Branching Out!

Teaching is a highly personal and interpersonal activity. Like snowflakes, every teacher (and student, for that matter) is different. One of the biggest mistake we can make is expecting uniformity and conformity – from teachers as well as from students!

As a student, I benefitted from a range of teaching styles that ranged from “the sage on the stage” to experiential (touchy-feely encounter-group) learning activities. Each engaged me in different ways and, therefore, produced different learning outcomes.

So the best tip I can offer teachers is this: adopt and adapt. In other words, if you discover an interesting teaching strategy that you would like to take on board, think about it: Does it suit your personality and the needs of your learners? Can you modify the strategy so that it works better in your context? Being able to change the original teaching strategy to your own style shows that you truly understand the underlying principles of instructional effectiveness.

For Accommodators (see Kolb’s Learning Theory), taking an idea, adapting it and using it comes naturally. The rest of us mortals, however, may have trouble identifying the underlying principles involved and even more trouble finding ways to adapt a instructional strategy to our own context. My advice is this: find someone who is using a different approach and ask to watch them in action. (This should be done regularly anyway!). After watching the teacher conduct a class, interview them. Ask questions about their decisions and ask for advice. Even if you decide their approach doesn’t suit you, you’ll still know more about yourself and your students than before the observation. Go for it!


About Observing Teaching

My goal is to transform teacher education and professional development by providing training and resources for observing and critiquing classroom teaching and learning.
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