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Testing Effect

Stages of Teaching and How Educators Can Make Learning More Effective

Aug 30, 2021

In part one of this series we talked about the Testing Effect and how it improves retention in students. This time over we are going to look at the phases of teaching that we introduced at the end of the first part. 

Please note that most of what we talk about in this blog is backed by scientific research. There have been growing concerns about retention and testing ever since education shifted online. Educators, parents, and guardians are all worried about a ‘probable’ decline in their children’s education. Amidst this, there is a whole lot teachers can do to ensure that these ‘concerns’ lose grounding altogether. Let us go over that in detail. 

Phases of Teaching: An Overview

The Pre-Active Phase of Teaching

  • Formulation of goals and setting up target

Here an educator/teacher formulates targets that they would like the class to achieve. For instance, let us say that Newton’s laws of motion are being taught. In this case, the teacher would set a goal that could say that - “by the end, I’d like my students to be able to state the laws of motion and the formulas associated with force and acceleration. 

Or say - ‘Tense’ is being taught in a class. A goal might look like this : “I’d like my students to be able to note down the sentence structure of every tense”.

  • Planning content and additional materials

Here a teacher would select relevant material for students. These will not only be the course content. Instead, these would also contain additional information that could help students retain information. It could be an infographic, a summary, a video, etc. 

Here is an example of what this could look like. The following image was made by a teacher teaching about the Cold War.

  • Selecting a style of teaching and institutional methodology

Here a teacher would evaluate the impact of ‘approach’. Not all topics are the same and hence, the approach to teaching it must also be different. For instance, many scholars agree that science should always be taught with compassion (for climate change, global warming, poverty and hunger) in addition to critical thinking. Meanwhile, art should include critical thinking in addition to empathy and compassion. 

  • Development of strategies, time, and place

This is the technical stuff. With most planning out of the way, comes the need to evaluate the best medium to go forward. Should one go with a MIS like Veda to manage everything efficiently? Should one use phones instead of laptops, and vice-versa? How long would the lesson be? Everything is done in this stage of the pre-active phase. 

  • Decision about evaluation and testing

This is the most important one given the title of this article. A teacher must decide the best evaluation strategy in order to facilitate and test information retention in students. There are a number of ways one could do that. Teachers could try one of the techniques mentioned in Fazio, Goswick, & Marsh, 2012. Or one could devise their own strategies based on what works for them and their students. 

Multiple choice questions right after the pre-active phase should ideally boost retention by upto 55 percent like we saw in the previous article! 

The Interactive Phase of Teaching

This is the phase where most interactions happen between teachers and students. That is why an educator needs to be ready to consistently evolve their approach should the planned route start to seem bumpy. 

  • Providing students with framework and clarity to better conceptualize the ideas

This builds up on the idea of providing students with additional material to be prepared for the lesson. Teachers provide students with the details of what is expected of them after the lesson. Are there specific questions that students should be able to answer? Should the students be able to write a 1,000 word essay on the subject? Should the student be able to solve all given problems in the testing section of the book? Both the teacher and the students need to be clear on this. 

Teachers could also use organizers to help ease the students into the process. Such organizers would include -

  1. Graphic Material - Students are shown a visual representation of the material they are about to learn in class. This boosts curiosity and has a positive impact on attention. Visual media grabs attention much better than text or audio. 

  2. Expository Material - Students are told about what they will learn after a particular lesson. For instance, if it is an art class talking about color-triads, teachers would show the students a painting that uses color-triads- given that the use of triads is evident! 

  3. Narrative Material - Students are told stories, or personal accounts by the teacher. This is a story related to the study material. Say, the teacher talks about how they fell off a bike by pushing it against the direction of the fall in order to explain Newton’s third law of motion. The story would be interesting as it is not everyday that children hear about their teachers falling off bikes!

  4. Comparative Material - Students are given material that they can use to compare with what they already know. For instance, in a history lesson students are given the accounts of the Malla kings after their defeat by the hands of the Gurkha. This would be a comparative material to what the students already know about Prithvi Narayan Shah’s conquests! 

  • Testing students to see what they already know

After the students have been given the frameworks and expectations. Teachers move on to test what students already know about the topic at hand. For instance if a chemistry teacher is beginning to teach about how elements combine to form compounds - it would benefit them to know if students already know that elements combine. It would also help to know if students already know that NaCl is nothing but salt! 

  • Introducing a practical example - or a worked example 

A research paper The efficiency of worked examples compared to erroneous examples, tutored problem solving, and problem solving in computer-based learning environments showed that studying worked examples first is leagues better than direct practice especially when trying to acquire a new skill or understanding. [McLaren, van Gog, Ganoe Karabinos & Yaron, 2016]

One example of this would be this brilliant lecture by professor Walter Lewin. 

  • Support students throughout the lesson and ensure that they are paying attention

This step includes a teacher’s body language and speech. How you walk around the class, how your students sit in the class, everything matters when learning. Is a particular student always sitting at the back? Do the first-benchers get along with the back-benchers? How do you circulate the sitting arrangement in class? Do you shuffle the sitting arrangement in a way that every student faces one another during discussion based classes? (Although, this is easier with Online classes)

In addition to thinking about all these questions, teachers also need to constantly keep questioning students during the class/lecture. While doing so, teachers must be aware that their questioning doesn’t become overwhelming for a student. This exercise should feel like a discussion more than a viva exam! 

The Post-Active Phase of Teaching

Finally, we arrive at the place where we shall evaluate everything we did in the earlier two phases. There are a number of things a teacher can do in this phase. We shall however look at the two most important ones. 

  • Evaluating the Students

Everything perhaps comes down to this. How well do students remember what has been taught so far? Take note that this is not your traditional ‘exam’ but a different sort of test. If you recall, students were to be tested through a number of Multiple Choice Questions in the pre-active phase. This test of the post-active is merely an extension of the previous test. In this test, a teacher would add questions, rephrase certain questions. This is supposed to test how students deal with the subject matter in addition to knowledge. 

Whenever we think about tests, we are concerned about how much a student remembers. However, how a student ‘approaches’ a question (whether they get it right or wrong) is equally, if not more, important!

  • Asking Students to sum up their learning experience

Teachers need feedback too. Teaching is a two-way process. Teachers learn so much from students that help them make immense progress in the education sector. The Telegraph has compiled testimonials from different teachers who talk about their experience of learning from their students. These are some inspiring and encouraging stories that every teacher needs to go through at least once! 

This helps teachers evolve and modify strategies according to need. We all know how important that is!

Leading into Part Three

Since we’re through with the steps involved in teaching and learning, what remains now is that we talk about what strategies are deployed by successful countries like Finland. Following that we will also talk about Nepal’s status when it comes to teaching strategies. Meanwhile, stay with us and stay tuned. 

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