Exactly what’s meant by “education” will bring different answers from different people, even professional educators. Teachers and instructors are always looking for better ways to communicate lessons to their students, while tightening rules and testing requirements make this even more difficult. The real key to streamlining the process and promoting both student and educator development is providing a good experience that engages your class. Here are some simple strategies to make that happen.
Make the Classroom a Playground
This doesn’t mean giving up control, but you don’t want to see your students yawning and staring at the ceiling, either. Most students, even in corporate training and college-level courses, aren’t a whiz at academics and become quickly bored with plain facts and simple tasks. Both children and adults need to be stimulated to stay focused and retain what they learn. The best learning experiences allow for a little participation and fun. Think of ways to provoke discussions or introduce a little bit of gaming and competition. You could try role-playing, peer reviews, and contests to make learning more entertaining.
Balance the Classroom
There’s no single method that will work effectively for all of your students. For example, some people are naturally good with numbers and others will struggle with mathematics all their lives. Sticking to a single plan, even one that embraces the majority of students, will leave a few people falling behind even if they excel in other areas. If you make note of each individual’s progress, you can use the people with advanced skills to support those who are struggling. Create mentorship programs or additional training exercises, and look for creative ways to explain what you’re trying to teach.
Teach Life Experience
One question you’ll hear over and over in certain courses of study is: “But when will I use this in real life?” Have a definite answer to that question. Don’t provide vague generalizations, but have real experiences to draw on, whether it’s your own or things you’ve learned online. You could do “career days” where you bring in guest speakers from certain professions to talk about what they do. Get some current career data to talk about what kind of jobs you can get from knowing biology or algebra, what these people do, what they make, and what kind of education is needed. Help students focus by getting them to think about their own futures.
Talk about Your Expectations
Start your classroom semesters by telling students what your expectations are on coursework, behavior, processes, participation, and so forth. Explain why this lesson plan is important and what they should gain from it. Don’t hesitate to reiterate these underlying lessons or ask for feedback. There should be open communication between you and your students for a good relationship, but also strict policies that must be followed for everyone’s mutual benefit. Think in terms of not just providing knowledge, but encouraging cooperation and diligence.
Today’s generations are or have already grown up with technology, and they’re comfortable using it. Introduce technology to your classroom so that they’ll learn from it. For example, more schools are using basic 3-D printers to teach real-world concepts of math, design, and user testing. You’ll find many e-learning platforms that can instruct students right at the keyboard and even track performance to identify strengths and weakness. Virtual or augmented reality systems create an immersive, interactive environment that not only helps to learn and retain facts through personal experience, but adds an element of gamification that makes learning fun.
These basic strategies improve the teaching environment and take some of the pressure off of you by inviting engagement. The better you can manage student attention, the easier your job will be.
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer. Find Dixie on Facebook.