We always assume that teaching and the learning process go hand in hand. While it is expected to be that way, it is certainly not the norm. In spite of the best efforts by teachers, there remains a gap in the learning process. Whether the problem exists at the teacher’s end of the spectrum or the student’s end, the end result is that the process of transference of knowledge from a teacher to a student is hampered. Hence, it is imperative that teachers understand the process of learning clearly so that their classes can ensure the best learning outcomes for students.
In this article, we will discuss a five-step strategy, using which teachers can engage students more actively and ensure an effective learning process for their students:
1.Tell Them what You Are Going to Teach Them (Course Design)
When we think of course design, most of us think of a sequence of topics to be taught and the preparation of corresponding lecture notes. However, listing topics and making lecture notes are just one part of course design. Course design is so much more and is the first key step in ensuring the right learning process.
The basic idea behind a successful course design is “Tell them what you are going to teach them”.
As the first step, the course outline should clearly explain the course structure, including how the teacher plans to teach the course. The “how” means whether the teacher will deliver a lecture or a quiz+discussion+lecture combination, etc. Students should know what to expect. Also, whatever knowledge points are most important for students to remember, understand, and apply should be clearly outlined. The course outlines should also list due dates for various course components such as assignments, blogs or discussion board posts, group projects, and class presentations.
The best methodology to follow while designing a course is putting forth a “transparent course design”. Transparent course design refers to a course framework stating clearly the “purpose”, “task”, and “criteria” for each unit of course design, be it lectures, assignments or assessments.
Let's tackle this one by one:
Purpose: The purpose includes what skills students will practice and what knowledge they will gain. Here, an emphasis must be laid on how this new knowledge relates to students’ life experiences and future careers.
Task: The task specifies exactly what teachers expect students to do. This can involve attending lectures, reading a portion of a book, carrying out a set assignment or taking an assessment exam. It should also include sufficient details to help them produce better work, along with explanations of how this learning will apply in real-life scenarios.
Criteria: The criteria usually involve a checklist of expectations accompanied by selected examples of former students’ work wherever applicable. For example, you can give the best essays submitted for that particular course for the past five years. These examples help set the right expectations.
2.Give a Benefit Statement
An important reason why students feel disconnected is because they simply don't see the relevance of the course they are taking in their lives or in their careers. This can be addressed by teachers by making their content relevant to students' needs and helping them relate to what they are learning. Most effective teachers always emphasize how the material being learned can contribute to their students’ goals and help them in their careers.
3.Make Lectures Interactive
A crucial component of the learning process is lecture. Ideally, lectures are meant to do the following:
- Present information otherwise unavailable to students
- Synthesize information from multiple sources
- Help organize information in a logical structure
- Address queries on concepts, principles, and ideas
However, traditional lectures frequently lead to student boredom, thereby leading to poor knowledge retention. Hence, there is a need for “interactive lectures”. Interactive lectures combine engaging presentations with carefully selected active learning methods to achieve intended learning goals.
Active learning methods can vary widely, from guided note-taking, asking students questions, conducting discussions to assigning group work. Active learning reinforces content, deepens subject matter knowledge of students, and develops higher cognitive skills. Active learning methods are the backbone of the learning process.
4.Ask Them What You Taught Them (Assessments)
Assessment is an ongoing process that provides useful information about what
students already know (through diagnostic assessments), what students have learned (using formative assessments), and whether students have met their learning goals (in summative assessments). Each type of assessment has a unique purpose, and teachers must clearly understand this purpose.
In simple words, the basic idea is to assess what students already know, then assess them on what they have learned after the lecture, and finally assess them on the broader learning goals of the whole course. Assessments in any good course should be an ongoing process. It is equally important to provide some form of feedback to students about their performance after the assessment is done. There are multiple ways to do this: it can be a one-on-one discussion or a classroom discussion or a discussion with the student and the parents together. Whatever may be the way of accomplishing it, feedback is critical to students who are struggling with the material and can help them cope effectively. Also, students who are doing relatively better can be guided and counseled to make their performance even better.
Constructive feedback from teachers is a crucial part of the learning process that keeps students engaged and motivates them to keep learning.
5.Make Action Plans
This is the last and the most important step. Knowledge becomes meaningful to students only when they realize the benefits of that knowledge. This can come from an understanding of how this new knowledge will help them in subsequent courses or later in their careers. Such emphasis on the utility of a subject matter makes them active learners for life.
In summary, even when a teacher is an expert in a given subject, teaching and ensuring the learning outcomes is an elaborate process and may take years to perfect. We hope that this five-point guide will help you get started on the path to becoming the best teacher you can be.