Archive for August, 2008

Pyramid Teaching: More discussions, better feedback

August 30, 2008 Leave a comment

You’re a new teacher looking for ways to engage adult learners in interesting discussions in your class or you’re simply trying to find another way to encourage your students to think for themselves and share their ideas with others. Here is a technique called pyramid teaching that I think you will find to be very effective.

Organize the students into pairs and have them discuss a question or a problem to reach consensus. After 5 or 10 minutes have each pair joined with another pair and have that group before reach consensus. Those groups of 4 then double up , 2 groups of 8 and so on.

This technique will involve every student and developer confidence in discussing their ideas with their peers. It’s not hard for them to talk to each other and once they have already expressed and clarify their ideas, it’s easier to talk in larger groups.

Each student gets a chance to participate and each student’s ideas become part of the final group project. This technique gives you dirhe and immediate student feedback from multiple sources. Every time you expand your group the ideas are seen from more points of view. The students will see how their ideas need to be a improved and they will all take responsibility for the final product.

An option that works very well with the first group of two pairs is to have each student brief their partners ideas. In that way the originator of the idea out will get to see how well they were able to communicate to their partner.

I have used this technique in a variety of settings and classrooms and over many different topics. It is without question one of my favorite techniques for encouraging students to participate in the dialogue. All I have to do is browse in between groups to ensure that conversations are productive and encouraged. Give it a try and see what you think!


Jigsaw Teaching: More discussion, less lecture

August 30, 2008 Leave a comment

You are a new teacher in your class material is vast and the readings are many. You need a way to make sure all the material is covered while avoiding lecture and encouraging students to work together. Here is a technique: jigsaw, which allows you to accomplish all of these objectives in an interesting and exciting manner.

Imagine you have a classroom of 16 students with four readings and four primary topics. Imagine each reading would take the students 30 minutes to read and consider. They come to class with two or three comments for clarification or discussion. It would be asking a lot to have each student read all four readings and conduct the level of analysis that you want to do inside the classroom. Chances are no student will do all of the work.

It would be very difficult in a two-hour classroom session to listen to the detailed work that each student might have performed. Nothing will turn a student off more than having completed all that reading and then not get a chance to discuss their insights in the classroom. The jigsaw technique is designed to avoid those problems and encourage students to take active participation in their own education.

Here is the idea:

1. On the day before the class organize your 16 students into four groups of four.

2. Assign each group before one of the readings with a set of discussion questions that you want them to develop a group answer on in the class the next day.

3. They will be responsible for reaching consensus or agreeing to disagree in the first half-hour of the class. It’s good if you have a whiteboard or butcher paper charts for them to record their small group discussion points.

4. At the end of the first 30 minutes each group has posted their notes on a whiteboard and have elected a spokesperson to present a 5 min summary of their discussions to the rest of the class. Therefore, in the first hour of class all four readings have been discussed at least in their own groups. The students have been engaged in for interesting conversations and they’ve had practice talking in a small group and to the group at large.

5. In the second hour the class gets to vote on which of the four discussion areas they want to pursue first.

6. Your job is the teacher now is simply to moderate the discussion and ensure that all four topic areas have an opportunity to be explored. You will reserve the last 10 minutes of class in order to provide a wrap up and provide some additional context for the students and the knowledge they have just created.

7. You have a set of teaching notes that identify the crucial points for each group so you can ensure the important material is addressed wither by the students or in your summary. You have a summary handout that is an excellent takeaway to ensure they have a set of crucial notes for further review and reference.

I have used this technique extensively in a variety of classes and with many different student demographics and discovered that it is a real winner here in the quality of discussion is enormous and students are willing to do their reading since they know they will have a chance to talk about it. They will also feel a responsibility to do the reading in order to share their work with others heard students will read for their friends as a motivation when they might not read just for themselves.

Give this technique a try and see if it works for you!

Categories: Teaching Tags: , , ,

Learning logs

August 30, 2008 Leave a comment

The learning log is a simple technique that you can use in the classroom or in your own personal growth to help you simultaneously improve in three critical areas: writing, thinking and reflection. It’s a simple technique that only requires paper and pencil and a little bit of time and a few simple instructions. Here’s how you do it.

List the topic to be discussed at the top of the paper. Draw a vertical line down the middle of the paper leaving 2 to 3 inches at the bottom for final remarks.

Label the left-hand column “subject notes”. In the left-hand column take notes on the particular topic that is being studied or read about. List the author’s main points or summarize the arguments of the speaker. Leave some space between comments because you will come back and fill in some more details later if needed.

Label the right-hand column “my thoughts”. In this column directly opposite the notes you just talk record your thoughts feelings and emotions and reactions to items you listed in the left-hand column. There are no wrong answers in this exercise only reactions. Perceptions are real and must be honored.

Label the space at the bottom of the page synthesis”. In this space record your thoughts and adjusted positions and insights that you gathered after looking at the top two columns. Examine the back-and-forth dialogue between the material and your own thinking process. Consider questions like why did I think that way? Where did that come from? What triggered that feeling? What can I learn about my own thoughts now that I see them in action?

You can continue now by reviewing the material in all three areas of your paper adding to and refining your understanding and ideas. In this process you will raise your consciousness about the subject ,your own thinking and feeling, and the way in which you integrate these ideas into your new understanding. The first couple times you do it it may seem a little strange but you will quickly discover that this is an effective way to gain insights into material and yourself. Give it a try and share it with your students. You will quickly see a dramatic improvement in their own critical thinking skills. Good luck!

Socratic questioning: creating engaging discusions

August 30, 2008 Leave a comment

If you do a web search on Socratic questioning or the Socratic method. You will literally find tens of thousands of entries. This article summarizes a number of the most important, questions that you can ask of yourself and of people you’re having a dialogue or an argument with that will lead you to deeper understanding and a humble appreciation of the limits of our own beliefs and thinking processes. With practice, you will develop a questioning habit of mind that will sharpen your thinking and lead to more success in every endeavor in life. That’s not all bad!

The Socratic method is a technique for probing the beliefs, assumptions and positions that we take a particular argument. Here are some good questions to get you going:

  • How are you using that word?
  • What is your main point?
  • What is your evidence in support?
  • Is your source reliable?
  • What is your reasoning to get to that conclusion?
  • Are there any exceptions to your main argument?
  • What are the implications of your argument?
  • What are the negative side effects of your recommendation, if any?
  • How would your opponents view your position?
  • How are they likely to respond to your argument?

As you can see, this list of questions starts at the beginning of the argument with definitions and proceeds through assumptions, methods of reasoning,, alternative points of view, logic and reason for coming to a conclusion, and the reaction of people on the other side of the argument. A thorough examination of the discussion or dialogue using these questions will reveal any gaps of knowledge or procedure that might make our argument incomplete or less persuasive. By getting the answers to these questions out on the table we stand a better chance of strengthening our argument and through dialogue coming to a deeper understanding of the problem.

It’s necessary in this technique to respect the points of view of the questioner and your opponent in order to come to a common understanding of the issue. Intellectual honesty and respect for argumentation are essential. This is the philosophical style of the ancient Greeks of the Socratic school. They are the root foundation of our scientific method with all its limitations. It enables us to reflect on our own thinking and examine the quality of her own arguments in the light of day. It helps us resolve contradictory beliefs inside our own value system.

You will find this technique in these questions to be of immense value in almost any endeavor in life and school and business. Practice these techniques and you will definitely see excellent results. Good luck and good thinking!

5 Tips for new teachers

August 30, 2008 Leave a comment

Being a new teacher can be one of the most stressful experiences of your life. You are entrusted with the hearts and minds of people eager to learn. How can you quickly and confidently pick up the skills you need to become a successful teacher and do the best for your students with their precious gift of time and attention?

Don’t worry! You will absolutely enjoy growing into your new role as a teacher. Follow these steps to get well started on your new career as an educator. These tips will set you up for success and help you model excellent learning behaviors for your students while you are learning, so it’s double good!

  • Observe an experienced instructor: Watch them create a successful learning experience and manage classroom expectations. Observe her posture, language, pace and rhythm. Listen to their silence create dramatic tension. Feel their aura of quiet authority. Watch as they bring students into the discussion and weave a tapestry of meaning.
  • Participate fully as a member of your teaching team. If you don’t have teaching teams at your school, start one and get credit for innovation.
  • Ask your team-mates how they developed their style and technique.
  • Learn to Facilitate Discussion Teaching: This isn’t your father’s lectures! We need to lead educational discussions and draw out experiences and insights in order to make our lesson meaningful and exciting.
  • Remember: every student teaches, every teacher learns! When they see your attention, enthusiasm and openness to new learnings, your students will be more engaged.
  • Cultivate and Practice active listening: Stop completing their sentences? Engage them through careful focused attention, and then clarify what you heard. You will be showing them how to communicate your interest and how much you value their insight. Other students will see this and try to do the same.

No one gets it right the first time, and there is no such thing as the one true way to teach. It’s important for you to find your authentic voice and that you be willing to share your vulnerability to learning in the moment with your students. These tips will help you on your way.

Good luck!

Categories: Teaching Tags: , ,