Teaching: Tools, Methods, Discussion

By Richard Leblanc, York University, Ontario

1. Passion

Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. It’s about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students.

2. Substance

Good teaching is about substance and treating students as consumers of knowledge. It’s about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. But knowledge is not confined to scholarly journals. Good teaching is also about bridging the gap between theory and practice. It’s about leaving the ivory tower and immersing oneself in the field, talking to, consulting with, and assisting practitioners, and liaisoning with their communities.

3. Listening

Good teaching is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. It’s about eliciting responses and developing the oral communication skills of the quiet students. It’s about pushing students to excel; at the same time, it’s about being human, respecting others, and being professional at all times.

4. Flexibility

Good teaching is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid, but being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. It’s about getting only 10 percent of what you wanted to do in a class done and still feeling good. It’s about deviating from the course syllabus or lecture schedule easily when there is more and better learning elsewhere. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other.

5. Style

Good teaching is also about style. Should good teaching be entertaining? You bet! Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! Effective teaching is not about being locked with both hands glued to a podium or having your eyes fixated on a slide projector while you drone on. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are the conductors and the class is the orchestra. All students play different instruments and at varying proficiencies.

6. Humor

This is very important — good teaching is about humor. It’s about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s often about making innocuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where you, like them, are human with your own share of faults and shortcomings.

7. Caring

Good teaching is about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. It’s about devoting time, often invisible, to every student. It’s also about the thankless hours of grading, designing or redesigning courses, and preparing materials to still further enhance instruction.

8. Leadership

Good teaching is supported by strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible institutional support — resources, personnel, and funds. Good teaching is continually reinforced by an overarching vision that transcends the entire organization — from full professors to part-time instructors — and is reflected in what is said, but more importantly by what is done.

9. Mentoring

Good teaching is about mentoring between senior and junior faculty, teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by one’s peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.

10. Enjoyment

At the end of the day, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards … like locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning all of a sudden happens. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Richard LeBlanc

Insights from others:

Matej Sagmeister
open heart leads you to :: charisma :: which is Grace not ego, Filled with attractiveness and charm ; “the ability to penetrate the neighbour to the bottom of his heart and then recognize whether he is dominated by a good or by an evil , The gift To help him find his freedom….A higher perfection….special charisma…

Kim Adamle
Excellent article, Ruud! If I may add a bit of my experience teaching: each student arrives with his/her unique background of experience, reasons for pursuing the particular line of study, and understanding of the profession. Each student has a different learning style, different strengths and skills, different goals. While my goal is to assure that each student acquires a specific set of skills to enable him/her to perform responsibilities inherent in the profession, the way in which I accomplish that is different with each student. Thus, I have had to examine and expand my repertoire of learning and teaching strategies. I have had to grow to meet the needs of my students. I find this process fascinating!

Teaching and learning are all about relationships. To teach effectively, one must know and understand the individual student, the personality and dynamics of each class, and respect and appreciate the culture of the community of the learners. I have experienced the thrill of this type of connection with the classes I have taught at my university. By making the effort to know each student individually, I understand their learning styles and how their past experiences shape and influence their present learning. But the teacher-learner relationship is not unidirectional – it is a dynamic, interactional exchange. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me! This relationship continues to fuel my enthusiasm, and hopefully I then pass on, if not a torch, then at least a spark of insight, of curiosity, of intrigue.

Michael Herdlitzka
The teacher works on the contents (e.g. the technique), the trainer works on the overall behavoiur (before and after the competition, practicing habits), the coach works on the perception (how does the competitor evaluate situations, success and failure)

The concept of coaching concentrates on fostering the clients (dancers) very own, individual and personal debelopment, no matter whether it is in arts, sports or business or even private life .. “dangerous” is only to call oneself a teacher, a trainer, a coach without understanding the different approaches and duties .. in most professionally managed (!) sports all three work together as a team ..

Kim Adamle
I see a coach as one who takes clients/mentees/students through a process of learning, application, and becoming. To me it infers a more intensive, extensive, and longer relationship than just “teaching” would involve. A coach teaches, encourages, problem-solves, and motivates, usually to the accomplishment of a specific goal; a coach helps a person to persist through difficulty and frustration. A coach IS a teacher… and more.

Jody Quatermass
I have always felt that coaching encompasses not only the “teaching” of the steps but the growth and building of the students ability to be able to interpret the movement. BUT not only is it about the dancing. It is actually about life. We teach the steps, we coach on movement, emotion, feeling, etc etc and then we mentor the growth. Coaching is about life skills not only the dancing. As a dancer you know that it is not just the steps that make the dance it is about having the “support” of your teachers/coaches encouragement into taking to new realms and pushing the boundary. I find as a coach that I need to support my students “life” – their mental wellbeing to get the best out of them. Provide the opportunity to be a safe house with their emotions. Allow them to be “raw” in their feelings and see where their interpretation takes the steps. Part of being a great coach is involving them at every step and giving the student the opportunity to have input (right or wrong) into every aspect of their dancing, their passion, their life. Then having the ability to mould their dancing to grow even more. It will then enhance the growth and maturity of their life in every aspect. As Kim said a coach IS a teacher – and a mentor, friend, mother, father, best mate, doctor, psychologist, and more….

Kim Adamle
Social Learning Theory (modeling) is one of the most potent forms of teaching and learning. I use it as one of the pillars of teaching my grad students how to conduct parent education groups: I model the concepts they should use in their interactions with the parents, with the goal that the parents will then use the same pro-social and cooperation building behaviors with their children.

From Wikipidea

Diversity in Teaching in the Classroom

For effective teaching to take place, a good method must be adopted by a teacher. A teacher has many options when choosing a style by which to teach. The teacher may write lesson plans of their own, borrow plans from other teachers, or search online or within books for lesson plans. When deciding what teaching method to use, a teacher needs to consider students’ background knowledge, environment, and learning goals. Teachers are aware that students learn in different ways, but almost all children will respond well to praise. Students have different ways of absorbing information and of demonstrating their knowledge. Teachers often use techniques which cater to multiple learning styles to help students retain information and strengthen understanding. A variety of strategies and methods are used to ensure that all students have equal opportunities to learn. A lesson plan may be carried out in several ways: Questioning, explaining, modeling, collaborating, and demonstrating.

A teaching method that includes questioning is similar to testing. A teacher may ask a series of questions to collect information of what students have learned and what needs to be taught. Testing is another application of questioning. A teacher tests the student on what was previously taught in order to identify if a student has learned the material. Standardized testing is in about every middle school (i.e. Ohio Graduation Test (OGT), Proficiency Test, College entrance Tests (ACT and SAT).

Learning can be done in three ways- Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. It is important to try and include all three as much as possible into your lessons.

Explaining

This form is similar to lecturing. Lecturing is teaching by giving a discourse on a specific subject that is open to the public, usually given in the classroom. This can also be associated with modeling. Modeling is used as a visual aid to learning. Students can visualize an object or problem, then use reasoning and hypothesizing to determine an answer.

In your lecture you have the opportunity to tackle two types of learning. Not only can explaining (lecture) help the auditory learner through the speech of the teacher, but if the teacher is to include visuals in the form of overheads or slide shows, his/her lecture can have duality. Although a student might only profit substantially from one form of teaching, all students profit some from the different types of learning.

Demonstrating

Demonstrations are done to provide an opportunity to learn new exploration and visual learning tasks from a different perspective. A teacher may use experimentation to demonstrate ideas in a science class. A demonstration may be used in the circumstance of proving conclusively a fact, as by reasoning or showing evidence.

The uses of storytelling and examples have long since become standard practice in the realm of textual explanation. But while a more narrative style of information presentation is clearly a preferred practice in writing, judging by its’ prolificacy, this practice sometimes becomes one of the more ignored aspects of lecture. Lectures, especially in a collegiate environment, often become a setting more geared towards factorial presentation than a setting for narrative and/or connective learning. The use of examples and storytelling likely allows for better understanding but also greater individual ability to relate to the information presented. Learning a list of facts provides a detached and impersonal experience while the same list, containing examples and stories, becomes, potentially, personally relatable. Furthermore, storytelling in information presentation may also reinforce memory retention because it provides connections between factorial presentation and real-world examples/personable experience, thus, putting things into a clearer perspective and allowing for increased neural representation in the brain. Therefore, it is important to provide personable, supplementary, examples in all forms of information presentation because this practice likely allows for greater interest in the subject matter and better information-retention rates.

Often in lecture numbers or stats are used to explain a subject but often when many numbers are being used it is difficult to see the whole picture. Visuals that are bright in color, etc. offer a way for the students to put into perspective the numbers or stats that are being used. If the student can not only hear but see what is being taught, it is more likely they will believe and fully grasp what is being taught. It allows another way for the student to relate to the material.

Collaborating

Having students work in groups is another way a teacher can direct a lesson. Collaborating allows students to talk with each other and listen to all points of view in the discussion. It helps students think in a less personally biased way. When this lesson plan is carried out, the teacher may be trying to assess the lesson by looking at the student’s: ability to work as a team, leadership skills, or presentation abilities. It is one of the direct instructional methods.

A different kind of group work is the discussion. After some preparation and with clearly defined roles as well as interesting topics, discussions may well take up most of the lesson, with the teacher only giving short feedback at the end or even in the following lesson. Discussions can take a variety of forms, e.g. fishbowl discussions.

Collaborating (kinesthetic) is great in that it allows to actively participate in the learning process. These students who learn best this way by being able to relate to the lesson in that they are physically taking part of it in some way. Group projects and discussions are a great way to welcome this type of learning.

Michael Herdlitzka

Effective Communications

I open this thread because of many questions arose in other threads about teaching and/or coaching. Posts seemed to agree on “having knowledge and/or skill” and “ability to pass it on effectively” being two different items. Here I will line out a concept of my own research work on “effective communications”. In two master’s thesis’ and one book (“Creative Conflict Management”, available in German only yet) I tried to extract the “common essence” of the most renowned and important theories and models on interpersonal communication. This concept is suitable for therapy/counselling/coaching/mediating and partly for consulting, advising and teaching purposes. Understanding this concept can perhaps support the clarification of differences in teaching/coaching approaches. Following the guidelines of this concept may help both coaches and teachers to communicate more effectively and successfully with their clients/students. Adopting some of these guidelines could enable clients/students to better understand their coaches/teachers and in turn to communicate more effectively with their partners.

The concept is best identified by the paradox (we often tend to remember paradox items better) anagram RAPE. (In German the meaning of the paradox anagram is similar: HAUE meaning something like “beating up”). The four terms we should remember are Respect – Attitude – Positive Deviance – Experience.

Respect: We acknowledge that our clients/students are able and self-determined individuals. They might be beginners yet possess most of the abilities and skills necessary to develop their own (!) solution, their own way (not “the right way”) of handling matters and fulfil given tasks. We believe in everybody’s right of finding and developing own ways and we are convinced there is not such a thing as “the right way”. (Since Werner Heisenberg we should know that even in science nothing is “for sure” in absolute terms.) It is not only possible but “O.K.” if other people (clients/students) have different views on “same” things.

Attitude: Basically we talk about two mindsets or attitudes. There is the attitude of “not knowing” meaning that we are not (or we do not act as, if we are) the experts of the matter, especially when the solution of the client/student is concerned. We are and act as the experts for the process of development, of improvement, of growth – but not for the result as such. There is certainly a big difference to the role of a teacher or advisor because the teacher is and must be trusted for a certain expertise. Even though the teacher is sometimes much better off “holding back” at least some of his/her expertise. Learning usually works much better by “own discovery” than by “being told every detail”. The attitude of not knowing is supplemented by the attitude of “wanting to know”. The mode of “active listening” based on honest interest in the clients’/students’ very aims, motifs and reasons, goals, and, above all, resources already available enables to become the “ideal research assistant” for the client/student. Unfortunately these attitudes do not leave much room for vanity.

Positive Deviances: One of the most important aspects of the “process expertise” is the ability to focus not on faults and mistakes but on “positive deviances” towards the desired goal (of the client/student). Many things are “already better” than the current average, very often we can observe “a small step forward” and should help the client/student perceiving such events. “What works already?” is one question of choice, “what else?” another one. The “what works” focus provides self-esteem on the side of the client/student as the most important base for further experimentation. What else could assist, what else could bring us towards the goal are questions which promote the mode supporting creativity in finding more and better options. More and better options are the building blocks of the “own, best way” instead of the “one and only right way”. Variety instead of uniformity suits better to self-contained individuals.

Experience: The “research assistant” will detect more often and earlier positive deviances than the student/client. The “art of coaching” and sometimes teaching lies in the ability to find methods which make such positive deviances a part of the personal experience of students/clients. Being told there is “something already better” is a good thing and often might be helpful. But discovering, experiencing it oneself boosts motivation and learning speed to capacity. I can tell my friend that I am cold. Letting my friend feel my shivering provides a totally different quality of understanding.

Brigitt Mayer

The Four Stages of Learning; a theory put forward by psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)

1. Unconscious Incompetence
2. Conscious Incompetence
3. Conscious Competence
4. Unconscious Competence

Ruud Vermeij

Summary of Mosston’s Teaching Styles

The following summary is based on Muska Mosston’s spectrum of teaching styles (Teaching Physical Education, 3rd Edition, Merrill Publishing Company, 1986). These styles can assist the teacher in Dance Education to use a variety of teaching strategies to enhance learning and development of students.

STYLE
OBJECTIVES
IMPLICATIONS

A: Command
  • Teacher makes all decisions
  • Teacher directed instructions re: location, time, pace, subject matter, demonstration, etc.
  • Learner responds to instructions
  • Teacher gives feedback
  • efficient use of time (time on task is high)
  • learning by recall and repeated performance
  • fixed standard of performance (based on model)
  • progress is rapid
  • no “thinking” on part of students other than memory

 

B: Practice (Task)
  • learner performs tasks prescribed by teacher, but learner determines pace, rhythm, start, stop, interval
  • teacher gives individual feedback
  • designed for individual or couple practice
  • learners held accountable for decisions
  • learners begin to experience independence
  • providing activity for students who finish task
  • time on task can be affected

 

C: Reciprocal
  • class is organized in pairs or threes
  • observer gives feedback, doer performs the skill, feeder, if necessary, feeds object to doer
  • observer makes feedback decisions, rather than teacher
  • use of task cards or criteria sheets designed by teacher
  • teacher communicates only with observers
  • greater socialization between students
  • students take more active role in learning process
  • constant presence of teacher not required
  • teacher trusts students to make decisions

 

D: Self-Check
  • learners assess themselves in comparison to criteria sheets established by teacher
  • examples include individual skills, target games, fitness results, etc.
  • teacher provides feedback at end of class
  • students monitor themselves
  • self-check is private
  • students learn their own limits, successes, failures
  • more concerned with the results of a movement, not the movement itself

 

E: Inclusion
  • multiple levels of performance of the same task to allow for success of all learners (slanted rope)
  • accommodates individual skill differences
  • student chooses the level of performance based on perceived ability
  • self-assessment
  • teacher provides feedback regarding the decision-making process, not the chosen level
  • examples include gymnastics, basketball shooting (distance from basket), fitness and weight training
  • students can take a step backward to experience success
  • inclusive, invites involvement
  • be aware of the gap between reality and aspiration
  • some students have difficulty choosing a particular level because they are conditioned to being told
  • often a positive style for students who get excluded from other activities

 

F: Guided Discovery
  • teacher guides students through a series of problems in which students make decisions to arrive at solutions
  • each step is based on the response to the previous step
  • teacher must wait for the learner’s response and offer frequent feedback or clues (patience)
  • examples include center of gravity in gymnastics, levers, stability, strength, speed, the need for a variety of passes in basketball, etc.
  • lots of preparation on part of teacher
  • teacher must be prepared to experiment with the “unknown” because responses may be unanticipated
  • minimal social contact with other students, but cognitive involvement is high
  • level of physical activity may be low

 

G: Divergent
  • learner is engaged in discovering a number of solutions to a problem
  • cooperative learning, each solution has value
  • teacher merely encourages responses, does not make judgments
  • examples include rolling the body, getting from one side of the gym to another using limited equipment, combining movements in gymnastics or dance, tactics in sport, game situations, etc.
  • demanding for the teacher, must have expertise in the area
  • creativity of students
  • cooperation of students

 

H: Individual Program
  • program developed by the learner based on physical and cognitive abilities
  • highly individualistic, not suited to all learners
  • learner designs the questions and the solutions
  • teacher observes, guides and provides individual conferences
  • enrichment activity
  • prior experience in an activity is necessary for learners to engage in this style
  • time consuming – thinking, experimenting, performing, recording

 

Mosston and Ashworth Spectrum of Styles

This continuum is based upon the ratio of decision making on the side of the teacher, compared to the student (s). The diagram below demonstrates the continuum between a wholly teacher decided style and one where the pupils make the majority of the decisions.

Styles A and B: The teacher makes the majority of the decisions and uses a command style ensuring all learners do the same thing

Styles C and D: The pupils make some of the decisions. The teacher will provide instructions with alternatives for the students to choose between activities, or ways of varying the activity. This is a reciprocal style

Styles E, F and G: These are democratic styles of teaching, where the pupils are involved in the decision making process, often involving negotiation or voting

Styles H, I and J: The pupils make most or all of the decisions in what are usually problem-solving type activities.

Contributor
Ruud is a Dance Educationist & Psychotherapist www.dutchdancelab.com
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