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TEACHING STRATEGIES

Institutions of higher learning across the nation are responding to political, economic, social and
technological pressures to be more responsive to students' needs and more concerned about how well
students are prepared to assume future societal roles. Faculty are already feeling the pressure to lecture
less, to make learning environments more interactive, to integrate technology into the learning
experience, and to use collaborative learning strategies when appropriate.
Some of the more prominent strategies are outlined below. For more information about the use of these
and other pedagogical approaches, contact the Program in Support of Teaching and Learning.
Lecture. For many years, the lecture method was the most widely used instructional strategy in college
classrooms. Nearly 80% of all U.S. college classrooms in the late 1970s reported using some form of
the lecture method to teach students (Cashin, 1990). Although the usefulness of other teaching
strategies is being widely examined today, the lecture still remains an important way to communicate
information.
Used in conjunction with active learning teaching strategies, the traditional lecture can be an effective
way to achieve instructional goals. The advantages of the lecture approach are that it provides a way to
communicate a large amount of information to many listeners, maximizes instructor control and is non-
threatening to students. The disadvantages are that lecturing minimizes feedback from students,
assumes an unrealistic level of student understanding and comprehension, and often disengages
students from the learning process causing information to be quickly forgotten.
The following recommendations can help make the lecture approach more effective (Cashin, 1990):
1. Fit the lecture to the audience
2. Focus your topic - remember you cannot cover everything in one lecture
3. Prepare an outline that includes 5-9 major points you want to cover in one lecture
4. Organize your points for clarity
5. Select appropriate examples or illustrations
6. Present more than one side of an issue and be sensitive to other perspectives
7. Repeat points when necessary
8. Be aware of your audience - notice their feedback
9. Be enthusiastic - you don’t have to be an entertainer but you should be excited by your topic.
(from Cashin, 1990, pp. 60-61)

Case Method. Providing an opportunity for students to apply what they learn in the classroom to
real-life experiences has proven to be an effective way of both disseminating and integrating
knowledge. The case method is an instructional strategy that engages students in active
discussion about issues and problems inherent in practical application. It can highlight
fundamental dilemmas or critical issues and provide a format for role playing ambiguous or
controversial scenarios.

Course content cases can come from a variety of sources. Many faculty have transformed current
events or problems reported through print or broadcast media into critical learning experiences
that illuminate the complexity of finding solutions to critical social problems. The case study
approach works well in cooperative learning or role playing environments to stimulate critical
thinking and awareness of multiple perspectives.
Discussion. There are a variety of ways to stimulate discussion. For example, some faculty begin
a lesson with a whole group discussion to refresh students’ memories about the assigned
reading(s). Other faculty find it helpful to have students list critical points or emerging issues, or
generate a set of questions stemming from the assigned reading(s). These strategies can also be
used to help focus large and small group discussions.

Obviously, a successful class discussion involves planning on the part of the instructor and
preparation on the part of the students. Instructors should communicate this commitment to the
students on the first day of class by clearly articulating course expectations. Just as the instructor
carefully plans the learning experience, the students must comprehend the assigned reading and
show up for class on time, ready to learn.

Active Learning. Meyers and Jones (1993) define active learning as learning environments that
allow “students to talk and listen, read, write, and reflect as they approach course content through
problem-solving exercises, informal small groups, simulations, case studies, role playing, and
other activities -- all of which require students to apply what they are learning” (p. xi). Many
studies show that learning is enhanced when students become actively involved in the learning
process. Instructional strategies that engage students in the learning process stimulate critical
thinking and a greater awareness of other perspectives. Although there are times when lecturing is
the most appropriate method for disseminating information, current thinking in college teaching
and learning suggests that the use of a variety of instructional strategies can positively enhance
student learning. Obviously, teaching strategies should be carefully matched to the teaching
objectives of a particular lesson. For more information about teaching strategies, see the list of
college teaching references in Appendix N.

Assessing or grading students' contributions in active learning environments is somewhat


problematic. It is extremely important that the course syllabus explicitly outlines the evaluation
criteria for each assignment whether individual or group. Students need and want to know what is
expected of them. For more information about grading, see the Evaluating Student Work section
contained in this Guide.

Cooperative Learning. Cooperative Learning is a systematic pedagogical strategy that


encourages small groups of students to work together for the achievement of a common goal. The
term 'Collaborative Learning' is often used as a synonym for cooperative learning when, in fact, it
is a separate strategy that encompasses a broader range of group interactions such as developing
learning communities, stimulating student/faculty discussions, and encouraging electronic
exchanges (Bruffee, 1993). Both approaches stress the importance of faculty and student
involvement in the learning process.

When integrating cooperative or collaborative learning strategies into a course, careful planning
and preparation are essential. Understanding how to form groups, ensure positive
interdependence, maintain individual accountability, resolve group conflict, develop appropriate
assignments and grading criteria, and manage active learning environments are critical to the
achievement of a successful cooperative learning experience. Before you begin, you may want to
consult several helpful resources which are contained in Appendix N. In addition, the Program in
Support of Teaching and Learning can provide faculty with supplementary information and
helpful techniques for using cooperative learning or collaborative learning in college classrooms.

Integrating Technology. Today, educators realize that computer literacy is an important part of a
student's education. Integrating technology into a course curriculum when appropriate is proving
to be valuable for enhancing and extending the learning experience for faculty and students.
Many faculty have found electronic mail to be a useful way to promote student/student or
faculty/student communication between class meetings. Others use listserves or on-line notes to
extend topic discussions and explore critical issues with students and colleagues, or discipline-
specific software to increase student understanding of difficult concepts.

Currently, our students come to us with varying degrees of computer literacy. Faculty who use
technology regularly often find it necessary to provide some basic skill level instruction during
the first week of class. In the future, we expect that need to decline. For help in integrating
technology into a course curriculum contact the Program in Support of Teaching and Learning or
the Instructional Development Office (IDO) at 703-993-3141
begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-993-3141 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. In
addition, watch for information throughout the year about workshops and faculty conversations
on the integration of technology, teaching and learning.

Distance Learning. Distance learning is not a new concept. We have all experienced learning
outside of a structured classroom setting through television, correspondence courses, etc.
Distance learning or distance education as a teaching pedagogy, however, is an important topic of
discussion on college campuses today. Distance learning is defined as 'any form of teaching and
learning in which the teacher and learner are not in the same place at the same time' (Gilbert,
1995).

Obviously, information technology has broadened our concept of the learning environment. It has
made it possible for learning experiences to be extended beyond the confines of the traditional
classroom. Distance learning technologies take many forms such as computer simulations,
interactive collaboration/discussion, and the creation of virtual learning environments connecting
regions or nations. Components of distance learning such as email, listserves, and interactive
software have also been useful additions to the educational setting.

For more information about distance learning contact the Instructional Development Office at
703-993-3141 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 703-993-
3141 end_of_the_skype_highlighting (Fairfax Campus) and watch for workshops and faculty
discussions on the topic throughout the year.

Teaching Strategies
I work with seven primary strategies in
teaching:
§ presenting—and structuring the
course around—primary concepts and
techniques of rhetoric and composing
processes,

§ distinguishing between and teaching


techniques of both exploratory and
transactional writing

§ teaching techniques of analysis,

§ requiring practice work with concepts


and techniques, through a games
approach,

§ establishing a sense of community


within the class to foster social
construction (in the larger context of
meaningful, respectful social
relationships),

§ establishing “real-world” contexts for


performance of the concepts and
techniques studied,

§ creating opportunities for feedback,

§ setting high performance standards


and giving students opportunities to
revise weak performances for higher
grades.
Though the emphasis and level of sophistication
changes with upper level courses, all my writing
courses work to distinguish
rhetorical/transactional writing from exploratory
writing—because I consistently find that
students have not been taught to think
rhetorically, and they haven’t learned to use
writing as a private tool of thinking. And thus,
most of their writing is an awkward mix of the
two: neither well adapted to an audience nor
streamlined to meet the needs of thinking.
Making distinctions, thinking rhetorically are, of
course, fundamentally acts of analysis, and so
teaching students the fundamental, generic
techniques of analysis is something I spend a
great deal of time on, with the students
conducting some kind of analysis in nearly every
class meeting. And to teach students how to
conduct the more disciplined and extended
analysis of a subject (which much transactional
writing is grounded in), I teach them to create
concept maps, which I regard as a primary tool
of analysis (an essential exploratory writing
technique).
I teach composing processes simply by leading
them—over and over again—through varied but
thorough processes.
To make the (often) arduous work of writing and
developing as a writer palatable (even
intriguing), I am developing (with my colleague,
Bryan Kopp) a games approach to writing.
That is, we are conceiving of transactional
writing as a series of interrelated games that
writers play with language, ideas, and social
relationships. The primary games are (in my
terminology—Bryan’s is somewhat different,
though we agree on the number and nature of
the games):
§ Focusing
§ Developing
§ Structuring
§ Styling
§ Formatting
Fundamental to the games approach is the idea
that a player develops skill and depth of
understanding by playing the games in isolation
(or in simple combinations) for low stakes, as
preparation for playing fully integrated, high-
stakes games—in other words, practicing and
developing in the way that craft workers,
musicians, and athletes do. And, as with
musicians and athletes, the work must be done
within a disciplined and social context.
If a student is taking the work seriously, s/he
can get considerable feedback from her own
performance in practice situations (that sense of
dissonance between performance and desired
outcome). But external feedback is also
valuable, and so I set up time for students to
interact in small groups, at nearly every class
meeting, to compare their performances on
practice games. I also give feedback by
displaying my own performance on assigned
games and by focusing on a few student
performances to illustrate how to deal with
common problems or weaknesses. (One
mechanism for that approach is to ask students
to post an exercise/game on D2L, where it
becomes a digital text that I can project and
demonstrate, during class, ways to revise and
develop it.)
I also give feedback to students in at least six
other ways:
§ through conversations in class,
§ through individual conferences on drafts of
transactional writings,
§ through marginal comments and summary
comments and through a rubric on “finished”
transactional works (works they are able to
revise for a second evaluation),
§ through a written response to mid-term
progress reports (on how well they are
understanding and accomplishing the course
goals),
§ through evaluation of and response to D2L
postings of short transactional pieces (the
written responses go only to weak
performances, explaining the weaknesses and
inviting the student to revise it for a higher
evaluation),
§ through e-mail exchanges (usually initiated
by the student).
Teaching Strategies, Skills and Style
Teaching strategies or methods refer to the way in which a teacher presents material to
achieve objectives. Such strategies may include, for example, teacher exposition, pair
work, oracy, role play, design and build, investigation, experimentation, field work,
reading, watching, using video or audio material, simulation, debate etc.

Teaching skills refer to the ability each teacher has to use different strategies
effectively. A teacher can employ a computer program, for example, only if s/he has
some level of I.C.T. competence. Conversely, a teacher cannot use a strategy if s/he
does not have the ability to control a class effectively.

Teaching style is a combination of the strategies used by a teacher and the teaching
skills at his/her disposal. It is influenced by the teacher’s own personality, attitude,
background, training and personal qualities and results in a unique approach in the
classroom.

Preferred Styles
We aim to ensure that every teacher is aware of his/her own preferred teaching style.
We strive to produce schemes of work that offer variety of approaches throughout the
course of a school year.

We are committed, through induction, mutual lesson observation and other staff
development activities, to the promotion and advancement of teaching skills so that
teachers and learning support assistants feel confident in the use of a variety of
teaching strategies. Such strategies may increasingly involve the use of I.C.T.

We believe in providing learning resources that allow a variety of approaches to


teaching and learning. This involves the acquisition of a wide range of books and other
types of resources in our faculty area, the Library, I.C.T. rooms and so on.

We aim to develop learning skills in pupils so that they can respond positively to any
teaching strategy they meet. This involves a concerted approach from all teachers and
LSAs in exposing pupils to a variety of stimuli. It further involves a commitment to
progression and continuity, not just in terms of curriculum content but also in terms of
skills’ development. Pupils should leave the school as skilful learners, able to use a
range of learning strategies. We believe that, although the PSE programme has a strong
part to play in the development of cross-curricular skills, all subject teachers have
responsibility for developing them.

As a school we aspire to keep in touch with research and development findings in


teaching and learning. The R.E. Department subscribes to various publications – The
British Journal of Religious Education; R.E. Today; and Resource.

We recognise and value the uniqueness of every teacher and every learner and aspire
to provide teaching which challenges every pupil. We believe that differentiation can, in
part, be achieved through the use of a variety of teaching and learning strategies. We
seek to accommodate the often differing learning needs of boys and girls and pupils
with particular special educational needs, including those deemed ‘very able’ or ‘gifted.’

Monitoring and Evaluation


The headteacher is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the teaching and learning