Hottest 5: What are your Top Five learning and teaching strategies?

At this time of the year the Australian radio station TripleJ have just run a competition to nominate your hottest ten soundtracks of the previous year in order to compile the Hottest 100 songs of the year. The countdown features for Australia Day airplay and reconnections and highlights are shared in the months proceeding. This got me thinking, what are your top five hottest learning and teaching strategies?

Grant Wiggins recently blogged about John Hattie’s work on visible learning that triggered some parallels for me. The identification in the research into the meta-analysis of learning and teaching reported some interesting data. I’ve short listed accordingly from this post but you get checkout the full list on Grant’s blog and also in Hattie’s publications. So the top learning and teaching strategies and pedagogical approaches were:

  • Meta-cognitive strategies taught and used
  • Classroom behavioral techniques
  • Creativity programs
  • Student prior achievement
  • Self-questioning by students
  • Study skills
  • Problem-solving teaching
  • Not labeling students
  • Concept mapping
  • Cooperative vs individualistic learning
  • Direct instruction
  • Tactile stimulation programs
  • Mastery learning
  • Worked examples
  • Visual-perception programs
  • Peer tutoring
  • Cooperative vs competitive learning
  • Student-centered teaching
  • Classroom cohesion
  • Peer influences
  • Classroom management techniques

But what does this actually look like? How can we support these areas in learning and teaching? This got me thinking about what strategies I use in my classroom and how they relate to promoting these areas. Hence the connection to Hottest 5 in being able to identify and label approaches.

On Twitter, when I posed this question with a request (and hope for some strategies). @MarkRussell engaged in a conversation about guiding principles for learning and teaching. For me I’m guided by the following that in turn influence my pedagogical approach and application of strategies. So if I begin with my underpinning guiding principles…

  • Creating a community for and of mutual respect
  • Balance individual, group (with focus on variations of size and members) & whole class activities
  • Providing a variety of opportunities for cooperative teaching and learning (highlighting that this  is different to Group Work)
  • Celebrating and valuing individual successes and strengths
  • Reflection on and for learning
  • Peer teaching
  • Making clear what we are going to learn and why

These then inform the strategies I use and apply in my teaching. My Hottest 5 list of learning and teaching strategies and the why includes:
1. Jigsaw – finding out information and sharing this further back to others provides opportunities for self directed learning, peer teaching and application of ideas. The movement and opportunity to work with others in the classroom also provides a chance to communicate, think and problem solve how to work with others.
2. Think-pair-share – individual thinking time then paired with peer ideas is fabulous for making connections, sharing perspectives and seeing other options.
3. Snowball – quick fun way to share feedback anonymously that gives permission for the learner to share an idea or question on a piece of paper, scrunch this up into a paper ball to form a snowball, and when all learners have formed a circle to then throw this in the middle where each learner then picks up a new piece of paper (a snowball) and then share this information as a class. The throwing of the scrunched up paper gives the effect that it is snowing, hence the name of the strategy.
4. Learning circle – where everyone stands or sits  in a circle and are included, can see each other, and have the opportunity to be involved. Much better than lines or a mix match of learners facing different ways who  can’t hear each other.
5. Energizers – balancing different learning styles and approaches with active time to reflect and take a break to refocus for meaningful leaning.  So many different ideas are available for using energizers in the learning environment with many only taking a few minutes from the focus learning activities but they add so much to the flow of ideas, conversation, sharing and productivity.

What are your top learning and teaching strategies? Do you have other learning principles that underpin your approach to learning and teaching? What do you find works in your classroom?


6 thoughts on “Hottest 5: What are your Top Five learning and teaching strategies?

  1. Ruth Moeller (@teachingruth) says:

    Think, pair share fantastic strategy to address the needs of diverse learners – gives a chance to get your own ideas first then clarify with others and share – helps different learning styles and those for whom English isn’t a first language interact as it give them time to think before they have to contribute.

    • Narelle Lemon says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Ruth. One of the best things associated to think-pair-share is that is it quick and captures so much thinking. The share part is wonderful for helping with those ah-ha moments for learners and can really ground some good thinking, transfer and development in ideas. I love that it is inclusive as well and can support learners working with different peers in the learning environment.

  2. pravinjeya says:

    Thanks for this. Actually this is really helpful…I like the idea of a learning circle (or square or whatever), it seems less threatening from the teacher’s point of view.

      • pravinjeya says:

        Plus, it easier to have a discussion in a circle (or similar closed shape) rather than a line. The peer-to-peer teaching is automatic, because it emphasises that everyone is both teacher and student, including the official teacher. I find that lecturers in universities (in my experience) are quite comfortable to use this sort of learning tool, because it goes with the idea of academia. So I’ve benefitted as a student and now I’ve just used it for the first time as a “teacher”.

        The only caveat with this approach is that it does require the student to have prepared for the class as well.

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