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Guiding learning: Teaching styles and strategies

GCSE Tutors

When guiding learning, it is important that activities are specific to the needs and goals of the learner. Additionally, the context in which the task is learnt should be replicated in the lessons conditions; closed and open tasks should be practiced differently. For example, exam practice should have elements of time restrictions and practiced individually.

When skills/topics are complex they should be broken down into smaller parts. The ‘whole-part-whole’ method which involves practicing the whole task, then practicing parts of the task and finally the whole again for further practice. An example in Maths, when learning SOH CAH TOA, could be learning to label the triangles correctly, working with each ratio separately or finding the missing angle or side as individual tasks.

Secondly, the structure of practice should be considered; blocked or varied practice. Blocked practice involves repeating the same task many times. This can be useful in the early stage of learning (e.g times tables), but should be used minimally as study shows it doesn’t produce consistent results in exams. However, varied practice offers different task conditions a learner may face in an exam (e.g. applying knowledge to varying questions, problem solving etc). Activities that are varied develop a learner’s perceptual and decision-making skills, essential in exams.

Lastly, a significant principle regarding a studen’s learning is to ensure they are engaged by making practices fun, challenging and varied. Using ‘VAK’ (Visual, Auditory and Kinasthetic) to deliver multi-modal lessons to accommodate a range of learning styles, without necessarily having to adapt teaching styles to meet every learning style.

When analysing  and providing feedback the quality and variety of feedback is more important than the quantity. Feedback can be given verbally from the teacher, class peers and from technology devices that collect data. For example, a teacher can use technology, such as online assessment results or progress trackers to support their feedback.

Giving feedback immediately after the completion of a task is vital, with one or two pieces of information in a clear, precise manner, so the learner can absorb it quickly. In some cases, self and peer-feedback can be a useful tool as it promotes independent learning and autonomy. It is essential that feedback is both constructive and sensitive. A common method used is the ‘sandwich’ method. It involves a positive statement, followed by a development area, and finishing with positive encouragement. For example, ‘great attempt at answering that question, next time try to contextualise your references, this shows understanding and supports your explanation. Good work!’.

The ‘reciprocal’ or ‘self-check’ teaching style is an appropriate strategy for coaches to adopt for high ability and well-disciplined groups. The ‘reciprocal’ style allows students to provide peer feedback on each other’s performance. This is useful when athletes know the task well and can help others. The ‘self-check’ style allows students to assess their own performance and apply new strategies. This can lead to increases in self-esteem and independence. However, with both styles, it is important that the teacher continues to monitor performance and steps in where necessary.

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