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6. Effective Teaching

Effective teaching is a process by which the learning of an individual or a group is managed or facilitated. Five elements are involved, but these are not necessarily steps in a sequence.

1. Learning objectives. Before attempting to teach, it is important to know what is to be taught. Asking "What should the participants be able to do by the end of the session?" determines the learning objectives. Learning objectives are stated in performance terms. To "know," "understand," "appreciate," or "value" are slippery words that have no part in good learning objectives. Learning objectives should clearly state what the individual will be able to do as a result of the learning experience.

In a structured teaching situation, it is wise to write down the learning objectives as guidelines to the instructor. The objectives usually will determine the content of the instruction. In casual situations or "opportunity teaching," the objectives might not be written but should be clearly in the mind of the instructor.

2. Discovery. A discovery is any sort of happening that has three results.

Knowledge is confirmed. People discover what they do know. Until then they might not have been sure. The need to know is established. People discover that they do not know something they must know if they are to be successful in what they want to do. Motivation is instilled. Participants discover the desire to learn more.

Sometimes a discovery just happens. An alert leader can turn this happening into a learning experience. This is referred to as "opportunity teaching." In more structured teaching, an instructor often will set up a discovery as the introduction to a learning activity. A discovery can be simply a leading question, or more complicated as in dramatic role-playing.

3. Teaching-learning. Once the discovery has shown what the person already knows. the instructor has choices to make.

The person knows and can do what is desired. The learning objectives have been met. Subtract what the person knows from what is desired and work on what the person needs to know. Give the full instruction session. The participant will learn what he or she needs to know and will review what is already known.

Teaching involves a variety of communication techniques. We learn principally from hearing (lecture, discussion, conversation, dramatization), seeing (reading, displays, visual aids, demonstrations), and doing (trial and error, experimenting, copying the acts of others). As each task, skill, or idea is broken down into simple steps, the learner can confirm what he or she now knows, needs to know, and wants to know. Thus, learning is actually a series of discoveries. Each step should lead to some success--it is important to keep the person encouraged that progress is being made.

4. Application. Each individual should have an immediate chance to apply what has been learned. Application must be deferred in some situations, but immediate application is more desirable.

In attempting to apply what has been learned. another discovery likely will occur, which leads to new learning objectives, more teaching and learning, and further application.

5. Evaluation. Essentially, evaluation is a review of what happened to see if the learning objectives were met. In a teaching situation, we are always checking to see. "Did it work? Do 1 understand? What do I do next?' In effect, the evaluation itself often becomes another discovery.

Recycling. If evaluation shows that the person has not learned what was to be taught, there is a need to recycle-teach it again. The approach may be changed, the steps simplified, or the explanation more detailed, or the learning objectives might need to be changed.

Research has shown that learning is most effective when it is self-directed. The more deeply a person can be involved in his or her own learning, the more that individual will learn and the longer he or she will retain what has been learned. Teach from the point of view of the student--not the teacher. Be sure that personal objectives are met before dealing with organizational objectives. Move from what is known to what is unknown. from what is simple to what is more complex.

It is important to note that the five elements of effective teaching are not necessarily a series of steps,each to be completed before the next is attempted. Rather, these elements are a mix of factors that can be used to plan a learning experience or evaluate its worth. The five elements are not a lockstep process through which one marches in a training experience. Training must flow and stay flexible to meet the needs of participants.

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