Relational and Engaging Teaching: Continuing Education
One of our major goals at LHS is to help students learn how to learn, so they can be successful in any setting, including continuing education. As Wiggins and McTighe (1998) indicate, this means helping students get beyond simple acquisition of knowledge and strive for understanding, the ability to wield that knowledge effectively in a variety of settings. Transfer is everything—it is the goal of all education.
How can teachers teach for understanding? Perhaps the most important consideration is to view a teacher’s job as three-fold: creating the CURRICULUM, planning the INSTRUCTION, and constructing a valid ASSESSMENT. This is the “trinity” of teaching, and to be effective in all three areas, teachers must “start with the end in mind”--i. e. What is to be learned? What will count as evidence of that learning? (Beers, 2006) In order for students to reach a level of understanding, teachers must strive for seamless connections among what students will learn (curriculum), the process in which they will be engaged (instruction) and how they will show their learning (assessment). By having all three parts aligned, students will have a clear idea of what they are learning and stand a better chance of recognizing when they do not understand.
Research indicates that how a teacher plans, instructs and assesses matters. Here are some research-based ideas for each parts of the “teaching trifecta” that will likely result in improved student learning:
planning matters, and research indicates the following “brain-friendly” ways of constructing what students will learn:
- Organize a curriculum unit around a “the big question”—a compelling question/issue/idea that connects with students’ prior knowledge and fuels their motivation to answer it. Their desire to find answers provides energy for the instruction and learning to follow.
- Determine the essential questions that flow from the compelling question. What strands or sub-themes naturally relate to the overarching issue? These major lines of thought and inquiry provide a framework for the concepts and knowledge to be learned, and the activities in which students will engage.
- Establishing the compelling question and its related strands puts students into a better position of constructing their own knowledge. As Wiggins and McTighe (2008) note, the cobbling together of the curriculum is the enemy of constructivism. After all, how can students construct anything if the unit feels like a list of random facts and unrelated ideas?
constructing meaning and transferring learning to other settings is more likely when teachers use a variety of instructional methods, and using these three approaches in combination (Wiggins & McTighe, 2008):
- Direction Instruction: impart information and knowledge through lecture, media presentation, modeling and guided practice.
- Facilitation: create engaging conceptual experiences for students by incorporating simulations, graphic organizers and reciprocal (peer-to-peer) teaching.
- Coaching: provide focused teaching in the form of conferencing, immediate feedback and correction.
assessment should help students learn and involve much more than an “end-of-the-unit” score (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993).
- Teachers should provide students with frequent opportunities for processing and reflecting on their learning.
- Students also need metacognitive assignments that help them think about their own thinking and how their knowledge has changed (especially important that students understand when they do not know something).
- Allow students to correct and challenge each other’s thinking.
- Summative (i. e. “end-of-unit/lesson” quizzes and tests) should be less about facts and more about application of concepts.