Determining what instructional strategies work best for long-term learning can be time-consuming. Luckily, researcher John Hattie has made that chore much simpler. As we learned in part 1 of this blog series, Hattie took all of the research studies on what works in learning and compiled them into a ranked list of more than 250 instructional strategies. We examined two of those top strategies, Classroom Discussion and Micro-Teaching/Video Review of Lessons, in part 2 of the series. Today, we’ll look at two more strategies that you will want to use in your classroom to accelerate learning.
Effect Size Review
It’s important to remember that, according to best practices, we are looking for those research-based instructional strategies that have an effect size greater than 0.4. That means that they will have more impact than a typical year in school for students. So keep that in mind as we look at two more must-use practices.
Strategy Number 7: Teacher Credibility
Learning is a choice. Whether a student chooses to learn from a teacher is based on specific traits. Trust, competence, energy, enthusiasm, and consistency are among the top characteristics students consider when determining if their teacher is credible and if they are going to choose to learn from them. While most teachers believe they are credible, it’s not what they believe that matters but instead is the perception of the students.
Teacher credibility has an effect size of 0.90, or more than double what is needed. That makes it a powerful strategy to implement. But what actions can a teacher take to be more credible to his/her students? Hattie defines credibility as the teacher being highly organized when teaching, having a powerful speaking style, and removing barriers between himself and the student. Let’s take a look at teach of these traits.
Being Highly Organized
As educators, we’ve all had those Mondays when we’ve had a busy or terrible weekend and are running late getting to school. Once there in front of the class, we realize that we forgot to run off a vital component of the lesson or didn’t request the laptop cart or didn’t obtain another piece needed to teach. So we run around for a little as we try to come up with a backup plan for the day. When students see this type of behavior, even though they may be thrilled that no real teaching/learning is happening, they also believe that their teacher didn’t care enough to organize materials and thoughts for the day’s lessons. To the students, that means that the lesson isn’t important, resulting in them being less motivated to learn. Taking steps to ensure that we are very organized is critical to students choosing to learn with us that day. Whether you use a Google Calendar to remind yourself about important needs or set alarms and reminders on your smartphone, the point is that you as the adult in the room must be organized.
Speaking Style Matters
Hattie also found that having a powerful speaking style while teaching made a difference in whether students chose to learn or not. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a professional. It does mean that you need to vary your speaking tone and speed, show emotion as you are speaking, use a storytelling approach as appropriate, and be passionate about your content. You can find some good videos from Toastmasters International here that will help you ramp up your speaking style. You can also invite a peer to come in and provide feedback specifically about the tone of your voice, your inflection, whether you say “um” too many times, and other speech habits.
The final piece of teacher credibility is removing barriers between the teacher and the student. This can be a physical barrier, such as sitting behind a desk or lectern while teaching, or a virtual barrier, such as acting like you don’t want to be in the classroom or with the students. Students want to believe in you, and in order to do that, they have to be somewhat near you. Take a look at your classroom arrangement and see if students can easily reach you.
This article provides some excellent additional information about creating teacher credibility.
Strategy Number 6: Conceptual Change Programs
With an effect size of 0.99, conceptual change programs can have a significant impact on learning. Such a program has to do with the misinformation that students may have. Prior to the introduction of new concepts, students may have already formed their own understanding of the world around them, often including many misconceptions. These misconceptions can hinder deeper levels of learning. Conceptual change introduces concepts and, at the same time, discusses relevant and common misconceptions.
It may not seem fair that, as the teacher, you have to not only have strong content knowledge, but also have to know what the common misinformation about that content is and how to help your students correct it. But the research is clear that this is required. It is especially powerful for learning if the students can identify their own misconceptions and correct them. Some of the ways this can be achieved is through some oldies, but goodies:
- KWL charts (what do they already Know, what do they Want to learn, what have they Learned)
- Blogging about what they know before the unit begins
- Flipgrid for student reflection on their knowledge prior to learning
It could also be something as simple as a quick class discussion at the beginning of a unit asking students to list everything they already “know” about the topic. As the teacher, you can then see what misconceptions there are and construct a learning activity to help students correct those.
We’ll continue our deep dive into the top nine research-based strategies to implement in the classroom for improved learning in part 4 of this series, which will be published on Oct. 23. The next two strategies we’ll examine will be Response to Intervention and the Jigsaw Method.