10 practical learner-centric teaching strategies

Here are some simple and practical student-friendly teaching techniques which can be incorporated into the classroom. These techniques, if used purposefully, puts the learner at the centre of the learning experience by increasing their participation and engagement in a classroom; providing an opportunity of moulding their learning experience; and by building a connection between the environment and concepts taught.

PRACTICAL EXAMPLES: Connecting theory with environment

The introduction of practical examples into the subject matter serves as an enhancement and is complementary to the concepts taught in the classroom. Note that it is important to develop the conceptual and practical base simultaneously since neither is useful without the other.

SHOW AND TELL: Reversing Teacher – Student Roles

The “Show and Tell” technique can be used in various forms depending on the subject content, the age group of the students and the degree of their sophistication. In its most elementary form, show-and-tell can a form of story-telling (development of communication skills); and in its more advanced form is another type of the “Practical Examples” technique. Putting the students into the role of a teacher makes the students look deeper into the assigned problem.

CASE STUDIES: Bringing “Real-Life” Scenarios into the Classroom

Cases are accounts of “real-life” activity, they help the students to better relate concepts to the “real-world”. In this method, Learners can be required to work either individually or in groups. The case method promotes classroom discussions, problem solving and feedback from learners.

GUIDED TEAM PROJECTS: Introducing practical experience into Classrooms

Team projects can be short projects/activities which are completed in one classroom session or longer projects/ activities which span multiple sessions. Team projects give learners an opportunity to work in a team environment, applying concepts learned in the classroom. Students work together in teams generating ideas/solving problems/illustrating concepts while giving the entire class opportunity to participate and reflect during the presentation.

OPEN-ENDED LABS: Making learners think deeper

Open-ended laboratory classes are classes where the students are encouraged to design their own experience / concepts or experiments, rather than required to follow a rigid set of guidelines specified by the teacher. This learning strategy is all about exploring alternative methods of doing things which results in a deeper understanding on what works and what does not while fostering creativity and lateral thinking.

THE FLOWCHART TECHNIQUE: Organizing flow of thought

The technique of flowcharting, as applied to a classroom scenario, is a tool for precisely and concisely representing the flow of information among various stages in the development of a concept; in the formulation or analysis of a problem; providing linkages between various steps; and presenting information / thought.

OPEN-ENDED QUIZZES: Moving students away from memorization

Open ended quizzes (e.g. problems that do not specify all information to arrive at the answer; problems that require students to use their judgement, etc) are an enhancement of the straightforward “Given this, calculate that” or “Plug and chug” type of quizzes that merely encourage students to memorize. The open-ended quiz is intended to stimulate students’ creativity and help students think deeply about the material covered in the classroom.

BRAINSTORMING: Encouraging creativity

The brainstorming technique is widely used in industry and academia to encourage participants to generate ideas in an unhindered manner. In an academic context, brainstorming encourages students to participate actively in idea-generation exercises and experience benefits of a multi-dimensional approach to analyzing problems or solutions. The brainstorming technique is applicable to all levels of the curriculum and to all teaching scenarios – labs, lectures or discussion.

4MAT: Catering to multiple learning preferences

The 4MAT approach caters to the multiple learning profiles of students (recall, understanding, application and synthesis) and each lesson is planned to focus on each preference. Learners are encouraged to participate in all approaches thereby learning through the preferred approach while strengthening their weaker areas.

QUESTION-AND-ANSWER METHOD: Encouraging student participation

This is the most commonly used technique of encouraging learner participation in a classroom. The goal of the question-and-answer method is to draw students into active participation in the teaching and learning process. When used properly (merely posing questions is not enough to motivate learners to move to higher levels of learning) this technique encourages learners to move to higher levels of learning by clarification, expansion, generalization, and inference.

Summation

The teaching strategies mentioned above enrich the classroom environment. The success with which these strategies are used in a classroom is dependent on the skill of the teacher in integrating the strategies into the stated learning outcomes. It requires that the teachers devote time and thought during the planning of the lesson and determine the manner in which these teaching strategies will be used.

It should be noted that that these strategies do not imply a “hands off” policy by the teacher, but is plays a big role by acting as a facilitator / consultant in guiding the learning process. The effectiveness of each of these techniques is only limited by the creativity / enthusiasm of the instructor and the constraints imposed by the system.