I understand that an active learning classroom fosters creativity and allows students to think outside the box. Therefore it is important for me to help encourage student input and participation at all times. Active involvement is achieved when students are able to participate in higher-order thinking tasks such as analysis, critique, and evaluation. At any given time they should be collaboratively reading, writing, discussing, or solving problems.
In my classroom, an emphasis is placed on flexible group work and open discussion pertaining to the lesson. Other active involvement techniques which I find to be effective are visual-based instruction, role playing and simulation, thinking games, peer teaching, in-class group writing, and student presentations. Since student learning increases when engaged in activities that have personal meaning, students can more effectively make sense of what they learn by being active participants themselves.
In order to accomplish this goal, I make an effort to present course materials in various forms. Visual and spatial learners will benefit from exercises which involve imagery, creativity, and active imagination. For these students my classroom offers videos, puzzles, computer games, art, music and discussion. Any activity which helps to create a mental picture of a concept and sharpens observation skills will help these students more than a lecture, for example. By contrast, logical and mathematical learners will benefit best by recognizing patterns, participating in activities which involve sequencing, and working to solve problems through logic. My classroom instruction will help these students by introducing material in a step-by-step fashion, repeatedly drilled and reviewed. Logic and deductive reasoning games, flashcards, timelines, and organized notebooks are all part of an overall strategy in my classroom to benefit this type of learner.
Along with the visual and logical are still other types of learners and combinations of learning styles. For example, kinesthetic learners will benefit most from role playing, class presentations, and re-enactments, all of which are incorporated into my classroom. Other types of learners will benefit most from reading, group work, or independent projects. The ultimate goal is to encourage students to explore and exercise all of these learning styles in an attempt to provide a more complete and enriching education. The bottom line is that a stimulating environment with many interesting approaches to the material is the foundation for more well-rounded learners.
3. High expectations yield great rewards. I believe in the importance of high expectations. If you set the bar high and continue to challenge students, they will rise to meet those expectations. If your mentality is that students can’t learn, then they won’t. Most students that perform poorly in school do so because they have low expectations and feel helpless or they blame others and give up when things get difficult. Because of this, I realize that I must send them the message from the outset that they are all important as individuals, and if they do the work expected of them, then they will all succeed.
The key is to communicate to students the goals for learning in the class and clarify how assignments are designed to help them achieve those goals. When you identify ways in which individual students can meet the expectations, then they tend to view the learning environment more positively and are more willing to participate. Students also need to be given specific and appropriate praise when they achieve a goal and be made aware that their questions and comments are always welcome. This helps to create a learning environment where no student feels shut out.
It is important that students are properly motivated. This does not necessarily mean they are frequently rewarded through some type of incentive program, but that they are motivated from within. This type of motivation stems from a perceived notion of success. It is my duty as a teacher to ensure a positive classroom culture – one in which students are constantly engaged and feel a deep responsibility to do their best at all times for their own benefit. In order to achieve this I must stress how important the material is, present it in various interesting ways, offer my help at all times, and assure the students that if they complete the tasks they are assigned, and have given their best effort, then they will exceed all expectations.
4. Student success is built upon meaningful personal relationships. I believe that the foundation of learning is a combination of trust and mutual respect between the teacher and the student. Students learn best when they feel they are part of a family. They become motivated to learn when relationships in the classroom are based on respect for one another and strive to succeed when they feel that their ideas are being heard. Therefore a positive, trusting, and encouraging learning environment is the key to effective teaching and learning.
In order to achieve such a level of trust and respect, it is important for me to show a genuine interest in their concerns at all times. I must listen intently to their comments, make myself available to answer their questions, and provide encouragement whenever necessary. I must take the time to learn not only each student’s name, but also their personal interests and academic goals. By doing so, I am creating a framework from which meaningful relationships can be built.