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Teachers are people who profoundly impact lives. The truly exceptional ones are those who make the most of the opportunity, and grasp it with both hands. They transcend the prescribed curriculum in order to teach kids not what to think, but how to think. And they do that by embracing new trends and innovative methods, despite initial uncertainty about their success. These are the teachers who have the most meaningful and lasting impact on their students.
For you to join their ranks, there’s no need to go rogue like Finland’s education system and restructure the entire basis of schooling – here are 10 easy yet highly effective things that any teacher can do optimise lessons and ultimately, shape lives.
Before we get there though, let’s briefly unpack the problem with the status quo. The big issue is that it has been demonstrated time and time again that traditional teaching methods fail to do their job. They are appalling at capturing the attention of learners, keeping it, and then leveraging it to impart knowledge. Those who do excel academically generally do so of their own accord.
That’s why it is crucial for teachers to find new and innovative teaching methods, from elementary, to high school. This list addresses the two main challenges teachers have to overcome in order to do so. Firstly, this list provides valuable insight into the best ways to attract interest so that your students are open to absorb what you have to teach them. Secondly, it shows you what to do once you have acquired center stage, to create the best learner experience.
Learning environments play a prime role in student development. Similar to the use of color-coding to organise study material for better processing, locations can be a key variable that can assist with the learning process by anchoring memories. A different location for a different topic reduces the mundanity of learning. It can help learners recall information about the curriculum by associating it with the specific place where it was introduced to them.
You can make the most of this neuroscientific concept by organising field trips that are relevant to your lesson,or simply taking your class for a walk outside the classroom. Alternativley, changing the décor of your clasroom according to the current theme can can also act as an effective memory anchor.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are two of the most brilliant ways to make any experience more exciting and impactful. Below is a brief definition of each and how they differ.
- Virtual Reality:
Virtual reality is an artificial environment that you can experience (and to some extent engage with) which is generated by a computer. Educational virtual reality experiences are being brought into the classroom by applications such as Google Expeditions, allowing you to embark on immersive virtual journeys to a different country, the depths of the ocean, or outer space. Because VR provides such a vivid experience of sights and sounds, children of all ages will love it – and you, for introducing them to such a cool learning tool.
- Augmented Reality:
Have you ever heard of Snapchat or Pokemon-Go? These are just two of the most impressive applications of augmented reality. It is the integration of computer-generated enhancements with the environment of the user, in real time. Virtual components like digital images, graphics, or sensations, can be blended into the classroom to make an existing reality more meaningful. There are numerous augmented reality apps that can be used in a class setting to improve the learner experience and drive engagement.
Most of the time, students lack the desire to learn because they fail to see the use of the skills and information. To solve this, you can make concepts applicable to your students by demonstrating real life situations. Don’t teach “about the topic”, teach “for the student”. Showing them how the skills and knowledge you are departing benefits them directly makes the knowledge attractive to them. Once you’ve grounded the content in their reality for your students, you can also create a scenario for them in which they are disadvantaged if they lack the information.
For each lesson, pick the predominant emotion you want inspire. To evoke it, add dramatic elements and words with strong connotations when presenting the study material to your class. You can make your lessons shocking or controversial to drive your students to formulate strong opinions on the subject. Class debates are the perfect activity for this provided you have a relevant topic. Remember, it is essential whenever you conduct a class discussion or debate to emphasise the freedom of every student to voice their opinion, however unpopular it may be, so that all feel welcome to engage to the maximum.
On the flip side, you can make your presentation of study material humorous, or mesmerising. Evoking positive emotions can just as well inspire students to take more interest in the syllabus because appealing to a strong emotion in your lessons – be it anger, disgust, or awe – takes advantage of the intrinsic workings of the brain. Humans are evolved to keep detailed records of experiences that evoke emotion, making this a good concept to apply in teaching.
Some teachers may want to keep technology out of the classroom for fear of disruption. However, in order to reach the potential level of performance in this era, it is essential to embrace technological advancements. Cloud computing, 3D printing, online games,learning analytics, and mobile learning, are just some of the prospects available to improve the quality of your lessons by engaging learners. With an appropriate level of control, any misuse of gadgets and devices in the classroom can also be eliminated.
Artificial intelligence has proven to be a serious game changer, and in the future, its possibilities in education are tremendous. Currently, it can be used to automate activities like basic grading or taking role. It can adapt to the specific needs of each student and provide them with additional support through AI tutoring. Moreover, artificial intelligence can enhance the way we find and engage with information, and provide helpful feedback on the quality of the syllabus, along with the performance of teachers and students. These are just some of many handy and convenient educational uses of AI.
This is the visual method of re-enacting past events as though they are happening in the present. It is the perfect teaching method for subjects such as history and is the go-to method for renowned teaching platforms like Khan Academy. Historical events unfold like scenes in a movie – and they grip learners with just as much veracity.
Learning is fun when it’s engaging. The optimal learning environment is not where students sit passively and wait for the bell to ring. It’s where they are engaged with the study material through visual content, audio, and kinesthesis – where they are so engrossed in the lesson that they dread the moment the bell rings.
People tend to remember information when it is presented visually significantly better than a list of disconnected facts. The ability to visualize concepts can lead students to have a deeper, more integrated, and longer term understanding of what is taught.
One thing you can do as a teacher is to incorporate audio-visual materials into your session. These include games and puzzles, oral history materials, and models. If you teach language arts, then visualization is especially useful for when you do literature and reading.
The social connectedness of any business or system is proven to have a significant impact on the productivity of that team. But what do the benefits of collaboration have to do with you?
As a teacher, getting different views may provoke you to consider aspects you would have otherwise never given thought to. Criticism and questioning of your methods will help you identify where to fine tune them. In addition, working with other teachers to explore innovative teaching methods will allow a lot of ground to be covered at the same time so that you can come to discover the best innovative techniques more quickly.
But that’s not where the advantages of collaboration for teachers end. Often on a solo journey, especially where there is uncertainty about success, it is difficult to stay motivated. This is a much less prevalent issue when working with a team of people dedicated to the same goal as you, and who understand your struggles as a professional.
Because this is a highly digital era, the people who you collaborate with on your ambitious pursuit don’t even have be your work colleagues, they can be other teachers online, such as the Shake Up Learning Facebook group. They even have their own hashtag, #SUL to stay connected on social media platforms.
In addition to being beneficial for the environment, having an eco-friendly classroom can dramatically improve learning. Several studies conducted have confirmed that green environments boost productivity. One found that students who wrote tests with a view of the outdoors, like through a window, performed better than those who didn’t. Their capacity to focus their attention increased by 13 percent and they were much more able to recover from stress. Eco-friendly schools like Howe Dell in the UK also report absenteeism reductions and increased occupant satisfaction, all while boosting learner performance.
However, not all schools have the luxury of being placed in the midst of a natural oasis. So thankfully these results also extend to classrooms that bring the outdoors inside. You can implement this concept in your teaching by simply getting a couple of pot plants in your class, or allowing for short outdoor breaks to expose your students to the natural environment for a few minutes in between lessons.
These are easy yet effective ways to improve the cognitive function of your learners, spur on their development, and challenge yourself as a teacher. Try them out, stay open minded, and be adventurous. They’ll be sure to improve the quality of both teaching and learning in your classroom.