Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Teaching students to think out of the box

Un till two years ago, I believed that direct instruction is the key for student success. Clear and specific directions and lots of help and repetition aid in effective learning. However, this teaching principal of mine was challenged when I was part of the Math Leadership in my school.

There was a discussion on how there is a need for student directed learning than teacher directed learning. I was not ready to accept it. Being with students who have cognitive, behavioral and emotional needs, I felt the burden on them should be lessened by giving them precise directions and teaching them to the point.

However, I wanted to experiment how this new method of initiating critical thinking would help my students. I was amazed by the results which made me shift my teaching style.
I discovered that:
Students were actively engaged
Instead of giving the answer and going in a sequence, when they were given the opportunity to come up with their own explanation, every single student participated
They were elated when their findings matched with the answer. If it did not, it didn't matter as they were trying to figure out where they missed
Most of the session was spent on discussions and demonstrations
Thinking aloud helped the students in reasoning out whenever needed

However, the issues I had were,
Instead of completing a lesson in a 60 hour session, it took me 3 sessions to finish the lesson
Students always wanted to explain their answers even when it wasn't needed, which is not really bad
Everyone wanted to share their thoughts which was sometimes tough

I was excited that the students labelled as having "Learning disabilities" and Cognitive Impairments" could come up with their own answers. Changing my style of teaching has helped me immensely. Now, when i introduce a concept, I give time for the students to explore what they understand by it, I ask more questions than give them the information and there is never a right or wrong answer, it is just a different answer.

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