A new teaching year has started, so we teachers are coming back to work full of energy, enthusiasm and new ideas. So this is a post for teachers.
Two years ago I read some research which forced me to change how I teach. Dr. Ethna Reid’s research into the behaviours which successful teachers exhibited. Her priority was to uncover a manageable number of high-impact teaching activities. Her team is said to have spent thousands of hours conducting best practice studies with teachers. Ultimately, they identified eight teaching, which they felt would get the most out of students. They argue that the most successful teachers:
- Reinforce correct responses and positive behaviour
- Elicit rapid overt responses
- Closely monitor students’ responses
- Increase rate of responses among all students
- Expect learning mastery (83 to 100 percent accuracy)
- Reteach when students fail to learn
- Model for students during instruction
- Teach reading, writing, listening, and speaking in all fields
What I changed in my teaching practice
I made some big changes to my teaching after reading this.
- I dramatically increased the number of questions I ask of students each lesson and how I ask these questions. Question and answer sessions (often peer-to-peer), with more challenging follow-up questions to go deeper, seems to help me to tick almost all 8 boxes a little better.
- It also convinced me to reteach material. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t really used to do this. I used to sometimes say something like, “you were here when we taught that, so please go through your notes and let me know what you’re not clear on.” I used to put it back on to the students if they didn’t understand something. Now I’m completely happy to teach the whole thing again, in a different way. I probably end up explaining the gist of the most challenging concepts 6 times before they all comfortable that they understand it (i.e. one time explaining to the whole group, once to a smaller group and multiple times clarifying things to individual students as needed).
- On average, going over previous material, in different ways, going deeper into concepts, checking students’ knowledge (often peer-to-peer), etc takes about a third of each of my lessons now. And this ‘trying to go deeper into thing is often the best part of the lesson because of the critical thinking going on.
Do you agree?
I’d like to put this question out to my fellow teachers out there. What are a few things you try to do every lesson? What works in your classrooms? What are your priorities? What have you learned recently that you think other teachers would benefit from trying?
Don’t think that no one will listen to you. I will listen. I’ll try anything (everything) you suggest and report back. The way my brain works, improvement always comes down to deciding on a few, carefully-chosen aspects focus on. So, I always want to try to be sure I’m focussing on the right teaching priorities for my practice, to best help my students.
Thanks and have a great year!