In recent years there has been a growing awareness of different learning styles and the importance of teachers learning teaching strategies to effectively educate students who learn in different ways. Teaching strategies is about how a teacher instructs students rather than the content of what the student learns. An effective teaching strategy can often be used across grade levels and academic subject matters. That said, there is no magic strategy that works for every teacher and student. The teacher needs to be comfortable with more than one teaching strategy so that he or she can effectively teach as many students as possible.
Effective Teaching Strategies: Some Examples
The basis of all effective teaching strategies is a recognition that children learn differently and that a one size fits all education is not going to work for all kids. As more educators understand this fundamental principle, the days of teacher lecture and student note taking as the sole means of student learning are dwindling. Also, teachers are less likely to make an assumption about a student’s basic skills from previous classes and are more likely to review basic skills curriculum to ensure that every student has a solid grasp on earlier concepts.
In order to be effective teaching strategies must be relevant to the students in the class. Often, that means that teachers need to use a variety of techniques when they are teaching a new concept. Some students learn by being asked a direct question, others learn best by writing on the subject and still others need to do a project in order to understand a concept.
Effective learning strategies must also reinforce basic skills curriculum such as literacy. For example, the strategies that are used in Sheltered English instruction for students of limited English proficiency might help all students. Similarly, some of the accommodations that are made for students with disabilities may be good teaching techniques for the entire class including students without disabilities.
Further, teachers should consider Culturally Responsive Teaching. That means that they should be aware that students bring different experiences to the classroom and be careful, especially in elementary school, to use analogies or descriptions that all children can relate to. For example, not every child may understand the “excitement of Christmas morning” if they do not celebrate that holiday and not every child may be able to picture the “brilliant colors of fireworks” if their parents have not taken them to see fireworks yet. Therefore, teachers need to be sure to explain concepts in multiple ways so that every student understands.
Innovative Teaching Strategies: How Are They Developed?
Innovative teaching strategies begin with innovative people. Sometimes they are developed by motivated teachers who decide to try something new and succeed beyond their wildest expectations. Other times, they are the result of years of research and study by extraordinary researchers.
One such prominent researcher who has helped uncover innovative teaching strategies is Dr. Alison Gopnik. Dr. Gopnik is a developmental psychologist from the University of California. Much of her professional career has been centered on discovering why children learn the way that they do. She has developed some innovative teaching strategies by comparing young children to scientists and their learning to the scientific method.
More formal teaching programs are beginning to teach teachers about effective teaching strategies. However, for many years diverse learning strategies were not discussed extensively in the course of a teacher’s formal education. Therefore, there are a lot of teachers who are still teaching in public schools who do not know how to try different strategies within a single class period.
School districts can effectively train teachers to change their habits by providing comprehensive professional development on the subject. Usually this is accomplished by having more than one session on effective teaching strategies.
Many non educators may think that using different teaching strategies sounds like a good idea. However, it is more than just a good idea. It is essential to the education of students in America and to positioning those students for the global economy. It will help at risk students, limited English proficient students and students with disabilities. However, unlike some other initiatives, effective learning strategies will benefit all students regardless of whether they have special needs.