I recently asked my #PLN a simple question using the new poll feature on Twitter:
“As a university student were you taught using one of these methods?”
- Peer Instruction
- Problem-Based Learning
- Project-Based Learning
- None of the Above
Exactly 70 educators responded to the poll and while it is at best anecdotal, the results are predictably unsatisfactory. 68% of participants responded “D – None of the Above” so It can be safely inferred that the majority of these were taught using Direct Instruction or Lecture only. To put that another way, 68% of respondents never saw anything other than Direct Instruction and Lecture demonstrated to them in their teacher training programmes. In such cases I would argue that it is very unlikely that anyone would attempt to teach using one of these methods – regardless of whether or not it was spoken about in theory in a teacher training programme – as a newly-qualified teacher. I was put in mind to conduct this poll having spoken to many of my own student teachers at the University of Augsburg as well as colleagues from various nations and from engaging in Twitter chats. Overall I am getting the impression that while there has been great progress in implementing Problem- and Project-Based Learning in classrooms internationally, teaching programmes at university level lag far behind in giving student teachers adequate exposure to differing teaching methods as practised by their lecturers and also little chance to implement these before entering the classroom themselves as newly-qualified teachers.
1. Model Multiple Teaching Methods
From the outset of their teacher education programme then future teachers are exposed to and participate in high-quality practical examples of different methodological approaches to teaching and learning used in the correct context. This gives them a solid understanding of how these work in practice. The next step is to give students an opportunity to experiment with these methods themselves. Where lecturers have large groups of students in lecture halls rather than only teaching by lecture it is an ideal opportunity to experiment with and expose students to Peer Instruction. Small group seminars can be used to introduce students to both Problem- and Project-Based learning. I have written about how to implement this shift here. By committing to experimenting with these different approaches teaching staff ensure that their student teachers have seen at least 5 methodologies modelled early in their studies instead of just the two (non-student centred i.e. Direct Instruction and Lecture) methods that 68% of respondents to my poll above were exposed to.
2. Expand the Role of Microteaching
3. Teaching Placement
To alter this culture faculty members need to model multiple teaching methods in the correct context, student teachers preparing for their teaching practice need to be given practical experience of teaching using each of these methods in their multiple microteaching sessions and they need to be encouraged to continue this practice on their teaching placement. As I mention in this blog, teaching practice is, too often, not designed to allow students to experiment with teaching methods and gather evidence of what did or did not work. Teaching practice is too often typified by fear-inducing principal and faculty visits and a pedantic focus on over-planning. This is the conclusion of the traditional teacher education cycle of lecturers practising Direct Instruction and Lecture, these being the focus of limited microteaching sessions, each step being typified by anxiety on the part of the student.
Teacher Education programmes, then, need to redefine the teaching practice experience and put a focus on choosing the correct methodological approach for a given context (develop pedagogists), gather evidence of what does or does not work in each case (develop teacher-researchers) and extend the microteaching experience into the teaching practice experience (promote continued reflection and ongoing professional development). Because student teachers will have engaged in multiple microteaching sessions in their education programme they will be aware of how to conduct effective microteaching and a reflection process. It should be the expectation that each student teacher will complete at least 3 self-compiled microteaching sessions (showcasing 3 different methods in the correct context) during his practice.
This should be a simple process, a 10-15 minute teaching sample with a brief reflection. The aim is to have student teachers realise that microteaching is not just for university and to be completed with top-of-the-range equipment but can and should be shot on an ongoing basis throughout one’s career using a smart-phone, a tablet etc. It should also serve to remove the fear and anxiety students feel towards microteaching as control of the process is handed over to the individual teacher. These teaching samples should be added to the teacher’s microteaching digital portfolio and reflected upon by visiting faculty and the school principal. This way, microteaching becomes a normal part of the daily life of a teacher. Newly-qualified teachers become used to self-reflection and feedback on work samples and when this becomes a norm administrators can begin to use microteaching as a means of developing a culture of microteaching in schools.
Credit* - Information diagrams created using Slide Carnival and Google Slides