Get your students to do all the hardwork

Even after completing my University course, I still found that there were still some fairly simple parts of my subject that I never quite got a firm grasp of. There were those parts of the subject that when studied at school never quite ‘clicked’, and always seemed trickier to understand. Even though much harder concepts had presented less challenge, these always seemed an obstacle.

It was only when I became a teacher that suddenly I realised that these concepts were quite straightforward.

I came to realise that I wasn’t suddenly older, or smarter; I found them tricky just a few months earlier. What had changed was that I’d been required to teach them to somebody else.

When you have to teach somebody else, you have to understand and consider what you are learning to a different level. You have to think about how to explain it; how to ask questions about it; what problems somebody else might have with it – in other words, you need to learn it much more deeply.

So why not allow students to access this process from time to time? Why not flip the learning in a classroom and flip the roles – and potentially even help with blended learning?

The main idea behind this tip is getting the students to produce the resources to teach a lesson on a topic, the only caveat is they also have to produce the answers to the questions they produce.

Over years I have shown teachers this strategy of flipped learning; it can easily be adapted to work with a blended learning model, by getting students to research and produce resources before the lesson – so that they can then teach each other in the lesson. This is also excellent to help with the consolidation of a theory or an idea.

Let’s look at an example of how this would be done. The first thing you must do for this is to have in a place a consistent routine to your resources and your students should know how your resources are laid out and how your resources flow, they are going to recreate it from this, you could produce a template for them to work from. We are only interested with the content of the resource and not so much the layout.

At Rethink we want to think of different methods of delivering content over just using PowerPoint, but for the sake of the students they will be using presentation software to create the learning. You outline what you would like the students to teach, this can be easily differentiated in the class based on the level of understanding you want a student to have or the depth in which you want the students to explore.

Once the students have created the learning resources get them to create the questions to go with it, again, start the students off with following a format you would use to create question resources. Remind the students they can only ask a question they know the answer to. This will test the student’s depth of understanding as coming up with questions (as I am sure you know) can be very tricky.

Once all the resources are complete you could get the students in groups to use them and teach each other the content, again, these groups would not be random, you could select the parts of the learning that different students teach based on their ability, such that more able students teach harder concepts, but all students cover the curriculum content.

Jigsaw teaching