I explained in the last article that pedagogy has to do with ‘the art of teaching’, the capacity of the educator to transfer knowledge and skills in such ways that enable students to understand, recollect, deliberate and apply.
The UCCI Academic Standards Document points out that ‘in the academic enterprise, the methods employed to teach students is of singular importance in determining outcomes. The purpose of education is to prepare the student to think, to adapt, to be creative, to sharpen their minds, heighten their imagination and deepen their understanding, and the methods employed by the educator are beyond question, critical.
Academic standards are the benchmark of excellence and quality and the assurance to various stakeholders of the basis of accountability. The local university, UCCI, correctly believes that student centredness is the linchpin, the connecting principle, the common core around which all activities, plans and ideas cohere. In this respect, one of the things it has done is explicitly state the standards to which it aspires.
This article presents extracts from this document that covers standards concerning teaching strategies. Emphasis is placed on the use of what the literature calls ‘High impact teaching strategies’. These are ten teaching practices accepted as very effective in the classroom. The last article covered six of these teaching strategies: setting goals, explicit teaching, structured lessons, work-show examples, collaborative learning and multiple exposures. I further quote from this document.
‘High Impact Teaching Strategies
Each UCCI faculty members will use at least two high-impact teaching strategies in the classroom. High impact teaching strategies (HITS) are ten instructional practices that reliably increase student learning when they are applied. The Teaching, Learning and Assessment Coordinator (TLA) will reinforce the knowledge of these in TLA sessions and encourage their use by faculty members.
Questioning is a powerful tool, and effective teachers regularly use it for a range of purposes. It engages students, stimulates interest and curiosity in the learning, and makes links to students’ lives. Questioning opens up opportunities for students to discuss, argue, and express opinions and alternative points of view.
Effective questioning yields immediate feedback on student understanding, supports informal and formative assessment, and captures feedback on effectiveness of teaching strategies.
Feedback informs a student and/or teacher about the student’s performance relative to learning goals. Feedback redirects or refocuses teacher and student actions so the student can align effort and activity with a clear outcome that leads to achieving a learning goal.
Teachers and peers can provide formal or informal feedback. It can be oral, written, formative, or summative. Whatever its form, it comprises specific advice a student can use to improve performance.
3. Metacognitive Strategies
Metacognitive strategies teach students to think about their own thinking. When students become aware of the learning process, they gain control over their learning. Metacognition extends to self-regulation or managing one's own motivation toward learning. Metacognitive activities can include planning how to approach learning tasks, evaluating progress, and monitoring comprehension.
4. Differentiated Teaching
Differentiated teaching strategies are methods teachers use to extend the knowledge and skills of every student in every class, regardless of his or her starting point. The objective is to lift the performance of all students, including those who are falling behind and those ahead of their expected performance levels.
To ensure all students master objectives, effective teachers plan lessons that incorporate adjustments for content, process, and product.
1. Maintaining a dual agenda of the teaching process and product:
• Unpacking strategies for explicit instruction
• Making content explicit
• Modeling and supporting metacognitive behavior
• Teaching thinking aligned with the Common Core
2. Using student/teacher transactions that support learning:
• Engaging students in relationship-building conversations
• Non-directive coaching to build competence, confidence, and self-direction
• Providing feedback that is specific, understandable and usable
• Mediating learning at the point of use
• Asking questions and giving answers that foster higher-order thinking
• Responding to questions and answers strategically
• Asking strategic and purpose-driven questions
• Understanding students’ thinking and common patterns of thought
• Facilitating and supporting the acquisition of information and resources
• Conferencing to reflect ideas and shape the way forward when students are working independently
3. Selecting ways to organize for instruction:
• Workshop approach
• Direct instruction
• Scaffolded instruction and the gradual release of control
• Differentiated instruction
• Project-based learning
• Discussion groups
• Setting up and managing small group work
4. Teaching lessons skillfully:
• Modeling actions and modeling thinking
• Leading a whole group discussion
• Establishing norms of discourse
• Teaching a segment of instruction towards a specific learning goal
• Building concepts
• Appraising, choosing and modifying tasks and texts for specific learning goals
• Selecting and using methods to check understanding and monitor student learning
• Assessing learning goals
5. Using brain-based instruction:
• Focusing students’ attention on what they will be learning and why it is useful to them
• Making connections with students’ prior knowledge
• Teaching the use of visual representations and mapping
• Using visual and manipulative materials to build concepts
• Providing personal processing time for consolidation of new information
• Allowing for verbal interaction and joint problem solving
• Providing feedback-driven learning
Another source explains these practices as follows (verbatim):
First-Year Seminars and Experiences
Many schools now build into the curriculum first-year seminars or other programs that bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis. The highest-quality first-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies. First-year seminars can also involve students with cutting-edge questions in scholarship and with faculty members’ own research. The University will move in this direction.
Common Intellectual Experiences
The older idea of a “core” curriculum has evolved into a variety of modern forms, such as a set of required common courses or a vertically organized general education program that includes advanced integrative studies and/or required participation in a learning community. These programs often combine broad themes—e.g., technology and society, global interdependence—with a variety of curricular and co-curricular options for students. The UCCI academic experience will see schools working in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way to maximize student learning and enjoyment and involvement in the learning process.’
In the next article I will present the final piece on this aspect of the document.