There are many tips available to assist teachers and lecturers in improving their classroom techniques and I don’t particularly want to get into a debate about individual preferences. Everyone has their own ideas about what works best for them but it is my intention, in this post, to tell you about what works for me and my classes.
Education is full of buzzwords, maxims and sound bites and in my experience a lot of administrators quote them incessantly, but the problem arises when it comes to defining them. However, no matter what is in vogue at the time, I believe it just all comes down to good teaching practises.
When I develop my courses and lessons I ensure they are:
You can start personalised learning even before you get sight of the learners themselves. As soon as they are registered you can begin to draw up a Group Learning Profile which is important in the identification of who your learners are, where they are from and what factors may affect their ability to learn. The profile assists us to improve the design and development of our courses specific to the group and individual learning needs.
When your courses start, try and ensure you give your learners choices whenever possible. This leads to personal motivation for the learners, improved engagement, better retention and higher attainment.
It is of vital importance to nurture industry contacts and read the trade magazines related to your field of teaching. It will keep you up to date with current trends and help you modernise the course content. Obsolete or obsolescent material can be counter-productive and demoralising to the learners.
We must never lose sight of the fact that we should be teaching our learners life skills and employability skills in addition to the core subjects.
Relate your lessons, topics and/or ideas to everyday tasks and explain to the learners how they could apply the knowledge in their normal life. In vocational education it is generally easier because the learners are already studying sport, social care, engineering, hairdressing etc. and the contextualisation is normally, but not always, apparent.
Someone once said that “Variety is the spice of life” and this is certainly true when it comes to keeping our learners engaged. Diverse methods of delivery including traditional ‘chalk and talk’ lessons, group discussions, question and answer sessions and online learning can be enhanced by grouping the learners as a whole class, in small groups and as individuals. Keep the learners interested and they will want to be in your classes.
Feedback is an important and effective tool in the development of the learners’ knowledge. It is a duplex procedure and should always be constructive and honest and let them know how to put the situation right. Feedback from the learners identifies perceived strengths and weaknesses in our teaching delivery and allows us to make changes for future classes in the spirit of continual improvement.
I use a variety of different methods for delivering and receiving feedback. Q and A sessions are held at the end of topics and ideas, a dedicated email address to correspond with me in and out of normal hours and a more formal system via a Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle).