Successful Teaching And Learning Strategies
Sixth Grade EFL Students in Thailand
What Is the Best Way to Teach and Learn?
What is the best way to teach and learn? Many people engaged in the teaching and learning of academic subjects, sports, and other skills have asked this thought-provoking question. By knowing the correct answer to this question, so many students, athletes, teachers, coaches, and other skilled people would be better prepared to perform at their highest level. Based on a life-long experience of teaching and learning, I suggest six successful teaching and learning strategies in this article.
One: People Learn What is Personally Meaningful
Why do so many people around the world learn how to drive cars and motorcycles? The motivation behind this learning obviously lies in wanting to have the freedom and independence to go wherever you want. Immigrants to western countries such as the United States and Great Britain rapidly learn English as a second language because it is very essential and meaningful to their lives.
The key to motivating students to learn is making their subject matter meaningful to them. By doing this, you will rapidly engage them in learning. In teaching math, an instructor could show how concepts and formulae apply in solving daily life problems related to money, finance, and budgets. An EFL or ESL teacher could present dialogs and stories in comic strip fashion about topics which are popular among kids.
The Fire Tetrahedron
Two: Associative Learning
All learning is based on associations with prior experiences and learning. In achieving successful teaching and learning, it is necessary to first activate a learner's prior knowledge after the learning is found to be personally meaningful. For example, a wise skilled driving education instructor will first find out what his students know about the makeup of a car, its operation, and rules of driving on the road before beginning driving training. In teaching math, a good teacher will find out whether his pupils can add and subtract before building on this with the introduction of multiplication and division processes.
Student-Centered Classroom Learning
Teaching and Learning Strategies
Three: Successful Teaching and Learning Involves Use of Different Strategies
There is a common saying that there is more than one way to skin a cat. During the 1980s when China's markets were transforming toward capitalism, the late Communist Party Chairman Deng Xiaoping made the comment that it doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it can catch mice. The implication of both of these sayings is that one can employ different strategies to achieve a goal. In the past, many people were convinced that a teacher-centered classroom which utilized a grammar-translation approach was the best way to learn foreign languages. Now, a lot of education research is indicating that a student-centered classroom which employs an audio-lingual or direct approach is the best route to take in acquiring a foreign language.
In recent years, Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences has shown that all individuals have different intelligences for learning. Whereas in the past people concentrated on learning only by logical-math and linguistic intelligences, Gardner introduced us to the idea of people also having spatial, bodily or kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential or spiritual intelligences. All of this suggests that persons can learn through kinesthetic, musical, and group activities in addition to the traditional ways of learning.
Other strategies of learning are through critical thinking in which the student is shown how to pose Socratic questioning and represent how they think through mind maps. Feedback from teachers and peers is also a great strategy for teaching and learning.
Four: Learning Occurs Through Social Interaction
Because humans are social animals, it is only natural for learning to occur through social interaction. This is the reason why most children are put into classes rather than being individually taught. I have had experiences learning foreign languages both through group classes and individual tutorials. Overall, I have learned the best in small group classes. This is primarily due to the spirit of competition and feedback which I have received in group classes but not in individual tutorials. In my last tutorial with a native Thai instructor while learning Thai, the instructor never gave me honest feedback, because she thought it would hurt my feelings. Since I was only competing against myself, it was hard to motivate myself to learn well. If I had been in a group class, I'm sure I would have received more genuine feedback from my peers and felt more motivated to compete. Another benefit of group learning is the cooperation and mentoring from stronger members.
Five: Students Need Feedback to Learn
Studies have shown that students can remember and learn things faster through hands-on practice and then having the chance to teach their acquired skill to others. Children who sit through a teacher-centered lecture and take only notes with no questioning of the instructor will retain only 10 percent of what they are taught. Is there any doubt then that students need feedback to learn? Unless a student gets actively involved learning and practicing a skill, he or she will never learn well. This is because we learn from our mistakes. Professional football, basketball, and baseball players spend countless hours watching film of their performance so that they and coaches can critique the performance, and then devise a strategy for performing better next time.
When students do get feedback, it must be positive and not negative. This can be done by giving students a kind of "MacFeedback" sandwich. After the teacher or coach points out what is good about a performance, he will point out to the student or athlete what is wrong or deficient, and then conclude what the individual must do to improve his study or skills. Without any type of positive reinforcement, people will not learn through feedback.
San Antonio Spurs Championships
Successful Teaching and Learning Strategies
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Six: Learning Requires a Positive Emotional Climate
Finally, if any kind of academic or skill learning is to take place, a positive emotional climate must be present. In the classroom, students must feel good about themselves. Teachers can help by calling all students by their names and paying attention to them with genuine praise. If students sense that they are loved and valued, they will develop self-confidence and self-worth which is so important in learning.
In team sports, a positive emotional climate or good chemistry among the players is necessary for the success of the team. If any player or players on the team are angry or upset about their playing time or role on the team, he will perform badly for the team during games as well as being a cancer for the team. The San Antonio Spurs professional basketball team has been a very successful franchise since the late 1990s due to good chemistry among the players and coaches.
Successful teaching and learning demands giving students what is personally meaningful to them as well as associating the new learning with the students' prior experiences and learning. It also calls for the teacher using different strategies which make use of student-centered strategies of group learning, feedback, and a positive emotional climate.
Successful Teaching and Learning Strategies
© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn
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