There are three basic actions that every teacher can take to improve instruction now.
If you’re a teacher and you’re still not getting out, you should – and now. Begin by collaborating with your peers about what works in your classes and what doesn’t. In time, expand your circle of collaboration to include other members of your local faculty and even members of your school’s faculty that teach subjects other than your own. You will be surprised by how much can be learned by teachers of other disciplines that will work for you in yours. I guarantee it.
Additionally, in this day and age, there is absolutely no reason for you to not expand your circle of collaboration such that it includes teachers from other cities, states, and even countries. I would begin such efforts by joining any of a number of social networks designed for educators. Classroom 2.0, for example, can be an excellent place for you to meet other teachers with interests, issues, and instructional circumstances similar to yours.
Whether you like it or not, your students are likely not learning many of the things that you may think you are teaching. By watching yourself in action, you will be able to see your instruction as some of your students see it – and probably learn of areas wherein improvement might be needed.
Combining this type of videotaped feedback with collaboration can also be beneficial.
You’ve heard it a million times: Practice makes perfect. So, why would improving your abilities as an instructor require anything different? As any teacher that teaches the same content multiple times a day knows, the first time a lesson is taught is almost always worse than the second or third time it’s taught.*
In my experience, effective "practicating" includes a narrow focus on specific skills to practice. For example, transitions, question formulation, and giving appropriate amounts of wait time are all essential teaching skills that all take practice to master. Focus on one such skill and practice your way to improvement.
Three simple steps to improved instruction - but tell me: which catalysts for improvement have I missed?
Image source: Flickr user Wonderlane.
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* Caveat: I can’t help thinking that the law of diminishing returns doesn’t come into play a little bit here. By your fifth time teaching the same lesson in the same day, I’m sure you’ve experienced the ol’ “haven’t I already told you this?” scenario.