26 Sep Teaching and Learning Techniques
An introduction to teaching and learning techniques
If you’ve ever spent time in more than one classroom with more than one different teacher, then you will know that every teacher seems to have their own unique teaching technique.
Some just stand and talk at you. Some want you to discuss the subject in groups or with them. Some ask you question after question, so much so that you can begin to wonder who is teaching whom. Some show you practically what they want you to do. Some just give you a book, tell you what page to open it on and expect you to get on with it.
You’ll also have found that you have had favourite teachers, some of whom might have influenced what you’ve studied at school or university and even the direction your life’s taken.
Chances are, that’s because their teaching techniques aligned perfectly with your learning techniques; if you’re a reading learner, perhaps you loved lessons when your teacher gave you a thick textbook to learn from. If you’re a kinaesthetic learner or a visual learner then you will have dreaded lessons like that. If you’re an auditory learner, you probably worked best with teachers or lecturers who calmly talked you through a subject and told you what you needed to know.
There are even more teaching techniques as there are subjects in the national curriculum; as a teacher, you will need to use a combination of all of them in order to be the best teacher you can be and give your pupils the best possible education you can.
What are the established teaching and learning techniques and do I need to know them all?
In this article I will explore 14 different teaching and learning techniques. There are more, but these 14 are a good starting point.
You will find yourself drawing upon all of them during your time as a teacher and combining two, three or more in the classroom at any given time.
- Explanation: Going into detail on a subject in order to communicate an idea or topic. This has been described as “the bedrock of teaching” and almost all teachers try to use it in one way or another.
- Presentation: Making the most of teaching aids and resources such as Powerpoint or even video. This technique can be useful but often requires presentation skills such as an ability to convey your message verbally.
- Questioning: Teaching whole groups by probing them on their knowledge. While being a great way to assess how much your students have learned, this method can knock some pupils’ confidence.
- Shadowing: Working alongside a learner; this technique often works well in the workplace.
- Lecturing: Favoured in many universities, lecturing enables the teacher to pass on a large amount of information in a small timeframe; on the downside, many non-auditory learners won’t take much of it in.
- Tutoring: Teaching in small groups or even on a one-to-one basis. One of the most effective teaching techniques, but time restraints will almost certainly mean it is rarely used in many schools or colleges.
- Demonstration: Essentially show and tell; explain why a particular skill is important, show it in use, then ask your learners to practise the skill
- Practising: Learning by doing; practise does indeed make perfect but you as the teacher need to ensure that your students know what they are doing before they start trying to do it.
- Discussion: Discussion can help learners understand others’ viewpoints and generate ideas; however, a good leader is important to prevent the loudest and most opinionated having their views heard at the expense of others’.
- Case studies: Practical learning which encourages students to work together to solve specific problems. Among other skills, carrying out case studies helps learners understand the importance of time management.
- Projects/research: Learning by investigation into a subject or topic, either individually or as a group. Some students – though crucially not all – benefit from taking ownership of their own learning. Others may struggle without a teacher to instruct them more directly.
- Group work: Some learners benefit from learning as part of a team; however, as with discussion, there is a downside. Some will naturally take control and gain most from this kind of learning, while others, either through accident or design, may sit back and allow the more dominant members to do the hard work. This does not foster good group camaraderie.
- Blended learning: With online learning becoming more and more popular and prevalent, blended learning is a mixture of teaching, via the likes of Zoom or Teams, and traditional in-person teaching. This can be a huge benefit to adult learners who may struggle to attend classes during the day.
Visits: Practical learning by visiting a typical workplace; for example, a pupil learning law would benefit from spending a period of time in a law office with a solicitor practising the kind of law they wish to practise.
Why is it important to learn more than one teaching technique?
Think again about your favourite teacher from school. Likely as not, you and your friends all had different favourites, and that is because your friends were not the same type of learner as you are.
To do the best job you can as a teacher, you need to be able to use a range of different techniques in order to help as many of your students as possible to learn as well as they can.
The VARK model stands for Visual, Auditory, Reading and Kinaesthetic, whose preferred methods of learning are by looking, listening, reading and doing respectively.
Honey and Mumford talked about The Activist, The Reflector, The Theorist and The Pragmatist. Activists like learning by doing, Reflectors need time to come to a decision before trying something out, Theorists like rules, reading and thinking and Pragmatists enjoy trying out new things, especially where those things can be immediately put to use.
Do adults learn differently to children? And do I need to use different techniques to teach them?
Adults have a knowledge and an understanding of the world that is based on experience. Most adult learners have spent some time doing real jobs and getting to grips with real-life situations.
This means that in many cases, they will attempt to link what they are being taught to their own experiences or to situations they expect to find themselves in. In 1980, Malcolm Knowles published his theory of andradogy – the art and science of adult learning.
Four years later, in 1984, he came up with four principles which can be applied to adult learners.
- Adults like to be involved – not just in the planning of what they are going to learn, but also its evaluation. They want to make the decisions regarding the what, when and how of learning.
- Adults like to use their experience as a basis for what they are going to learn. This includes learning how not to repeat mistakes they have already made.
- Adults like to learn subjects which are relevant to them and can be applied immediately.
Adults typically like to be able to take in what they are being taught by reasoning it through. In 2010, Kearsley defined it as their learning being “problem-centred rather than content-oriented.”
So what are the best techniques to use when teaching adults?
Working on the basis that the adult learners we are talking about aren’t learning as a requirement of work, they have, crucially, made a decision to be in your class. That gives you an advantage from the start. They want to learn.
After coming up with his five assumptions and four principles, Knowles went on to suggest six ways of effectively teach adult learners:
- Engender a positive classroom atmosphere focused on cooperative learning.
- Ensure that you as a teacher know the interests and the needs of each student
- Tailor learning goals to those interests and needs
- Use each activity as a building block in order to achieve your learning objectives
- Involve students in the creation of strategies, resources and methods
Look at each activity and amend if necessary, while evaluating the next steps for learning.
Deeper Dive into Teaching Techniques
We hope you have found this short guide to Teaching and Learning Techniques useful.
If you’re looking to pursue a career in adult education, we’d love to talk to you about the Level 3 Award in Education and Training course – the only qualification you need to teach adults in the UK.
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