An Analysis of Teaching-Learning Situations That Create High Performance Learning Environments

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In this post I will critically review high performance expectations in different teaching strategies and compare and contrast them with my own teaching style and preferences.

 Teaching-learning situation 1: Roller Coaster Physics 

Academic expectations – The teacher gives the students an objective for each day, and they are obviously expected to explain their results using specific vocabulary parameters. This forces them to connect the current activity with content they have previously studied in class. Students must apply their previous knowledge of Newtons Laws of motion and other concepts within the constrictions of the design challenge.

The design process requires both collaborative and individual activities. The group work allows them to share the educational process, but the individual assignments allow the teacher to assess their individual. Students are encouraged to brainstorm and problem solve. 

The teacher wants to encourage and create life-long problem solvers. Students who instead of being discouraged or daunted by a challenging task can immediately assess the situation, communicate, collaborate, and ultimately come up with a solution.

Behavior expectations – The students are expected to effectively collaborate on the project, problem solve, and share the challenge with their group. The students do an excellent job of exhibiting teamwork, respectful language, and helpful behavior. The teacher expects autonomous learning where students learn to share and value the ideas of others. It is obvious from their table discussions that the students meet or exceed the behavioral expectations.

Perhaps the biggest expectation from the teacher is to participate and actively problem-solve with the group. 

Norms and Procedures – The teacher uses a procedure known as “chiming”. This is a process where students share challenges they faced with previous design elements, and other students “chime in” with ideas and solutions to common problems. This allows students to collaborate and use critical thinking skills, but it also operates as a formative assessment tool for the teacher to gage their progress and understanding.

Teaching-learning situation 2: 3rd Grade Chinese Math Class

Academic expectationsThe primary expectations in this video are memorization and regurgitation of facts. As the “cultural traditions of Chinese maths education lead people to believe that routine practice is the most efficient way to learn”(Kan Wei), it is not surprising that this teacher follows suit with math fact chanting and repetition. 

Most Chinese students are under extreme pressure from parents and teachers alike. However, they do produce good test scores while under these intense academic expectations and requirements. The students spend around 15 hours a week focused on math and must undergo frequent level tests. 

While this rigid and un-individualistic method conflicts with many western educational philosophies, it does produce high test scores. 

Behavior expectations – Students are required to listen and repeat as a group. They must study, repeat, and regurgitate the information passed on to them by the teacher. Unlike the first video the information is primarily communicated only between the teacher and the students. In this classroom the teacher is the dispenser of knowledge, while in Roller Coaster STEM lesson, the teacher was more of a facilitator. 

During the math lesson the information was given to the group as a whole and therefore students learn how to behave as an entire class, and not in small groups. In comparison, the students in the previous video are expected to behave appropriately in small groups and amongst peers. 

Norms and Procedures –  The teacher frequently uses repetition and chanting throughout the video. While some of it is purely repeating multiplication tables, other chants seem to be transitions or attention focusing chants. These procedures appear to have a more “militant” flavor compared with the highly personable “Chiming” technique used by the first teacher. 

 Teaching-learning situation 3: Whole Brain Teaching

Academic expectationsThe teacher expects students to participate in the physical movements as a class, and also assigns them several group work activities. They practice speed reading, and also “teaching” each other while using actions during the “crazy professor” time of class. Unlike the second video, the students spend more time relaying information to each other rather than the teacher being the primary dispenser of information. 

This teacher uses techniques that come from the grassroots education reform movement, Whole Brain Teachers of America. 

Behavior expectationsStudents are expected to know and respond to various focus response chants, both verbally but also with physical actions. The necessity for communication, collaboration, and small group team work is similar to that of the style in the Roller Coaster video. 

One of the behavioral expectations of the class is to “treat each person with dignity and respect”. The students appear to have a good rapport with both the teacher and amongst themselves. 

Norms and ProceduresThe teaching style contains physical movement, group work, and responsive management techniques.

Students are aware of the classroom rules and even have hand gestures and movements to help them remember the rules. They must even repeat several times, “page 7 in the geography book” until everyone is at the right page. 

The teacher obviously spent time implementing responsive techniques and transitions as she uses them frequently. 

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Currently my students are K – 6 grade, ESL, Korean students. They are generally from middle class or wealthy families that put extreme pressure on their children to perform academically. The majority of my students are in some type of educational program from about 9am to 8 – 9pm. However, as I plan to teach at international schools in the future, my classrooms will most likely be more culturally and linguistically diverse. 

I believe there is always something to be learned or gleaned from different teaching strategies. While personal preference of the teacher might take precedence, educators always need to remain flexible and hone in on the individual needs of different groups of students. Therefore, I would be willing to use all of the various techniques in the above videos, when they are appropriate for a particular class or subject.

For example, in the Roller Coaster video, the subject matter of the STEM project is the perfect opportunity to focus on collaboration and problem solving. This type of project would not be as effective if the teacher used the memorize and repeat style of the Chinese Math video. While the Whole Brain learning teaching style seems to exist somewhere in the middle of the previous two. It involves some repetition, but also group work. 

My personal teaching style would lean more in the direction of the Whole Brain teaching method, combined with elements from the Roller Coaster video. However, in my current classroom, with young ESL learners I have found that memorization and simple repetition are necessary and unavoidable. 

I do think it would be possible to marry the repetitious Chinese Math method with the Whole Brain Method to make it less stringent and militant. Perhaps the math teacher and class could come up with actions for math facts. Instead of the students sitting down and participating in a verbal exercise, they could be doing actions along with the memorization and repetition to create a verbal and physical exercise.  

Additionally, in this video the teachers collaborate to create a Project Based – Blended Learning Classroom. They combine many of the elements from the Whole Brain Learning and Roller Coaster video together. The students are expected to accomplish many tasks in a cross-curricular unit. I would love to implement this type of learning in my classroom.

It is important as an educator not to dismiss any pedagogical methods, as I believe there is always some value to be found and something new to be learned. Often, I find the combination of multiple strategies to be the most effective.

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Sources

Roller Coaster Physics: STEM in Action. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2016, from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teaching-stem-strategies
Team, G. (n.d.). Roller Coaster Lab. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://pilotrobertmace.edu.glogster.com/roller-coaster-lab/
T. (2011). 3rd grade Chinese–math class.avi. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7LseF6Db5g
Kan Wei Associate Professor, Beijing Normal University. (2014). Explainer: What makes Chinese maths lessons so good? Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-makes-chinese-maths-lessons-so-good-24380
R. (2011). Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iXTtR7lfWU
Whole Brain Teaching – The fastest growing education reform movement in the world! (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://wholebrainteaching.com/
Seven Ways to Raise Expectations for All Students – Tonya Ward Singer. (2015). Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://tonyasinger.com/seven-ways-to-raise-expectations-for-all/

image: http://www.edutopia.org/classroom-management-relationships-strategies-tips

D. (2014). Project Based Learning in the Blended Learning Classroom. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ydndLS-O3Q
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