it’s almost like mixed teaching. It begins with a concept that has numerous labels such as student-centered learning, learner-centered pedagogy, and teacher-as-tutor, but all of which means an instructor revolves around the students ‘ lessons and ensures that students play a participatory role in the learning process, known as active learning. A teacher is just a facilitator in this model, meaning they created both the lesson and the learning structure, but the students themselves become the teachers or create their own knowledge, says the learning portal. The instructor circulates the room as a one-on – one resource, tutor or guide as this occurs. In order for this to work well and instructors to be one-on – one successful and to plan these lessons, it is essential that they have taken the time to know the history and prior knowledge of their students, otherwise it may end up being a futility exercise. Some teacher activities can be used by placing students in groups and assigning a role to each student within the group, creating reading buddies or literature circles, making games out of the material with individual white boards, creating different stations in the classroom for different skill levels or interest in a lesson, or finding ways to get students out of their seats and move.
In order to become an effective instructor, there are so many different methodologies and strategies. In all of these, a consistent theme is for a teacher to take the time to know their students because they care, not because they have to. When an instructor knows the stories behind the students, they can design lessons that are more fun, meaningful, and efficient because they have been designed with the best interests in mind of the students. Online and from textbook publishers there are plenty of pre-made lessons, activities and tests that any teacher could use. But you have to decide if you want to be the original teacher that has a major impact on your students, or a pre-made teacher that a student needs to get through.