I teach but do they learn?

It took almost a century to start questioning the effectiveness of an educational model based purely on the transmission of information, one in which the teacher remained seated in front of the class and communicated knowledge one-way to his or her students.

To tell the truth however, if some change is happening in primary schools and in high schools, it is sufficient to take a peek at universities to still observe this age-old method of teaching.

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably an active teacher and, like us, you believe that there needs to be a shift in focus, from ‘how much am I teaching?’ to ‘how much are my students really learning?’.

It is therefore time to dedicate time, energy, creativity and authenticity to involve your students and create a didactic environment that lead to optimal learning conditions.

But where do you start? What follows are three areas that can help modify your teaching style.

Concreteness

It’s important to surprise your students by giving concrete examples of the subject you’re teaching, preferably something that they can easily relate to. Use all available resources to create open situations and different areas of applicability. Try to make them see or feel how the knowledge and skills they’re acquiring will result useful in real life as well. As a starting point, use your students’ areas of interests and exploit the links with their daily realities as much as possible. You can tell a story, show a video or simulate situations in which they can practice what they’ve just learned.

Active pedagogy

By active pedagogy, we mean the act of creating problem situations e organise a series of step-by-step learnings that consist of trial and error.

As you most probably know, learning is not memorising, but it is restructuring your own system of understanding of the world. Each of us is motivated to learn ‘only’ when they have a goal they need to reach, when they need to re-establish a broken equilibrium, or when they want to best manage a particular situation. It’s only when you start from an error that you can understand what’s missing to help generate a new way of learning. Creating problem situations means putting your students in a situation when they’ll most likely get it wrong at first. As a teacher, you need to be a student’s guide in their exploration of solutions, without however coming across as the expert who imposes their knowledge.

Involving students in practical actions

If, in theory, everyone knows that we only learn if we’re moved by an internal motivation, in reality we often still make the error to substitute education with learning, by using blackmail or conditioning.

“If you don’t study you’ll get a bad grade, study because you have to, if you pass you’ll get a scooter, if you don’t pay attention in class you won’t get to go to recess, if you don’t do your homework your parents won’t let you go to soccer anymore,…”. In doing so, it becomes difficult for a student to learn. To the contrary, often he or she will refuse to study at all, and they will see school as the root of all their problems.

Remember that the need to grow and learn is innate; we lose it growing up because at one point a child doesn’t see a sense anymore in putting in effort in order to grow. A teacher’s task is to always find new ways to involve and nurture the students’ desire to succeed, and to feel useful and involved.

Time for homework!

From tomorrow on, try to focus on which methods you use to generate interest in your students, and check if you ever use forms of ‘blackmail’. Now that the topic is still fresh in your mind, immediately apply some changes. Start involving your students in practical actions in which they’re at the forefront of the learning process, to incentivise them to keep on learning. Importantly, focus on an accomplished goal to generate others.

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