Question: Please prepare a paragraph in which you describe your own "default" teaching styles and the reasons why you think you use them. If you wish, please comment on (and challenge) the views expressed by Donald Finkel.
As I prepare for the new semester, starting later this week, this default teaching style question was on my mind as I stared at the photocopier, a big pile of notes in my hand, with worksheets to match. I was debating copying them, because doing that would most likely ensure I would use them – notes to fill in, discuss, and then worksheets to practice, day after day. Not that I don’t do other things, but these are my backup, my “just in case it’s a bad day”, my “I’m too tired to find an activity” fall-back routine. So yes, I would say my default style is mainly verbal and visual teaching. I did end up photocopying them, by the way, and now I feel sort of guilty about it.
Donald Finkel made a good point about “telling” as a common default teaching style; usually the reason for it occurring because it was how we, ourselves, were taught. It’s familiar, it can be simple, and the “majority” of students get it – but that is a risky word when we should be teaching to an entire classroom, and not just the majority.
Although I do agree that telling is easy, it’s not the only reason sometimes I am hesitant to have students teach a concept to themselves, or learn through an activity. It’s the reassurance that the information is on that page and they have the knowledge they need to pass tests, exams, etc. So many times I hear “our teacher last year didn’t teach us this”, and I roll my eyes and tell them they probably forgot it. Never could MY students say that, because I could shout back “yes, you did learn it – it was on page two of that section in that unit” – and feel better. But what I’m realizing now is that some of those notes may be as useless to certain students as if I hadn’t taught the concept to them at all, because it didn’t register, didn’t make an impact, and they never bothered to look at it again. So quick are we to hold students accountable without looking to ourselves to see what we are doing to ensure they are actually LEARNING versus just me TELLING them the information.
Now once again I say that I don’t just tell them everything and leave it at that. There are lots of group activities, labs, self-teaching, and online components to my courses, but I feel that they main information lies in simple notes and worksheets. These are still important, because we do have to ensure they have some background information, but I am really attempting to branch out with each new year and try things outside my comfort zone and hope that the students still get something out of the activities that they will remember - the more meaningful and related to real life outside of high school, the better. I also try to remind myself that I don’t simply have to evaluate their knowledge through tests – that they can do these activities and active learning and I can evaluate their knowledge in many other ways.
I’m also trying to do some teaching in what I sometimes think of as “backwards” order. So often in mathematical based science, all the problems are done step by step, over and over, until the students know the formulas and routines inside and out. I would like to do a bit more analysis and “big idea” discovery, and work my way down towards how best to solve a problem. This would help a lot of the global and intuitive learners and not just the sensing and sequential ones. Having the students involved in a discussion and developing these skills together would probably have a greater impact on why the calculations are important, as opposed to me just telling them to memorize it all.
The past few years I have been trying to take even just one lesson from each strand and do it differently then I usually have, and over time, I will have an abundance of “outside the box” resources at my disposal. Hopefully I’ll get some ideas from this course as well!