Innovative teaching strategies don’t always mean introducing the latest and greatest technology into the classroom. Instead, innovative teaching is the process of proactively introducing new teaching strategies and methods into the classroom. The purpose of introducing these new teaching strategies and methods is to improve academic outcomes and address real problems to promote equitable learning.
- How Innovation Can Help You Become Better at Teaching
- 10 Innovative Teaching Strategies for Better Student Engagement
- The Future of Innovative Teaching
How Innovation Can Help You Become Better at Teaching
In many ways, applying innovative teaching strategies to the classroom is a tacit understanding that our teaching methods can be improved. It accepts the need to grow and develop, which is exactly what we ask of our students. What better way to lead than by example?
So, innovative teaching strategies start with a growth mindset. We identify room for improvement. We invest our time in researching and thinking of better strategies to teach our students. We create something new or adapt existing methods. We take risks. We may fail. We try again. We iterate and by doing so establish a culture of innovation and creativity in the classroom that inspires our students to do the same.
In this post, we talk about popular innovative teaching strategies that help drive better student outcomes. These strategies often focus on student engagement. After all, students that are actively engaged in their learning are less likely to be absent from the class and more likely to succeed academically.
It is important to take a student-centric approach to our methods. As a student, do we gain more from class by sitting passively in our seats for a 45-minute lecture? Or, are we more likely to learn by actively participating in the class by asking questions, collaborating on projects, and problem-solving? Let’s look at ten innovative teaching strategies that teachers use in their classrooms to improve student engagement and academic outcomes.
10 Innovative Teaching Strategies for Better Student Engagement
Review the following innovative teaching strategies and consider how you can use them in your classroom to improve student engagement. The drive to innovate in the classroom should always consider how such innovations can improve student outcomes. The goal of teaching is to promote learning. The strategies we deploy are to promote learning. Trying out different strategies in the classroom is an iterative process to help us promote learning more effectively and successfully.
Flip the Classroom
In a flipped classroom students review lecture material at home and work on projects and assignments in the classroom. Students in the flipped classroom complete coursework typically sent home as homework in class. The flipped classroom provides a great space for peer-to-peer collaboration. Students can engage one another to complete group projects, debates, and practice. Teachers are not the center of the flipped classroom. Instead, teachers are more flexible, addressing personalized help and direction for students and student groups as they complete their work.
Personalized learning adapts what, when, and how we are teaching each student. Instead of selecting a singular method or strategy to teach the whole class, teachers adapt to the strengths of each student to help them succeed. The personalized learning experience is like how we experience different online tools where algorithms tailor our online experiences to meet our interests. When you go to one site, you may see certain content float to the top where I will see something different based on my viewing history or searches. Personalized learning provides a catered learning experience and methods that are optimized for individual students. Though these individualized learning journeys are different for each student, the end goal is subject mastery or meeting standards for their grade level. So, we can think of these as different paths leading to the same place.
Project-Based Learning (PBL)
Project-based learning is an effective method that helps students drive their own learning journey. In a PBL exercise, students identify a real-world problem then develop a solution. Project-based learning relies on developing key skill sets such as research, critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. Project-based learning is an active method of learning where students gain mastery through the application of their knowledge rather than rote memorization. Like the flipped classroom, the teacher’s role becomes that of a guide and the students take ownership of their learning.
Inquiry-based learning develops thinking and problem-solving skills. Instead of driving the class through a lecture-style format, the teacher poses questions, scenarios, and problems. Students then research these topics individually or in groups to formulate their answers. They can then present their findings and supporting evidence to the class along with the other students. Students are then able to further develop their answers by listening to what other students have found as well as identifying areas that require more attention and detail.
Jigsaws are another active learning method. Most importantly, jigsaws introduce the opportunity for students to teach other students. And, as Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn.” Explaining something to someone is often considered the best way to truly understand it (the protégé effect). With jigsaws, students are divided into groups and given different pieces of information. Students in each group are then tasked with learning the information enough to be able to explain it to someone else. The students are then assigned to different groups where they explain their information to the other members. They complete this process until each group has the full picture of information to complete the puzzle.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Students, especially successful students, may rely too heavily on textbook answers. They may develop over time the tendency to think there are only right and wrong answers. But most questions don’t have right or wrong answers. In today’s divisive public sphere, students need to exercise conversational skills and empathy. Students need to learn to communicate and collaborate. By asking open-ended questions, teachers encourage vibrant in-class conversations. Students can piece together different information learned or experienced in their life to stitch together cohesive points. This can encourage students to not only find their voice but express themselves as well.
As we mentioned when discussing jigsaws, students exhibit mastery when they explain or teach others. Have students choose an area of interest within the scope of the subject being taught. Provide them with the opportunity to independently research the topic and create a presentation on it. Set aside class time for students to present to the class to teach their peers about their topic. With peer teaching, students learn skills such as independent study, presentation skills, and confidence.
Blended learning combines physical and online learning experiences that give students more control over the time, place, path, and pace of instruction. Check out our previous post on blended learning to learn all you need to know. What’s exciting about blended learning is that it provides traditional classroom experiences as well as online tools and learning opportunities. It’s not an all-or-nothing method. Still, technology is a key component of blended learning as it is for students in the real world. The flexibility of blended learning enables students to have more control over their learning methods – perhaps they’ll watch online lectures at home and engage in peer groups for collaborative activities or maybe they’ll prefer to join lecture-based virtual classes and do their homework independently.
Feedback is incredibly important. Students need to learn how to offer constructive feedback as well as accept feedback. Provide students with a mechanism for providing feedback. In a virtual classroom, feedback tools like polling or emojis are a great way for quick feedback cycles. You can even challenge or ask students to expand upon their feedback then ask other students with opposing opinions to discuss why they think differently.
Many of the innovative learning strategies we discussed are active learning strategies. Active learning methods encourage students to discuss, contribute, participate, investigate, and create. Active learning challenges students by questioning them, requiring problem-solving and critical thinking. Most importantly, active learning engages students and requires them to be active in the classroom. Students that participate in their learning are more likely to succeed in your class.
The Future of Innovative Teaching
The shift over the last couple of years of brick-and-mortar students to digital students accelerated a trend that was already developing. Believe it or not, by 2019 nearly 60% of all students in the US used digital learning tools.
Virtual academy enrollment numbers have seen steady growth well before the pandemic serving hundreds of thousands of students each year in the US. Though many school districts happily reopened in 2021, it is unlikely that schools will completely abandon their digital experiences.
Offering digital programs provides students flexibility with greater access to teachers and classes as well as the opportunity to take more control over their learning.
As Plato wrote, “our need will be the real creator” or as we say today, “necessity is the mother of invention”. Introducing innovative teaching strategies into the classroom may have been a niche academic practice conducted by a few bold educators previously, but these strategies are becoming more commonplace today as schools look to make up for learning loss and our new reality.
We can expect to see more blended learning, hybrid learning, and bold initiatives to address the challenges schools and students face today. This trend goes beyond the classroom as the workplace also faces these challenges and figures out how to approach their own hybrid learning experiences.
These strategies are used to inspire creativity and success in the classroom. Change is necessary and through change, we are bound to fail or miss a beat. However, failing is ok. One of the most important lessons we teach our students is that they need to try and if they fail, then that’s ok. Failing is ok as long as we take lessons from that and try again.
Though these strategies seem like we are taking a big leap into something new, we don’t have to apply them to our entire teaching strategy. Think of how you can use one or the other for a specific lesson. Maybe some subjects lend themselves to a project-based learning exercise while others benefit from simply asking open-ended questions.
Keep your ears and eyes open. Many teachers are going through this journey with you. There are some fantastic examples online that you can use as source material for your classroom experiments.
Try out different technologies like recording video lectures or using virtual classrooms when appropriate to venture into the digital experience. Maybe even have your students create their own videos to teach and inform other students – our students are already creating videos with their friends, so maybe we can leverage their excitement and put it to good academic use.
As long as we’re innovating, we are growing. Give it a go, it’s always an exciting time to be in the classroom. It’s especially exciting now while many are looking to introduce innovative teaching strategies as solutions to the challenge students face today.
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