Teachers are always attempting new teaching strategies – and so they should. Experimenting with teaching strategies is a sure way to improve skills in the craft of teaching. And when you improve your craft, better student learning outcomes is usually the result. I am sure you have heard the old adage, “Experience is the best teacher”. If you are teaching you should know the teaching strategies that have been most effective on you as a learner. Have you ever considered how you learn?
Unfortunately, the other adage I have often heard is, “If you can, you do. If you can’t, you teach”.
After 40 years in the game, I have learned to laugh that beauty off at parties. "Ha-ha! Haven't heard that before!"
However, again, after 40 years in the game, I have to admit that, for some it is true.
Teachers don’t always make the best learners.
In fact, introducing technology into schools is a perfect example. Some teachers vehemently resisted learning how to use technology. Teachers refused to apply the very same teaching strategies they use for their class to achieve learning outcomes .
Teachers are also really good at the other old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
If you really want to improve student learning outcomes , examine the teaching strategies that impact on your personal learning outcomes . You can’t be trained in this. It comes from the prized skill of metacognition and introspective examination.
The best way a teacher can increase the capacity to teach others is to examine the learning that is most successful yourself. When teachers examine the successful teaching strategies that work, the focus is immediately on the learner and learning outcomes achieved.
When you learn something new at the next professional development activity, keep a small log about the teaching strategies that worked. What experiences made you think differently? Describe the interactions that made a difference to your skills or knowledge. Talk about these strategies with your colleagues. Revisit this journal occasionally to see if these teaching strategies are still the best ones for you.
Teach your class something you don’t know. That way you will apply the teaching strategies that help you understand the new concept. Let the class know that you are a learner as well. Let them see the teaching strategies you are using to understand. Talk to your class about your learning goals and how you go about achieving understanding. Your class will see learning come alive and many students will try to model that learning paradigm.
Some teaching strategies just won’t work for you. We expect to stall and kangaroo hop a car when learning to drive. We expect to hit a golf ball into the rough when learning golf. We expect to drop a stitch when learning to knit. But we see bombing out on a maths problem as a failure.
Failure is just that if you don’t learn from it.
Teachers need empathy for students who find difficulty learning. So if you don’t understand a concept, show your class how you change the teaching strategies to improve the situation.
Continually reflect on your own understanding. I find this one of the most difficult skills. Reflection about learning how you learn means that you have to be honest about yourself. You have to admit, sometimes, that some teaching strategies didn't work for you and think about why. You also need to reflect on how you could change the teaching strategies to be more effective.
For me this has always been easier said than done.
But then, I am a retired teacher and I don’t have to practice what I preach.