Effective Lessons – Making the Most out of the Day's Learning

There are certain ways to improve and create an effective lesson.

1) Direct instruction is a type of instruction that occurs when a teacher transmits information directly to students, and structures a class to reach a clearly defined set of objectives. It is especially good when teaching well-defined information or skills that a student must master. It isn’t as effective when the aim of the lesson is learning concepts or exploring and discovering.

2) Another way of improving a lesson is by orienting the students to the lesson before it begins. At the beginning of a lesson a teacher should establish a positive mental attitude of readiness in their students. This mental set can be established in these ways:

* The teacher should require the students to be on time for the lesson, and start as soon as the period begins. This establishes a sense of seriousness and purpose. * Next, the teacher needs to arouse the students sense of curiosity or interest in the lesson. * Humour or drama can be used to establish a positive mental set.

* In starting a lesson, teachers must give students a map of where the lesson is going and what they will know at the end. By stating the objectives, it enhances the achievement of those objectives.

3) Review the prerequisites. Teachers need to ensure that students have mastered the skills needed beforehand in order to link the information that they have already acquired with the new information they are about to receive. A review could just remind them of what they did the previous day. Generally, just asking a few quick questions will help before starting the new lesson. This will remind students of what they know and give them the framework that they need to incorporate the new information.

4) When presenting new material there are some things that the teacher should keep in mind:

A) Lesson structure: Lessons should be logically organized. Information that has a clear well-ordered structure is better retained than less clearly presented information.

B) Lesson Emphasis: Effective teachers give clear indications of the most important elements of the lesson – by saying that these elements are particularly important. Repeat important information and bring them back into the lesson whenever appropriate.

C) Lesson clarity: An effective lesson has clarity – the use of direct, simple, well-organized language to present concepts. Wandering off into digressions or irrelevant topics interrupt the flow of the lesson and detract from the clarity.

D) Explanations: Effective teachers also use explanations in their lessons and explanatory words (i.e., because, in order to, consequently) and follow a pattern of presenting a rule, then an example, then the rule again, when presenting new concepts.

E) Worked examples: These are used for teaching certain kinds of problem solving techniques, especially in math. A teacher will present a problem to the class, then work through it and explain their thinking at each step. The teacher is modelling the strategies that an expert would use to solve the problem, so that the students can mimic these in similar situations.

F) Demonstrations, Models and Illustrations: It is important for students to see and have hands on experience when appropriate throughout their learning. Visual representations are retained in the long-term memory more than when the information is only heard.

G) Maintain attention: Straight, dry lectures can be boring and bored students soon stop paying attention to the lesson. Teachers should introduce variety, activity or humour into the lesson to liven it up and maintain the students attention. However, too much variation can be harmful to the lesson – there is a balance that must be achieved.

H) Content Coverage and pacing: An important factor in effective teaching is the amount of content that is covered. Simply enough, students of teachers who cover more material, learn more material than other students.

5) Conduct learning probes. Teachers must be constantly aware of the effects of their instructions. Just because students seem to be paying attention, does not mean that the information has been successfully received. Teachers must regularly probe their students understanding of the material being presented. Learning probes are the various ways that teachers can ask for brief responses to the content of the lesson. They give the teacher feedback on the students levels of understanding. They can take the form of questions to the class or as brief written or physical demonstrations of understanding.

6) Check for understanding. The purpose of the learning probe (see above) is to check if the students have an understanding of the material. Wait time is also important. This is the amount of time that the teacher will wait for the students to answer their probe question before going on to another student. Research has found that teachers tend to give up too rapidly on students whom they perceive to be low achievers, which tells the student that the teacher expects little from them.

7) Watch for calling order. In classroom questioning, calling order is a concern. Teachers often call on volunteers when asking a question, but this allows some students to avoid participating in the lesson. This can be solved by asking a randomly selected student.

8) Choral response is favourable. This is a favourable method to use when there is only one possible response to the question.

9) Use seatwork properly. In-class seatwork or independent study is often misused. Student time spent receiving instruction directly from the teacher is more productive. In order to use this time properly, there are few recommendations:

* Do not assign seat work until you are sure that the students can do it. * Keep seat work assignments short. About ten minutes of work is adequate for most objectives. * Give clear instruction. * Get students started and then avoid interruption. Circulate among them to be sure that everyone is underway before attending to the problems of individual students or other tasks. * Monitor the independent work. This keeps the students on task and makes the teacher available for questions.

* Collect the work and include it in grades. One of the major problems of seat work is that students see no reason to do their best on it because it has little or no bearing on their grades. Students should know that the work counts towards their grades. It is a good idea to save some time at the end of a lecture to go over the answers to the questions and allow students to exchange or check their own papers. This will give the students immediate feedback on their work.

10) Assess performance and provide feedback. Each lesson should contain an assessment of the degree to which students have mastered the objectives that are set for the lesson. It could be done informally, with the teacher asking questions to the students, or with the use of independent work as an assessment. As well, a teacher may use a quiz to assess understanding. Feedback is important too. If students are learning everything that is being taught easily then maybe teachers can pick up the pace of their lectures. On the other hand, this feedback may reveal that students are having misunderstandings with respect to the material, and teachers can then re-teach the lesson and focus on the steps to get students back on track.

11) Provide distributed practice and review. When students practice and review things over time, this increases the retention of the knowledge. As well, teachers should assign homework in most subjects, especially at the secondary level. This gives students the chance to practice skills learned in one setting at one time (school) in another setting at another time (home). Homework generally increases achievement, particularly of the teacher checks the homework and gives feedback.

Related Links

Educational Psychology
Good Teachers
Childhood Development & Education
Student Diversity
Students Needs
Achievement Anxiety
Learning Environments
Dealing with Misbehaviour
Testing Students