Case Study: The Impact of Great Teaching Versus Talk-and-Chalk
Guest article written by: Dr. Cas Olivier
As an accredited provider, I trained six lecturers, at a Further Education and Training (FET) College in South African, on the principles of great teaching. At the time, the lecturers only used the talk-and-chalk method to teach the content.
What is talk-and-chalk versus great teaching?
Talk-and-chalk teaching happens when the teacher explains concepts and principles to students, writing on a board with chalk or pen. Some teachers use more modern versions, for example, using slideshow or similar to point out important facts, arguments, etc. The approach is recognized by the teacher in a monologue and the students listening and following the monologue. In education language, this is known as the teacher-centered approach, because the teacher is in the center, giving instruction with little input from students.
Great teaching on the other hand is student-centered, focusing on the learning needs of the students, enabling them to discover and ‘create’ knowledge for themselves. The teacher facilitating learning recognizes the approach and is continuously assessing the students’ progress while adjusting their facilitation to meet the students’ learning needs.
The main concern of the college was that 20% students do poorly on tests and have to repeat modules or a year.
For this study, the only method the lecturers used was talk-and-chalk. The following were the issues that frustrated individual lecturers most:
- Although the lecturers explained over and over most students did not understand.
- During classes, most students were busy with their cellphones – either communicating or on social media.
- Discipline was a general problem.
- The lecturers did not have hope for the students, as evidenced via expressions such as: “I don’t have hope for most students”.
- The lecturers were tired every day after speaking most of the time during class periods.
- The lecturers were always ready to provide students with answers.
- Before each test series, the lecturers were confident that the students would do better at the time. This however, never happened.
- Most students did not see the context or bigger picture, have insight or were able to solve problems.
- The lecturers did not feel successful as teachers.
The lecturers were then trained in great teaching principles
The teaching was done the great teaching way, enabling the lecturers to experience student-centered learning. The lecturers were trained for five days over a period of five weeks, which enabled them to experiment using great teaching principles.
After their training, which entailed a paradigm shift from talk-and-chalk to using five teaching methods, the lectures were successful in:
- Converting the curriculum into learning challenges, instead of translating it directly into lessons.
- Designing learning material for learning instead of designing teaching aids
- Identifying quick-win topics and started with them instead of unpacking the curriculum layer by layer.
- Linking new topics with students’ prior knowledge instead of linking it with previous topics.
- Interpreting ‘teach’ as enabling students to learn instead of interpreting ‘teach’ as explaining information.
- Enabling students to discover the curriculum content instead of covering the curriculum content as they taught.
- Starting a lesson from what students knew and progressed to what they needed to learn, rather than starting the lesson irrespective of what students knew.
- Enabling students to solve problems, work out answers and construct their own knowledge instead of expecting students to master the information as they explain.
- Adjusting their pace according to the students’ learning pace instead of setting their lecturing pace according to their internally set metronome.
- The teachers became followers by guiding students instead of being leaders and expecting students to follow.
- Putting students in the learning driving seat instead of being in the teaching driving seat.
- Ensuring productive noise and productive silence in class instead of ensuring students are silent in the class albeit unproductive silence.
- Deviating from lessons to enable students to gain quick learning-wins instead of sticking to their lesson-planning guns.
- Allowing students to discuss and discover the content instead of speaking most of the time.
- Enabling students to explain until the teacher understands instead of explaining to students and regularly asking: Do you understand?
- Expecting students to summarize the work instead of drilling the information into the students’ brains.
- Using rubrics to monitor learning progress. Previously they did not use rubrics.
- Praising attempts when answers are incorrect and using it as basis for next questions until the student reached the correct answer. Previously when an answer was incorrect, they asked other students until they got the correct answer.
- Determining the reason for slow learning progress, then assisting and supporting students to make progress instead of taking it as a given that some are slow students who will probably never catch up.
- Praising attempts when answers were incorrect and using them as a basis for their next questions until the student reaches the correct answer.
- Enabling students to discover and create knowledge filling their own knowledge gaps, instead of providing students with information.
- Providing a variety of scaffolds to support students instead of providing students with additional exercises.
- The lecturers provided great teaching enabling students to discover and create knowledge themselves.
- ALL students were involved in the LEARNING process.
- There were NO disciplinary issues.
- At the beginning of a class ONE student was on his cellphone but stopped when he realized he was not part of the learning group. In the other 5 observations NO student used a cellphone.
- I heard one of the students saying: “I like solving my own problems”.
- At the end of a session one student declared himself as “A clever guy”, which is in fact a feather in the cap of the lecturer.
- In all classes there was a balance between productive noise and productive silence.
- NOT one lecturer used ‘talk and chalk’. There were however occasions where lecturers had to explain something.
- Students discovered and created most knowledge themselves.
- The students enjoyed their LEARNING.
- The students took ownership of their learning progress and achievements.
The impact of assessment results based on great teaching
The following are the assessment results based on GREAT TEACHING, compared with the average of previous 5 assessments on the same subject, namely Electricity: The Theory of Lightning, offered the TALK-AND-CHALK WAY.
- The pass rate increased by 20%
- The group’s average increased by 24%
- The lowest score increased from 15% to 61% which is 46%
- No learner failed
Dr. Cas Olivier
Xanadu Nature Estate, Hartbeespoort
Provider of company specific Facilitator, Assessor and Moderator training –
ETDP SETA Accredited!
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