As someone who has sat through various classrooms with instructors who all teach with different styles, I have been made aware of the impact a certain teaching style can have on myself and my fellow classmates. While an effective method is engaging and wholesome, an ineffective is just the opposite allowing for grades and students’ views of school to suffer. Since I have been directly affected by the methods teachers use, I have chosen to research the best possible method to effectively convey information to a body of individuals. Techniques commonly found in classrooms that I intend to analyze are group work, lecture, flipped classroom, and technology. I will also research different learning types such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, and analyze how they relate to the effectiveness of teaching strategies. After evaluating both sides to each method, I will determine the best one to be used in the classroom. I hope that through my research, I as well as those reading my paper will gain knowledge on different methods at hand and those in the department of education benefit from a paper focused on ways to better a classroom.
The first method of teaching is group work in which students are divided into teams and instructed to complete various assignments with the individuals in their group. Students are either split into groups by the teacher or allowed to choose their partners. The size of each group typically corresponds with the size of the class. Students may be asked to complete various assignments together or formulate a discussion group to elaborate on the lesson. The method of group work poses many benefits for the instructor as well as the participants. Not only does it benefit the students academically, it allows them to grow socially as their exposure to other students is increased. When the individuals are paired in groups, some may be pushed out of their comfort zone and forced to discuss classroom topics with students they may have otherwise never interacted with. Group work provides students with social skills they may not realize they are gaining. Due to being in groups working on assignments, the students become the teacher to other students who may not understand the concept. As individuals who are on the same educational level, one student might find a way to explain the material in a language the other students can better comprehend (Forslund). Hearing material from another source can be a game changer in the world of learning, for having something explained even the slightest bit different may help a student make a connection and grasp the material. Peer to peer work in the classroom benefits both parties, for the one teaching the material gains an even better understanding and the one being taught is given an opportunity to learn the material in a new way. Any questions the students may have can first be taken to their fellow classmates and if not sufficient, the teacher can become involved. Group work also lessens some burdens from the teacher. As the students in groups are collaborating and problem solving together, the teacher may be walking around the room ready to help when needed. In the event a student has a question that required an answer from a higher power, the teacher can then aid the entire group as opposed to the single student. A common theme seen in the classroom is teachers having to answer the same question time and time again for several different students. The group work model decreases the amount of questions taken directly to the instructor for the students have an opportunity to ask others beforehand.
Although group work has advantages, its flaws have yet to be completely worked out. Due to a lack of understanding by the teachers of how to successfully implement group work into the classroom, the time spent in group work is decreasing as individual work increases (Mannion). Teachers are still attempting to find the best way possible to use group work to enhance their classroom, but still have a long way to go. Group work has been known to cause educators to feel a lack of control over their own classroom. This will likely lead to a chaotic classroom, a situation that is less than productive. On top of that, group work presents difficulties when the teacher has to grade the assignments from the collective group. “The major concern in evaluating group work is how to account for individual contribution difference” (Gillies & Ashman 2003)/(Bo). If the groups are dispersed around the room or even meet outside of the designated class time, the teacher has little way of knowing who contributed what to the assignment. The teacher is then presented with obstacles in the grading process. They can either give the group the same grade or use a peer evaluation system to factor into individual grades. Both options have flaws for if the teacher gives the group one collective grade, the students who failed to participate receive credit for their lacking efforts and the students who met the requirements do not receive the acknowledgment their work deserves. If the teacher chooses to use a peer evaluation system they run into the problem of students dishonestly assessing their group members whether it be positive or negative. A peer evaluation gives the teacher insight into the contributions made by each students but poorly and inaccurately reflects the actual work done by each member. From the outside looking in, group work seems easy to manage and simple to use, but for a teacher it presents many difficulties making it hard for group work to stay relevant among classrooms.
Another way of presenting information is the lecture method which consists of the instructor teaching a lesson to the class, leaving the students responsible for taking notes over the information themselves. Although lectures may seem old-fashioned, there is something to be said about a teaching method that can withstand the test of time. Not only is the lecture method reliable, it is versatile and flexible and can be mended to fit to serve many different subjects. This tried and true technique has been around for generations and continues to be used as a backup plan at the very least. One advantage to the lecture method is each student is able to receive the same information. As opposed to group work where students are receiving information and answers from their peers, a lecture based classroom ensures each student in on a level playing field when they exit the classroom. When this technique is used, the teacher is in control of the classroom allowing for a limited amount of chaos and confusion. The instructor has the freedom of including information they deem important and excluding all else. Since the teacher typically creates the exams over the course, they will include material that will be helpful to passing the test. Lectures also pose the benefit of being able to present large amounts of information to large amounts of people. This method tends to work best in large universities where classes meet in auditoriums and the student to teacher ratio is high.
Though advantages may be present, no method is perfect and lecture too has its down falls. Lynell Burk, an educator with experience spanning from the kindergarten to graduate school levels, wrote a book titled They Snooze, You Lose: The Educator’s Guide to Successful Presentations. In her book she discusses how “no one can sit-and-get for more than 10 minutes without at least 2 minutes of doing something else. No matter how fascinating the talking head, the clock is ticking…” (Piehler). When teachers choose to use the lecture method, they are presented with the challenge of keeping the students’ attention for the duration of the lesson. According to Burk’s research, if students are presented with ten minutes of information, somewhere along the way a brain break is needed to allow for the students to prepare for more information headed their way. Burk suggests implementing video clips, pictures, and participation questions to relieve the audience of information overload. Another issue with a lecture based teaching method is the quality of the teachers presentation. If the educator speaks from a podium and lacks any form of visual presentation, they will easily lose the attention of even the most attentive students. If the PowerPoint presentation has too many words per slide students will feel overwhelmed and tune out all information. “Research has consistently supported and demonstrated that students learn better if they are actively involved in the educational content they are being taught” (Bhalli). A lecture may seem harmless and a safe way to present information, but if the students are not being engaged in any way, lecturing might as well be a lost cause. While a lecture seems like a classic and reliable method, it is beginning to become outdated and a new generation is entering the classroom.
Another method of teaching is the flipped classroom where the students become responsible for preparing for the lesson and teaching themselves the curriculum before coming to class. The flipped classroom was created as a “means of providing athletes who missed class due to attending athletic competitions with an alternative means of obtaining class content” (Hawks). Not only do collegiate athletes benefit from this method, but those who are out of class frequently for other reasons. The educator may provide students with various videos to watch, pages from the textbook to read, and notes to take. All of this must be completed in the hours before class because in class time is to be used for discussing what was learned with active classroom activities. The flipped classroom is a fairly new model and has proved to be effective when used. After a study was conducted testing the benefits of a flipped classroom, student responses were recorded and evaluated. One student shared that they gained “self-regulated learning” that allowed them to do their work at their own pace and “when [they are] confused about a specific step, [they] go back to the lectures and videos provided and follow the instructions” (Baytieh). The unique feature of the flipped classroom is it allows students to move at their own pace when teaching themselves. If at any point they feel the need to rewind a video they may do so as many times as they need and feel comfortable with the material. Also, since the students are in responsible for teaching themselves, the learning that is occurring is genuine and thorough when done correctly. Another student claimed they gained “problem solving skills” and “confidence in challenging my knowledge and skills” (Baytieh). Due to having to learn the material on your own, an individual must learn to try time and time again if they do not understand or figure it out on the first attempt. Multiple students shared a common theme that the flipped classroom promotes “creativity” (Baytieh). One individual told how he was “amazed how creative [he] can be when he tried things on [his] own” (Baytieh). When students are working in groups or even around other students in the classroom, the easy way out of any assignment is to copy off a neighbor or immediately ask for help. The flipped classroom allows for students to brainstorm on their own without the thoughts of their peers influencing them. As the visibility of the flipped classroom increases, the benefits increase as teachers begin finding the best way to use this method in the classroom.
Due to the way a flipped classroom is set up, requiring students to do the learning outside the classroom, this method is quite time consuming. Since each teacher conducts their classroom in a unique way, the amount of work that would be assigned outside of class would vary. Outside of the basic material that needed to be learned, teachers may include “readings, homework, and supplemental videos” that will set the basis for in-class assignments such as “role-play, debates, quizzes, and group presentations” (DeLozier). If the assignments are done correctly and effort is put forth when completing them, students may see benefits from this method, but on top of trying to juggle other classes with homework, have social lives, and get a good night of sleep, students may not be giving every assignment their best in attempt to complete everything. Also, since the bulk of the learning is completed outside of class, students must be disciplined enough to sit down and teach themselves new material on a nightly basis. After having to complete copious amounts of work for other courses, students will likely skim through the lesson that determines how in class assignments will go. If the individual does not do the given work in full or fails to complete the task at all, they will be ill prepared for the following class therefore putting them at a disadvantage to the other students. The educator has prepared in-class activities assuming their students are walking in with enough knowledge of the topic to participate. If even a handful of the class failed to do their homework, the time the teacher spent working on the in-class projects becomes pointless and class time becomes wasted. The flipped classroom classroom was designed to have class work compliment work done at home and as long as students do not follow instructions this method is no longer useful. The functionality of the flipped classroom is dependent upon the students and their willingness to complete the work load given.
Lastly, a method that has recently become more visible in the classroom is the use of technology to aid in teaching. From smart boards, laptops, tablets, and clickers to the wide range of resources found on the internet, technology in the classroom comes in many ways, shapes, and forms to help the teaching process. Since incorporating technology into the classroom can look different for everyone, teachers are given the freedom to pick and choose what they like and what works best. Since the options are numerous, the educators are not limited or forced to stick with a means of technology they do not like or feel comfortable using. As technology has begun to show its face in the classroom a great debate has risen and two categories have been created. “College professors [now fall] into two camps: those who believe cellphones, laptops, and tablets should be allowed in class… and those who believe the devices should be banned…” (Gose). The professors who are in favor of technology state that it is beneficial in “assist[ing] with instruction and model[ing] responsible usage of the devices” (Gose). When used correctly and in a responsible manner, electronic devices in the classroom compliment the teacher’s instruction. One specific teacher in search of gaining the most student participation possible shared websites she found useful when conducting a classroom full of students. She claimed: Today’s Meet, 30hands, Plickers, Kahoot, and Nearpod were a few websites that not only engage students in the learning but allows the teacher to connect with them for they are a new generation whose love language is technology (Dunbar). If generation Z, the group of individuals now interning into college, is asked to keep their technology put away, they may be physically turning the device off but mentally they are wishing they were elsewhere texting friends or scrolling through social media. Allowing technology in the classroom for educational purposes helps students to feel connected to the world of technology while keeping it strictly for school business. As a new generation is entering the classroom, teachers must be aware of the way this group thinks and alter lessons so they will cater to the students with technology wired minds.
While advancements in technology are helpful to many, some teachers find them doing more harm than good. The group of professors against technology in the classroom claims they are growing weary of conducting lessons in rooms full of absent minded students. “Clay Shirky, an associate professor of arts at New York University states, ‘It’s not about whether there’s a body in the classroom, its about whether there’s a brain in the classroom. I’ll admit I’m not as interesting as Facebook. I’m stacking the deck’” (Gose). Teachers day after day are being forced to fight for students’ attention, a battle not easily won. The issue of individuals in the classroom placing technology above their teachers and tuning out all means of information is a recent problem that will only become more visible as time passes. Caring more about a text conversation or the latest post on a media platform shows a level of disrespect to the teacher. If students cannot even pay attention for less than two hours, why should the educator bother spending hours preparing a lesson, homework assignments, and exams to further their pupil’s education? On top of it being a hindrance to students’ attention span, technology has been known not to work when needed the most. It is neither the fault of the students or teachers, for electronic devices are subject to fail at any time for numerous reasons. Whether it be issues with the campus wireless internet, uncharged devices, or random computer crashes, technology is bound to not work and often times when it is needed the most. To add to the list, technology can cause cheating incidents to skyrocket. With the click of a button answers can be sent to individuals everywhere, providing them with an advantage. During a test, students could quickly search answers and dishonestly take an exam without the teacher knowing. Technology serves both as a blessing and a curse and it is up to the teacher on if they are willing to suffer potential consequences it may bring.
Not only is it important to recognize the best method to be used in a classroom, teachers should also be aware of the different learning styles represented by their students. A majority of the human population falls into one of three categories: visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners.
Visual learning can be described as learning by watching. A visual learner is someone who retains information best through the use of graphs, maps, pictures, charts, and videos. Characteristics of a visual learner include that they “remember what they see rather than what they hear, remember diagrams and pictures, prefer to read and write rather than listen, have trouble remembering verbal instructions, and need an overall view or purpose before beginning a project”
After researching various databases of information, analyzing and sorting the useful information into advantages and disadvantages, and evaluating each method, I have come to a conclusion. Teachers should not confine themselves to one single method but use a combination of the methods to provide the best learning environment possible. Since classrooms are filled with students of various learning styles, picking one method and sticking with it would leave a majority of the class lost. After researching, I have found that no single method is perfect and without flaw and therefore not one method is worth focusing on. “Because active learning is a powerful pedagogy, it is important to have a variety of options for different types of teaching environments” (Carloye). Some may say that if a teacher chooses one method to teach in their classroom eventually they will be able to work out all the kinks and perfect it. This statement is a weakness because the likelihood of having a classroom full of individuals who learn in the same way is slim. Also, students should never be forced to learn by the means of one method simply because it is easy for the teacher to group a classroom as a whole and instruct by one method. Although a teacher cannot strive to please everyone, using a combination of teaching techniques allows for a majority of the class to be pleased in some way.
In conclusion, there is not one method that stands alone above the others. The four methods that were evaluated, group work, lecture, flipped classroom, and technology, all have numerous advantages and aspects that would enhance the work being done in the classroom. On the contrary, each method had a flaw of its own, showing that there is not a perfect teaching method. Due to classrooms full of students who are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners, teachers must be aware of the fact that their students cannot be placed into one category and be given one method by which they must learn. Instead of restraining oneself to a single technique, a teacher should incorporate each method listed and actively be searching for other ways to better time spent in the classroom.
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