Teaching is an influential role in society, and crafting an environment that is holistic and effective is vital for student learning. Today's classroom provides challenges for instructors. Not all students learn the same way, but all can be encouraged to participate actively in the classroom to build new knowledge. Innovative and effective teaching approaches engage students through active participation.
A traditional passive classroom lecture that focuses on the instructor's content allows students to take notes and sometimes engage thinking skills such as comparison and analysis, but rarely engages them in participation. Interactive lectures intellectually engage students. According to the Center for Teaching and Learning, dividing the class into sections of varying deliveries will provide interactive lectures and keep students engaged. For example, after a short lecture, students could share stories related to the content. For the next class chunk, a short video relating the lecture content to real world situations or bringing in a virtual guest speaker allows interactive student involvement.
Engaging students with activities helps them to think more critically about the material they are learning. Activities allow students to connect differing pieces of information, build upon new knowledge, evoke questions and apply new information to real world circumstances through application, according to the Center for Teaching and Learning. An engaging activity, such as concept mapping, allows students to organize and link together concepts with circles or boxes, indicating the relationship of pieces of information through connecting lines. Another engaging activity could be to have students develop their own rubric or grading system for an assignment. Having students participate in class activities motivates them and gives worth and significance to classroom instruction.
Technology by Design
Technology in the classroom can be an advanced and effective learning tool. It's everywhere, and students have easy access to the most innovative technology to date. Mobile technologies offer a more flexible approach in the classroom. The latest technological gadgets allow students to become engaged in classroom activities easily because they are used to interacting with them and need this type of learning, according to Scholastic. For example, cell phones or tablets equipped with the Internet can be used to access online dictionaries or download e-reader apps.
Barriers to Innovation
Implementing innovative teaching strategies in the classroom can be problematic. Lexi White, executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance at Wayamba University, finds that some teachers believe extra time, effort, planning and integration are needed for more innovative teaching methods that stimulate student participation, thus discouraging it. On the flip side, students embrace traditional teaching methods and resist innovative strategies that take them out of their comfort zone. According to Cornell University, some ways teachers can encourage student participation are to build rapport with students, match course activities with student goals, use various class activities and specifically define participation.
- Center for Teaching and Learning: How to Make Class Active and Interactive
- Carleton College: Designing Effective and Innovative Courses
- Designing Effective and Innovative Courses
- The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them
- Scholastic: Mobile Learning Technologies for 21st Century Classrooms
- Cornell University: Increasing Student Participation
Based in Virginia, Susan Harlow is an adjunct English professor and writing resource coordinator. She specializes in education and technical communication. She holds a Master of Arts in English with a concentration in literacy, technology and professional writing from Northern Arizona University.