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31. Cooperative Learning (Group Work)

Definition

Cooperative learning is a teaching strategy that involves having students work together rather than in competition. Usually, this takes place in small groups where the success of the group is dependant on the students working together to achieve a common goal (also known as positive interdependence).

Benefits

  • Minimizes destructive competitiveness in the classroom which may undermine a collaborative and collegial atmosphere.
  • Requires students to talk to one another which can help them learn from each other’s perspectives.

Challenges

  • Students need to be explicitly taught group work skills before participating.
  • Some students may become lazy and let others do the work for the whole group.

Theoretical Link

Sociocultural Theory: Learning is stimulated when students converse with one another. They get to see others’ viewpoints which may help each student build upon or challenge their existing views.

32. Agenda Setting

Definition

The teacher presents the students with the agenda at the start of the day. The use of visual aids may be helpful here, allowing students to see a timeline of the day’s events on the board at the front of the classroom.

Benefits

  • Very effective for students with autism who often feel calmed knowing there is some structure to their day.
  • Helps relax students into a day or even a lesson by giving them certainty about what’s to come.

Challenges

  • Any benefits that may arise lack scientific backing.

Example

  1. Download a card set of images that represent different lesson types and activities. Use this card set to lay out a visual timeline for the students every morning.

33. Team Teaching

Definition

Instead of one teacher delivering a lesson to a group of students, several teachers get their classes together to teach one lesson to a larger group.

Benefits

  • Teachers can be more flexible. One teacher may take the role of presenter while the other acts as a support with students falling behind.
  • Teachers can share the workload, particularly for preparation.

Challenges

  • Large groups may lead to some students falling behind without the teachers realizing.
  • There is the potential for more noise distractions and subversive behavior in large groups.
  • Teachers need to have the same work ethic for this to be effective.
  • Large class sizes required.

Examples

  1. Consider having one teacher take the lead on all mathematics lessons and the other take the lead on all literature lessons. This enables each teacher to become more expert on their topic.

34. Directing Attention

Definition

Directing attention involves diverting students away from negative non-learning behaviors and towards positive behaviors by presenting them with engaging learning materials or ideas.

Benefits

  • Prevents negative behaviors without confrontation.
  • Focuses on creating engaging lessons.
  • Can be done multiple times in one lesson whenever a teacher sees a student is distracted.

Challenges

  • Tends to be more effective with younger children than older children.

Example

  1. Use visual aids, worksheets and manipulatives to help direct and maintain students’ attention on something physical. With adults, I use flipchart paper (also known as butcher’s paper) as the prop to direct attention.

34. Visual Aids

Definition

Visual aids are any objects used in the classroom to attract students’ eyes and therefore immerse them more into a lesson. Visual aids can have both cognitive benefits (see: cognitive tools) and engagement benefits.

Benefits

  • Engagement: students are more likely to pay attention if they have something to look at.
  • Cognition: some students may benefit from visualizing a concept to help them order ideas in their minds.
  • Visual learning: some learners prefer learning visually than aurally (see: learning styles).

Challenges

  • A visual aid needs an educational purpose. Consider why you are using the visual aid before deciding to use it.

Example

  1. Posters
  2. Graphic Organizers
  3. Mind maps
  4. Educational toys (see: Manipulatives)

35. Flexible Seating

Definition

Allowing students to sit where they choose, rather than having assigned seating, has had a resurgence in popularity in the past decade. A flexible seating classroom often has a range of differently organized workstations, allowing students to select a spot to sit that’s most comfortable for them and which best suits the style of learning that will be occuring in that lesson.

Benefits

  • Can reduce sedentary periods of time by allowing students to move around more during a lesson.
  • Enables students to sit at a table that best suits their learning (computer table, group table, individual table, on a bean bag, etc.)

Challenges

  • There is often not enough space at workstations, meaning students end up not actually sitting where they choose.
  • Often students like to have a spot they can call their own. It helps give students a sense of place and belonging.

Example

  1. This approach is very common in the Agile Learning Spaces and Flexible Classrooms movement.

36. Formative Assessment (a.k.a Assessment for Learning)

Definition

Formative assessment involves assessing students’ learning throughout the learning process, not just at the end. Formative assessments can take place at one point in a unit of work or regularly throughout a lesson.

Benefits

  • Allows teachers to adjust their teaching if students are not quite up to where you expected, or if they are exceeding your expectations.
  • Students get feedback on their progress before the summative assessment, allowing them to adjust.
  • Gives the teacher a better understanding of their students. If a student fails a summative assessment but the teacher knows the student could do the task at the formative stage, more investigation can take place to see why there is a discrepancy.

Challenges

  • Can be time consuming to constantly assess students’ abilities.
  • Formative assessments often lack the authority of summative assessment pieces.

Examples

  1. Formative assessments can be simple stops to get feedback and ongoing questioning of students.
  2. They can also take the form of pop quizzes or student-teacher conferences.

37. Summative Assessment

Definition

Summative assessments take place at the end of a unit of work and are often the formal final / overall grading of a student’s knowledge.

Benefits

  • Summative assessments are necessary for providing a final grade for a student and are often required by school boards.
  • Summative assessments give students something to strive toward which may keep them motivated and encourage them to study.

Challenges

  • They are seen as too high-stakes and can cause stress for students.
  • If a student does poorly, the assessment is right at the end, so the teacher and student often don’t have any more time address the problems and help progress the student’s learning.

Example

  1. Standardized tests.
  2. Assessments for student portfolios.
  3. End-of-year exams.
  4. Entry exams.

38. Gamification

Definition

Gamification involves implementing elements of gameplay in your lessons. This can be as simple as creating a competition out of a mathematics quiz. 

Recently, computer software such as excel and programming languages have been used in the classroom as elements of ‘digital’ gamification.

Don’t confuse gamification with game-based learning, which is discussed next.

Benefits

  • Gamification can make boring lessons fun, thereby increasing the engagement and motivation of students. 

Challenges

  • Teachers must not lose focus on the learning outcomes that must be met. ‘Fun’ is not the goal, it is the means for achieving the goal, which is always learning.

Examples

  1. Get your students into two groups and have them compete in a trivia contest based on your lesson content.
  2. Give students table groups and reward tables with points depending oh how well they do.

For More

See my full article on the pros and cons of digital play.

39. Game-Based Learning

Definition

Not to be confused with gamification, game-based learning involves the use of actual games (board games, computer games, sports games, etc.) into a lesson.

While gamification involves using elements of gameplay into lessons (points, competitions), game-based learning involves using actual games in a lesson.

Benefits

  • Students often love video games at home, so they get excited that they can play them in school as well.
  • Games can also support cognition by prompting students to complete and practice tasks to win games. See also: cognitive tools.

Challenges

  • Parents may feel playing games in the classroom is not acceptable. Make sure parents know your reasoning behind using games.
  • Ensure the focus remains on the learning outcomes, not just on ‘having fun’.

Example

  1. Minecraft is a very popular computer game that is used in classrooms.
  2. Sim City is a popular game for city design courses.
  3. Use card games to teach counting. I teach ESL students counting using the game UNO.

40. Coaching

Definition

A coach does not stand in front of players and simply tell them what the ‘facts’ are. A coach stands behind a player. He watches the player and gives feedback on their performance. His job is to encourage, suggest adjustments and be the support network for the player.

Coaching is one of the great metaphors for teaching. A teacher who uses coaching as a strategy tried to emulate the role of the coach: observing and offering support and suggestions for adjustments.

Benefits

  • Student-centered: the student is the focus and the teacher is the supporter.
  • Personalized: each student will get unique feedback based on their performance.

Challenges

  • Sometimes the teacher needs to introduce new ideas, meaning coaching may not be as useful as another approach such as modeling or direct instruction. 

Theoretical Link

Sociocultural Theory: In sociocultural theory, teachers tend to encourage active learning and provide social support.


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