Creative Teaching Strategies Take Learning to a New Level
At the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Penn., students take math classes according to skill (not grade) level, sophomores and juniors intern with the chief astronomer at The Franklin Institute, and visiting speakers include Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and Waleed Abdalati, NASA’s chief scientist. At Brightworks, a K-12 school in San Francisco, Calif., the emphasis is on passion. Brightworks educators help their students find what it is that they’re passionate about, and then encourage this passion through hands-on, project-based learning.
The days of one teacher standing in front of a chalkboard and lecturing to a classroom filled with obedient, desk-bound students are becoming a thing of the past — and for good reason. Decades of research has shown that the typical “chalk and talk” teaching strategy doesn’t do much for the majority of students, especially tactile/kinesthetic learners who pick up information by doing. The latest teaching strategies are designed to accommodate a variety of learning styles, connect students to the real world, and encourage a love of learning. Some of the most creative teaching strategies are quickly replacing the typical didactic learning method most of us have grown up with. Below is a quick look at some educational philosophies and teaching strategies gaining in popularity:
Experiential Education: This teaching strategy allows students to create meaning and gain knowledge through direct experience. The Association for Experiential Education gives the following definition, “Experiential Education is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values.” One popular example of Experiential Education that has cropped up in most mainstream schools is “Outdoor School,” where students go to a natural area for a week, and educators use the outdoor environment as a learning tool. Another example is the Presidential Classroom, which brings high school students from across the U.S. to Washington, D.C. for a week long conference on American government, public policy, history and international affairs. While there, the students interact with government officials, view public policy in the making, and experience American government in real-time.
Spaced Learning: In this teaching strategy, instructors teach condensed content for eight minutes three times, giving students a ten-minute break for physical activities in between each eight-minute learning period. In a 2005 article published in the journal Scientific American, researchers explained how our brains form long-term memories. Education researchers piggybacked on this and discovered that, by spacing condensed chunks of content with slightly longer periods of physical exercise, students were retaining more information for longer periods of time. Monkseaton High School in the U.K. recently implemented this type of teaching strategy, and it offers other educators a variety of lessons based on Spaced Learning on its website.
Storyline Method: First developed for work at the Scottish Primary School in Glasgow, Scotland, the Storyline method makes students question the answers instead of answering the questions. Educators pose problems to students and explore the answer with the students as opposed to answering for the students, and use an overarching “storyline” to tie all aspects of the curriculum into one comprehensive story. For example, if the storyline was “Rocks & Minerals,” a teacher might incorporate reading skills into the lesson by having students research a particular rock or mineral. Then math and science would come into play when students examined the actual specimen. To incorporate art into the lesson, students might draw their rock or mineral. Students may take a trip to a local museum that contains a rocks/minerals display, or perhaps meet an actual geologist to discover more facts about the rocks and minerals they’ve studied. “Storyline is a strategy for developing the curriculum as an integrated whole,” according to the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum. To find out more about the Storyline Method, visit www.storyline.org.
Constructivist Learning Theory: This educational philosophy, and the teaching strategies that support it, are built on the premises that students “learn by doing,” and that the first-hand knowledge a student gains from the environment around him or her constructs this individual’s knowledge base. As the student gains new experiences, and thus new knowledge, he or she guides their own learning process and learns that there are multiple ways of solving problems. Instead of providing direct instruction, teachers who are using teaching strategies conducive to this learning theory would lead students through a series of questions and activities, helping learners discover and discuss the knowledge they’ve gained. For information on teaching with the Constructivist Learning Theory, visit the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Education and Social Work website.
We’d love to hear what other methods or theories you’ve seen be successful. Share your experiences in our comment section.