How effective are teaching methods? Are learners taking enough away from lessons? What could improve learning output? These are all typical questions developing teachers ask themselves.
Questions about the effectiveness of teaching and the effect it has on learning have grown immensely over the last years not only in language education but in general education, too.
As a result, teachers have gone back to school, so to speak, and started reading up on research, developing hypotheses and running experiments. The end result? A wealth of tried and tested methods to make teaching and learning a guaranteed success.
However, all of these results don’t point in the same direction. In fact, we are now in a situation where experiment results stand in absolute contradiction to each other.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these theories on how best to educate our learners.
If you haven’t heard about Flipped Learning, then you aren’t in the know. Flipped Learning is the hot topic of education at the moment. You can read up about the basics here as well as about its history and development here.
The basic principle behind Flipped Learning is to invert the classroom procedure: instead of the learners listening to the teacher in class and then doing the exercises at home, the learners cover the input at home through watching a video, such as those available on Khan Academy or reading a text, and then they do the exercises in class.
The premise of Flipped Learning is that with the onset of the digital era, students can watch or read the input in their own time on their computers, tablets and smartphones. What they need class time for is developing their understanding of the topic, by putting it into practice through coursework and exercises, with the support of their teacher.
The Tutoring Bar is the brain child of Diane Tavenner and her team of teachers who literally reinvented education in their school into a whole new concept.
Tavenner and her team’s research is based 100% on continuous and rigorous feedback and assessment. They measured in great detail how effective their teaching methods were and developed them to become even more effective. This gave birth to the Tutoring Bar.
They changed the classrooms into what looks more like an Apple store or a start-up office: long desks filled learners working away at their education on laptops and a bar at the end where there is a teacher available to help with any queries. Somewhat like the Genius bar in an Apple store.
Learners come to the Tutoring Bar and get individualized assistance from the teacher in order to help them better understand the difficult concepts at hand.
Tavenner and her team found that not only was this more effective in terms of learning, as the learner gets support in exactly what they need it in, but also in time management, as less time was wasted on lecturing and more time was dedicated to learners developing their own learning through digital technology.
SAGE ON THE STAGE
A teacher in the UK, Daisy Christodoulou, decided to take matters into her own hands when she felt that effective teaching was being undermined by school inspectors in favour of more fashionable methods and approaches.
What Daisy discovered was that more traditional approaches to teaching and learning shouldn’t be thrown out just yet.
For example: it is generally agreed that a good teacher is one who is the guide on the side, helping and supporting learners completing tasks and coursework. However, Daisy’s research suggests that without teacher-led instruction first, learners can’t complete tasks well and they perform better when there is an element of teacher input first.
This is just one example of many that Daisy gives in her book. Others include the fact that transferable skills aren’t actually that transferable, projects aren’t always the best way to learn, and leaving it down to Google isn’t the right answer.
What’s the solution?
So, given so many contradictory findings, which method should we opt for? Do we leave the 20th century behind and start flipping our classroom, while ignoring Daisy Christodoulou’s findings, or do we stick to our guns and keep lecturing our learners, knowing that Diane Tavenner’s team say that isn’t the right approach?
The solutions is simple: use them all. Flip your classroom from time to time. Plan lessons where your learners work on their coursework and you are available to help, like the Tutoring Bar. Stand and lecture your learners, make them engage in what your are saying. Give them work to do at home. Give them videos to watch at home and get them to complete the exercises in class.
Mix it up and keep mixing it up, because at the end of the day, no matter what findings you come across, you will alway find a counter argument. After all, we already know that learning is a unique and individualized process; no two students learn in the same way. So, by varying your approaches and methods, you cast your net wider and stand a greater chance of engaging more young eager minds.