Effective Teaching - Leveraging How Students Learn in Your Classroom

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Automated Transcript

Well hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me for this webinar on effective teaching. Today, I’m going to be talking to you guys about effective teaching strategies.

The first thing that I want us to do is to go over the goals of what I want you to get out of this webinar. And then we’re going to actually all jump onto the Padlet together and make a few comments and share our knowledge.

So firstly the goals for this session are for you guys to understand the basics of cognitive load theory and how it should affect our teaching practices. I want you to know what cognitive load theory is, explain how it affects teaching and learning, and then adjust your teaching and learning practices as a result so that’s breaking down that goal.

The second goal for the session is really to understand the effective teaching framework that I’ve often used with my teachers at my school. So that requires you to know what it is and why it is so important and then utilize the framework in your own lesson or unit planning.

Once I get towards the end of this webinar I’m actually going to ask you to pull up the current unit or maybe just the syllabus and have a look through and think about how you might actually apply what we learned today with either by changing and you’ve already got or by looking at a new unit that you’re going to be planning.

So let’s start by just going to the bit.ly at the bottom. So Bit.ly/TPDpadlet and that is case-sensitive and that should land you in here. Beautiful. People are getting in there. 

So making sure we know the content is will the keywords, presenting it in an engaging interesting way for our students, and allowing students to engage in some way with the material content that they are learning about. I think that’s fantastic it’s very important that our students are actually engaging with the content and not just being given content. They’re not passive learners they’re actually meant to be active in their learning within our classrooms. That’s great! 

It’s very important for us to actually make sure we’re developing our rapport as well. That’s good. Having a variety of teaching strategies. These are all good suggestions of effective teaching. 

I actually talked about the teaching strategies as one of the things that you develop as you become of an expert teacher because it’s that ability to actually differentiate and explain something multiple times but in different ways each time. And that’s enabling us to utilize those variety of teaching methods and that’s what expert teachers do with their students is once they’ve seen where their students are at and they’ve got that differentiation happening then they can actually go and have a look at which strategies they’re going to use and change that up for these for their students very quickly.

Guys keep putting stuff into that padlet and I’ll come back to it towards the middle / end of what we’re doing today.

So I’ll go back over here and what I want to do next is actually show you this video now so I’m just going to press play and just follow the instructions on the screen.

So I’ll pause it there for a second so that’s the right answer so if you counted the correct number of passes of all done it means you’re paying really close attention to what was happening in the video.

So that is an ad for cyclists but what I want to get to is that it’s actually that it points out for us something about our cognitive load.

So, cognitive load theory is all about our brain’s capacity to deal with what’s in front of us. So it could be that we’re looking at any piece of content that’s coming our way but our brain can only really handle about four different ideas, so to speak in, at once. So if you’re asking your students to really try and evaluate something or getting them to think about various pieces of content and connecting them that’s actually something that they can’t do when they’re first exposed to new content.

Now with cognitive load theory it actually talks about how our brains can handle between four and eight different items. So, four is if you’re a novice and if you’re very new to the content that’s coming your way. Whereas you can go to about eight if you are an expert.

So if you go from you know your kindergarten student learning to write he can handle about four different items at once maximum. But if you go to someone who is a journalist they can handle eight different items at once as they juggle around and come up with what they’re writing in front of them.

And so your kindergarten student you probably focusing more on you know what letter they’re gonna write next to what were they gonna write next whereas your journalist is really thinking about how she’s connecting multiple ideas and really framing that paragraph to capture the audience engagement and draw them into the story that she’s writing about.

This is really important for us to remember as we teach our students for quite a large variety of reasons but one of the key things is that we as teachers are actually the experts. So when you think about how much we can handle in relation to the content that we’re delivering or that we’re helping our students to understand we can generally handle up to eight and four will seem quite easy for us. So that actually means that when we’re talking to our students and when we’re designing things our tendency is actually to give them too much and to overload this cognitive load principle for our students.

So we really need to make sure that as we’re looking at our programs and our lesson plans how many pieces of content or how many ideas do our students need to hold in their brain at any one time as they’re thinking or learning about the new content? If they’re getting over four then you need to really start to cut that back so that your students are still capable of handling it. Of course, you want to kind of progress this as they go from being the novice to being the expert so you might start for example at 2 and then work your way up to 4, then you’ll start to breach into that 5 and 6 mark but you won’t get to that 8 until they really have a great grasp of what is going on in there.

So of course that means we have to think with our students, how much they can handle and making sure that we actually can differentiate that according to each of our students because in order to know how much our students can handle we need to know how well they already know the content and whether they actually have all the prior knowledge that’s needed for the content that we’re giving them.

When it comes to cognitive load, there are three different types of load.

The intrinsic load is the load that is at the heart of the content. So if you’re learning physics for example and maybe you’re doing your 12 physics that’s a really hard complex and has a large intrinsic load because it’s actually a really difficult thing to learn and to do just on its own let alone if you try and add other things to it. 

Whereas if you’re teaching kids to color in and that might have you still have some intrinsic load but it’s not going to be as large as the physics lesson that they’re going to do in Y12. So think about that actual content you’re giving the topic that you’re covering the intrinsic load that’s already on your students’ brains just because of the content they’re looking at.

The next is a germane load and the germane load is really asking about what you’re asking your students to do with the content. So if I’m giving my students coloring in but I’m asking them to color in really complex diagrams or images that require multiple different shades and following a pattern or something like that then that’s a higher germane load than if I ask them colour in the unicorn pink or something.

So when you think about your content it has its own load on itself that’s the intrinsic and then what you’re asking your students to do with that content is the germane load. And generally in education we want to make pretty much all of our load about the intrinsic and the germane load. So that there’s about four different things that our students are connecting and doing with those two different types of load.

The last load is the extraneous load and the extraneous load is all the extra stuff it’s all the hype, it’s all the pretty pictures. It’s when you look at a PowerPoint that’s got lots of words on it and it also has you know transitions built into it. We actually don’t like it because it’s an extra bit of cognitive load that actually doesn’t need to be there. So the extraneous loads are all about the presentation of the content and how you go about doing that.

As teachers we want to reduce the extraneous load on our students as much as possible. Make sure that our germane load is challenging and so is our intrinsic load. So you want those two loads to combine the challenge your students and you want to reduce the extraneous load in your programs and in your units and your lessons as much as possible.

And that can be as simple as removing all of your transitions from your PowerPoint slides. It can be as simple as making sure that you use only a few words on your slides not lots of them. That you’re not reading and asking your students to read at the same time because that will actually cause issues with your students because what they’re doing is they’re gonna read at their pace and then hear you which is gonna actually cause an extra load on their brain as they’re trying to grapple with what’s in front of them as they read.

So you really need to think about how this comes together in your classes and in your units for what you’re preparing your students to do. Extraneous, though, it can be nice you can make it nice and pretty but just remember that if you have too much of it it will actually take away from the learning that you’re trying to get your students to do.

Now let’s talk about some strategies that will really help with the cognitive load to help reduce it.

So here the very first thing is to be selective and that’s about making sure that you are choosing the very beginning basis of content knowledge for your students. If they’re at the beginning and building upon that and just giving them the core pieces that they need to continue to make and construct that knowledge for themselves. You want to be making sure that you’re really working on being selective with the content you’re providing.

So, I do a lot of flipped learning, for example, and one of the things that is talked about a lot in flipped learning is what they actually put in the video and you’ll actually find that I can take a presentation that I used to do in class that lasted 45 minutes, I can do it about 10 minutes in the video because there is not so much waffle. I don’t tend to get as distracted. I don’t tend to have to worry about students keeping up. I’m being selective. I’m making sure that I’m actually giving them just the content that they need, that they need to make sure that they understand and develop before I then build on that.

So the number one thing to start with is be selective it’s that one of the easier things to do just choose what you’re actually going to focus on. Goal setting which we’ll get to later which is going to really help you with this with being selective.

The next thing, now this sounds a little bit contradictory, is to actually give your students everything they need at once. Now this is not for when you’re giving them new content, okay? I don’t want you to give them all the content at once. What I want is that when you get to the point where you’re asking your students to do things with the content, that you give them a piece of paper or an image or something that actually has all the pieces that they need to do that activity.

For example, I teach PDHPE and we talk about energy systems a lot in year 12. And when I look at my students there if they don’t quite… if I want them to do an activity around one of those I’ll actually give them a table that summarizes their energy systems and the pieces of knowledge that they need before I then ask them to do stuff with that. So they’ll have this beautiful little summary they’re then going to apply to various different sports, to various different activities within sports, to work out which energy systems are being used, where they overlap and those types of things.

So when you ask them to do those higher order thinking skills where they’re connecting multiple pieces of content or multiple ideas or they’re critiquing or evaluating other people’s content, you want to make sure that they have access to or at least already understand everything that they need in order to do that activity, it will help to reduce their load.

Nothing like a good KitKat but I’m actually more focused on the word there in blue and that is chunking. 

So you need to really make sure when you’re going about your unit design that you are looking to chunk information together that relates to each other. 

Now sometimes your syllabus will be really well designed for that and so you know, one point after the another will actually relate really well and build upon each other. But sometimes that’s not always the case because sometimes when you’re putting syllabus out and together, NESA or whoever your syllabus people are, didn’t actually think through how things relate to each other really well. And so this is where it’s your job as a teacher to go through your syllabus have a look at all the different content pieces that your students are going to be looking at and make sure that any bits that relate to each other, that you actually put together and have either you know, presenting at the same time or you have building upon each other really closely; don’t have big gaps between learning one thing. 

So you don’t want students to learn the alphabet and then have a big gap before they actually start to read. You want to kind of want to build it in so as they learn you know M, A and T and S then they start to actually read words of Sam and Mat and and Sat, those kinds of words. 

And so that automatically seeing the application of what they’re learning as well but that’s that’s this idea of chunking content together to help reduce the load, particularly when you think of how students learn. Because students learn by connecting new knowledge to knowledge they already know and so if you can bring those pieces of knowledge really close together in their learning and then and they resume to better connect them and chunk it for storing it away in their memory.

Another strategy that’s really important is that you draw attention to the pieces of content that are important. So as you go through and you’re presenting stuff there will always be pieces of content that are more important than other pieces. For example you’re looking at a science textbook and it well written. I remember multiple times reading science textbooks and they have you know sentences in bold or key terms in bold. That’s helping draw our attention to some really key pieces of information or you might have something that’s in italics to help us realize that this is actually important, I need to stop and focus. 

So how can you do this for your students? So it might be that when you’re presenting content you might put something like this on your PowerPoint: pay attention this bit is really important.

It might be that when you’re just talking and explaining something to a student, if you keep emphasizing, going back to the things that are important, the things that really are key for building and constructing that knowledge. If you do this it just helps your students to identify: okay, that bit I need to really make sure I focus it on.

And it’s part of that being selective thing. The things I need to pay attention to are generally the things that you are selecting: the syllabus as your goals or whatever it happens to be within your classroom. If you’re drawing attention to that, it’s really important it helps your students to focus and know what they need to learn.

Another really good thing to use to help reduce cognitive load is a thing called mnemonics. Now mnemonics are things like we often use seal in PDHPE, for example.

When we’re teaching students how to write a paragraph and so they need to have an opening sentence so a statement at the beginning that tells me basically it’s like topic sentence of what the rest of the paragraph is going to be about and then expand on that. And that’s how E and they’re going to talk all about everything they know about S and then I’m going to apply it and give me examples with the A and then the L is to actually make a link either between that paragraph and the next one or maybe a link back to the actual question to confirm that what they’ve written is answering the question that’s being asked.

And so using mnemonics like that and presenting them particularly at the point at which your students are learning the content for the first time is super important.

So any mnemonics that you have or that you know of – or if you don’t know any then go on network with the people in your content area, they often have got lots of mnemonics around – and select them and then present them to your students when you’re presenting that new content so that they start to use it straight away as their memory job to help them to learn the content and connect the pieces that you’re giving them.

Another great strategy is collaborative learning. So there’s a really good research around how when students work together with other students and they work collaboratively – so not necessarily in opposition but collaboratively for a purpose. What happens is that they actually start to share the cognitive load and so suddenly you go from students who were only able to handle maybe three pieces of information to now, as a group, they’re going to handle about 12 pieces of information. And that then enables them to do that higher-order thinking that connecting that evaluating and it reduces the load on each student so they’re more likely to actually achieve the learning that you’re after as they go about these kinds of processes.

So I have a really good article actually of my TeachersPD website. Just look for cognitive load and collaborative learning and you’ll see an article where I’ve summarized a few research papers to give you a bit of an idea of how to go about using this approach to reduce cognitive load with your students. And I also have a podcast if you like around collaboration that I where I interviewed and one of my mates Joel Edison.

Okay the last bit, which is probably the most important bit, when it comes to cognitive load is prior knowledge. There’s a great saying out there that – what you know determines what you can learn – and that has never been more true. 

It’s always been the case where students and limits it you cannot learn something that you have no prior knowledge to build on in relation to. And so you need to constantly be making those connections for your students. And it makes it really super important that, at the beginning of units, you’re identifying – so even in your planning stages for a program you should be thinking about what is it that my students need to already know as they go into this unit and learn this content. And then you need to create something to find out whether or not they know those things. If they don’t, think about how you’re gonna catch them up.

And then you also need to think about that there’s also going to be students who already know that 50%, for example, of the content you’re about to deliver. So you need to find out where they’re at with their content at least their prior knowledge and build on where they are at because if you go back to the beginning with them they’re gonna be bored and distract your class. If you don’t help those students to catch up they’re going to be clueless and think that they’re dumb and then struggle and distract your class as well. So it’s really important that we build this into what we’re doing. That’s why when I come to my effective teaching framework, that I like to use all the time when I’m helping other teachers to develop their programs, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you know where students currently are at, so that’s your assessment for learning, that diagnostic assessment, where is my student at? what do they know already? and then they move from there into your learning goals.

So, yes this is where they’re at but then where am I going. Each lesson that you have should have some kind of learning goal. And it’s you that should have a big learning goal that you’re working towards. You have this diagnostic thing where you’d find out where they are and then you need to make sure that you’re very clear about where they’re going and once you know where they are and where they’re going that’s when you can actually build in all those steps. That’s when you can actually be building the steps to getting there. 

Now before you build those steps though you need to think about what those examples and what the success criteria might look like. If you know where they’re going what does it look like once they get there is basically what this is about. So if you provide your student with multiple examples of success as well as criteria they can use to mark off and say okay yes I’m successful because I’ve done all those things then they will know that they’ve achieved the goal. Then you use that as your benchmark for actually assessing how your students are going throughout your series of lessons. 

This is when I use the outcome to work out the next steps so if you know where they are and you know where they’re going and you know what that looks like you then have to work out with your students the next steps. There should be multiple steps for students to achieve that goal and you might need to move the goal based on where your students are at because if your students are almost at that goal already then you might have a six week lesson program that’s developed that you need to really quickly adapt for that student because they already know what you’re about to deliver for them. 

What I like to do is actually develop these little steps which are often the lessons that build it into the unit then build towards that learning goal. But starting with the learning goal and then building in the steps is really important as it helps you to stay focused on the big learning goals rather than the little ones and get distracted by these. Think about how they come together to help achieve those larger learning goals. 

Each of these learning goals are the sub goals. They should each have examples and success criteria. You want your students to know how they’re going that they’ve reached the next level and then when they get there what’s next. So constantly having these little steps and these good examples and success criteria in there really will enable your students to take things to the next level and be able to monitor their own learning and make your monitoring of their learning a lot simpler.

Now when it comes to what happens in each of your lessons or as you’re moving from one level of learning to the next goal and as they’re working to achieve that there’s generally a few little steps here they are going to cycle over multiple times.  There needs to be some kind of clear and explicit content that’s provided to your students whether that be you presenting whether it be a video of reading how there’s lots of different ways of them getting that content but they need to get that content in some kind of very clear and explicit way that highlights the goals. 

From there you want to do some kind of formative assessment and this is feedback for you as the teacher, okay. So often people see the formative assessment has always feedback for the student and say ” I’m gonna assess them and it tells them where they’re at”. But actually what it also does and more importantly what it does is it assesses them and tells you where they’re at and tells you where they need more help and where they need to go next. It tells you whether or not what you’ve done in the direct instruction, that happened at the beginning, actually worked. And so it allows you to actually get feedback about your teaching practices so that you can adjust and change them. Because if you don’t adjust your teaching practices after the formative assessment then there’s almost no point to doing the formative assessment in the first place. 

Once you’ve got that obviously there’s feedback to the students like I mentioned but you want to guide them as to where they get how they’re progressing and what they’re going to do next. And constantly making sure that feedback has at least one future forward comment. You need to do this next for your students because that’s the bit they’ll actually focus on. This is the bit they want. 

And then you want to level up and repeat so once they’ve achieved that goal you’re going to repeat that process do some explicit instruction, do some formative assessment, give some feedback both to you and the student, and progress them up to the next learning. Then do it again for the next learning goal the next learning goal. 

Now it’s important that you’re extending as you go. It’s important that we think about this in terms of how we’re building knowledge. So remembering this is Bloom’s taxonomy. We’ve got our knowledge stuff at the bottom of there. Moved into applying, analyzing, evaluating, creating. 

Personally I really like the stuff that Hattie and Yates have in their book that is the “Visible Learning and the Science of how we Learn“. They talk about shallow thinking which is about one idea or multiple ideas on a continuum towards deep thinking and on the deep thinking end of the continuum you start to have connecting multiple ideas and then using multiple ideas to then evaluate and critique or create something as well. So how you’re actually bringing those multiple ideas together to do something with them. And that really is important for us to think about as we have our students develop throughout our units how we’re progressing them from those beginnings shallower thinking ideas and giving them the content the content the content but then connecting the content and then relating that content to real-world things or to problem solving or to projects or whatever it is that you want to use in your classroom. How you then utilizing that and building up upon that shallow to deep thinking or on that understanding and remembering applying and then moving up to creating how you’re doing that in this lesson flow in your unit. 

Finally of course it’s important that you also building the celebration of success along the way. So this is not success at the end this is success for each one of the little learning goals as they continue to build and learn and develop. Here I want every single one. See these dots all along they get to be celebrated. And that doesn’t mean that I’m just praising my students, because research about praising students is actually that it has a fairly negative effect, this is more about pointing out to your student where they were where they are now and where the next steps are. Because that allows them to just identify for a moment that they are successful that they have actually moved and learnt something. And you’re saying well I noticed that you were he and now you hear great job let’s do the next bit. So it’s not so much a praise “Ah well done you tried really hard” or “congratulations you’ve got here” it’s actually about that learning progression and still keeping your eyes forward on that learning goal at the end. And then when you get to that learning goal at the end you might want to celebrate in a different way to really help your students and often that might being their grade and might be in their feedback and might be in just something that you write to your students just “I’ve really enjoyed watching you learn and grow as a student in my class as you did this”. Just be specific and say you know this speaks volumes for your future. 

Make sure you providing future directed feedback so you might say “this is gonna speak voice for your future because you are a successful learner you are a learner”. That means that the next time they get to something hard they’ll be able to think back to your class and the feedback that you gave them and go, “oh that’s right I’m a learner even if it’s hard I can still get there”. 

Because what we forget as teachers is that the actual learning is really hard. The fun bits are setting the goals and achieving the goals. The bit in between is hard as difficult it’s full of problems and issues and setbacks and misunderstandings and students need to start to see these as a good sign not as a bad sign. And to see that as something that they can tackle head-on to try and overcome that as they move towards the next thing in their learning. 

Okay that was a lot quite quickly to be honest, but now what I want you to do is think about your actual programs. Maybe have a look at a program have a look at a unit have a look at your syllabus if you don’t have a program in front of you, and I want you to think about the levels of prior knowledge that your students have and how you’re actually going to find out where they’re at. 

How you might chunk your content together so that your students will find it easier to store knowledge away. Where you might make sure that you’re drawing attention to really key pieces of information as you build and being selective in what you present to your students or not getting distracted by other things that might seem really cool but actually don’t move towards the learning goals. 

And then also how you’re going to use collaborative learning activities particularly when it comes to the higher-order thinking skills. Because one thing you need to make sure of is if you do a collaborative task the learning activity that you’re doing needs to require their collaboration if it doesn’t require the collaboration then it’s actually going to be quite detrimental to their learning because they’re not going to be able to benefit from it. Essentially there’ll be one person who can do it all on the rest of them will turn off. But if it requires more than any one of them can do on their own then it becomes an excellent process for them to really increase their learning in a shared way and I’ve got to recommend the Socratic Seminar approach to discussions and to collaborative learning. It’s a fantastic way if you’re looking to move things forward.

The other thing I want you to think about too when you look at your programs and is to identify the level of knowledge check information using mnemonics to draw attention to key information useful for learning. Then clean up. Make sure that it’s nice and refined. 

Okay, so this is your list. So basically taking all this stuff. Here this in the image form into a list process here. I want you to just take a moment have a look and we’ll come back on here I’ll start talking again in a five minutes I just want you to have a look at it. Maybe jot down a few brainstorming activities it might even be nice if you could jot down those activities into the Padlet that we have shared so that we can see more of what everyone’s doing. I might even bring up that Padlet next to this screen so that you can see both of them.

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