Effective learning strategies and techniques

– Assessment that measures and boosts achievement

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Envisaging great theories, that define effective learning strategies and assessment measures, let me ponder on a great thought shared by one of the greatest leaders of the world — Abraham Lincoln — who said that, “An individual would not start living until he rises above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Winsome words of this immortal icon, have always inspired and enthused me. Living in a foster country, far away from my motherland, I have realized the importance of developing a sense of global citizenship and being multiethnic. Therefore to stride the ladder of excellence and attain the summit of exaltation in the field of education; the major vehicle I use is an uncompromising team spirit and directorial skills, which obviously is the fuel to attain two important factors that enhance success in the teaching learning pedagogy, viz., effective learning strategies and techniques and Assessment that measures and boosts achievement.

During the 26 years of my stewardship as a Principal – (16 years) and an educator from 1992, I could implement some very effective teaching strategies. This has obviously made us excel with an edge over the other schools in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. These well proven approaches that made the science of teaching and learning, tailor made and customized to meet the needs and requirements of each and every student, right from the tiny tots of the Kindergarten, to the sturdy teens of the high school, enabled us to achieve the most coveted ‘A Band’ from ADEK. In fact we were the first school in Abu Dhabi, with the CBSE curriculum to receive this honor. Four of the major phases embarked upon by us to enhance effectual learning are as follows:

1. Visual:Using pictures, images, and spatial understanding to ensure thorough comprehension.

2. Aural: Employing sound and music. In the teaching-learning process, wherein the lessons appeal to the auditory realm of the students. This plays a vital role in developing attentiveness of the lessons taught.

3. Linguistic measures used in class room: Sometimes lessons are repeated in unison. Though an age old method, this enhances thorough understanding in all levels of teaching.

4. Physical: A kinesthetic approach is also implemented. This has a psycho-motor impact in the learning. The body, hands and sense of touch are engaged throughout the learning procedure.

Aforesaid segments of teaching and learning were chiseled at its best and implemented under close mentorship, guidance and supervision by highly accomplished and trained facilitators. To implement the above-mentioned aspects of effective learning, a wider approach to the pedagogical science was also executed by us. A few to mention are: cooperative learning, inquiry-based instruction, differentiation, use of technology, behavioral management of both teachers and students and nevertheless professional development.

In my observation which I have gained over the years, apart from these aspects, various other techniques were also used. They are as follows:

• Authority, or lecture method. In this approach the class is teacher-centered. He frequently involves in lengthy lecture sessions or one-way presentations. Students are expected to take notes or absorb information. This, though a conventional style is found to be acceptable for certain higher-education disciplines and auditorium settings with large groups of students. The pure lecture style is most suitable for subjects like history, which necessitate memorization of key facts, dates, names, etc.

• The demonstrator or coach style wherein the teacher becomes more of a demonstrator who retains the formal authority by showing students what they need to know. His demonstrations include multimedia presentations and related activities.

• The facilitator or activity mode. In this approach the Facilitator promotes self-learning and helps students develop critical thinking skills and retain knowledge that leads to self-actualization. This tactic trains students to ask questions and helps develop skills to find answers and solutions through exploration; it is ideal for teaching science and similar subjects.

• The delegator or group method which is best suited for curricula that require lab activities, such as chemistry and biology, or subjects that warrant peer feedback, like debate and creative writing. This methodology enhances guided discovery and inquiry-based learning placing the teacher in an observer’s role. This also inspires students to work in groups towards the attainment of common goals. However it is sometimes criticized as eroding teacher authority. As a delegator, the teacher acts more as a consultant rather than the traditional authority figure.
• The hybrid or blended genre is an integrated approach of all the above approaches. This enables teachers to tailor their styles to students’ needs and appropriate subject matter.

Assessment that measures and boosts achievement

Another major concern that is of crucial importance is the need for proper assessment to measure the learning of students. As teachers, it’s our responsibility to guide learning by responding proactively to student performance. We do this by using thoughtful assessment practices. These involve being present for our students and be aware of what’s happening with them. It also includes using simple tools to provide avenues for them to grow as they learn. As the principal of my school I ensured that our students were properly assessed so as to boost their achievement. The following procedures were used:

• The conventional method of providing effective feedback to students.

• The active involvement of students in learning and obtaining their feedback.

• The adjustment of teaching-learning to take into account the results of assessment through tests conducted periodically.

• The need for students to be able to assess themselves and improve in areas where they have to develop is very significant.

• The need to scaffold students with questions. One of the great ways to assess students is to ask them questions. This ensures that they are using their higher order thinking skills. All students may be encountered with the same question, but the difficulty gets harder as the questions increase.

Joy of understanding

As the Principal of the school, I have always perceived that the noblest pleasure always lies in the joy of understanding; understanding my students and understanding what they have understood is the ultimate goal of good assessment. For this various assessment tools both formative and summative are used. Whatever said and done, our focal objective is to prepare our students to face a vastly competitive world today and grid their loins to face yet a tremendously challenging world tomorrow. The school in which I have dedicated myself into the role of Principal has an advantageous liberty of possessing highly competent and well equipped teachers who also possess the ability to learn, and translate that learning into effectual teaching and assessment strategies. My teachers have developed excellent instructional styles that work well in diverse classrooms. Effective teaching methods that engage gifted students, as well as slow-learning children and those with attention deficit tendencies are well employed in my classrooms. Given thorough orientation and training modules of the 21st century pedagogy, they have become specialists in blending differentiated instruction and a balanced mix of teaching methods that benefits all students in our classrooms.

Towards effective learning strategies…

As I move to wrap up my proposal on effective learning strategies and assessment approaches, I’d like to pose a question. Does a 65 constitute mediocrity, while a 100, perfection? While our education system may have ingrained this notion in our minds, remember that life is always not measured by report cards, scores and grades, life is something that we experience; something in which we indulge wholeheartedly and the eventual satisfaction and joy is what matters. Remember challenges and occurrences in life come in jerks and starts. We would not be cloistered by a “core curriculum” throughout our lives nor cosseted under the wings of mentors with tailor made learning stratagems and a well-defined modus operandi that prescribes success.

Therefore to be practical and realistic in decision making; developing trust and confidence in oneself; and above all having faith and reliance in a supreme power is most important. It is this supreme authority, which is most imperative, that builds in our students morals and values, the syllabus of which is an absolute curriculum. At this moment may I muse on the words of the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson who defined success as, “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”

Success, thus, is a relative term which does not always rely on the best of learning strategy or the assessment techniques a child might have encountered in his life. We may apply it to measure the quality of the change we engender, the lives we transform, and the relationships we build. Nonetheless it cannot be denied that knowledge prepares us to face the challenges of our generation, equips us to fight inequity in health, wealth, and opportunity, and guides us in our future endeavors. With this knowledge, let us move forward in the cruise of life, well ensured that with dedication and ambition, we can defeat ignorance and accomplish the extraordinary.

Dr. Thakur S Mulchandani is a dedicated, resourceful and innovative Educationalist offering an impressive experience of over 28 years with renowned Educational Institutions. He is an accomplished trainer and a mentor with sound track record of creative scholastic achievements. He is an expert in planning, organizing, coordinating and monitoring all types of curricular and co-curricular activities for the overall personality development of students and management of the institution. He has received many awards and accolades for the extensive contribution to teaching- learning and contribution in the field of education. He has also conducted many Teachers training and Professional development sessions.

My teachers have developed excellent instructional styles that work well in diverse classrooms. Effective teaching methods that engage gifted students, as well as slow-learning children and those with attention deficit tendencies are well employed in my classrooms. Given thorough orientation and training modules of the 21st century pedagogy, they have become specialists in blending differentiated instruction and a balanced mix of teaching methods that benefits all students in our classrooms.