There are some things that I think every teacher should know. I realize that most professors were never given any educational training, the assumption being that if they know their subject matter well enough to get an M.A. or PhD, they can teach. Unfortunately, that’s one of the big problems with higher ed (in my opinion). One of my best friends is an amazing juggler. There is NO way he could teach anyone how to do it – he’s start them with an axe, a saw, and a bowling ball. It would go down hill from there! Good teachers know teaching principles – they know learning theory, brain research, and they apply it. The following 7 things are concepts that I hope every teacher knows. Even if you don’t know the technical name – it’s important to know the concepts!!!
- Transformative Learning. Mezirow (2000) suggests that all learning begins with a disorienting dilemma. This perspective transformation can start with something as simple as a question or as serious as losing a job. The catalyst is then reflected on, researched, discussed, and experimented with until a new paradigm is created. Many researchers believe this should be called “Human Learning.”
- Curriculum Integration. Curriculum integration is a philosophy of teaching in which content is drawn from several subject areas to focus on a particular topic or theme. Rather than studying math or social studies in isolation, for example, a class might study a unit called The Sea, using math to calculate pressure at certain depths and social studies to understand why coastal and inland populations have different livelihoods (McBrien and Brandt, 1997).
- Authentic Assessment. According to Mueller (2003), authentic assessment is a form of measurement in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills. Sometimes referred to as competency based instruction, student performance on a task is typically scored on a rubric to determine how successfully the student has met specific standards, outcomes, or objectives.
- Diversity. Education in a multicultural society strives for equity of opportunity to learn, largely through the convergence of three practices: heterogeneous grouping, highly interactive instruction that appeals to a wide variety of learning styles, and inclusive curricula. A constructivist understanding of education, in which learners are active architects of meaning, permeates this collaborative vision of education (Shaw, 1993).
- Varied Learning. “By definition, differentiation is wary of approaches to teaching and learning that standardize. Standard-issue students are rare, and educational approaches that ignore academic diversity in favor of standardization are likely to be counterproductive in reaching the full range of learners (Tomlinson, 2006).” Regardless of prior knowledge, attention span, retention capacity, or comprehension ability, students have varied needs in terms of delivery, interaction, and assessment.
- Backward Design. “Backward design begins with the end in mind: What enduring understandings do I want my students to develop (McTighe, 2001)?” Essentially, the backward (sometimes called universal) design model applies three steps: 1) Identification of desired results; 2) Determination of acceptable evidence; and 3) Planning learning experiences / instruction. Once you teach with the objectives in mind, the student paths to get there emerge!
- Collaborative Learning. Rothwell (2006) suggests that workers are in groups (teams) more than 70% of the time while students are in groups less than 7% of the time. With the uprising of corporate universities, some private sector and governmental leaders suggest that education is not meeting the needs of today’s workforce, sending under-prepared and uninformed graduates into society.
There is some overlap in and among these principles. And of course there are more than 7 things – but 7 seems like a nice number for this kind of list Like any complex system, an educational model has independent and interdependent components. Some educators think of these elements as a safety net or a puzzle. I like to think of them as inter-locking bricks of a foundation to an educational pyramid. The top elements of teaching, student services, curriculum, program quality, etc., are supported by this foundation to make the educational experience effective at all levels: student, teacher, and administrator. Student understanding can be the mortar that holds these pieces in place, allowing schools to deliver effective, timely, and differentiated instruction.
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