12 February, 2009

Ten Commandments for Effective Lesson Presentation

By C. Radhakrishnan

(Background Designed By Sharmila R, Grade X, High Range School, TTL, Mattupatti)

Effective lesson presentation involves the learning experiences teachers’ setup to achieve the indented learning outcomes by students. As a result of large scale research and experimentation, there is now a staggering range of learning activities available that can be organised to good effect. These include, by way of example, exposition, practicals, worksheets, computer games, role play, pare-share and group discussion. Moreover, teachers should develop an inclination towards innovating new strategies for effective lesson presentation. Success of a lesson presentation depends entirely on how differently and effectively teachers’ use variety of teaching methods in their programme of lessons. Now let us peep into some important aspects of effective lesson presentation.

1. Direct instruction is a type of instruction that happens when a teacher conveys information directly to students, and structures a class to reach a clearly defined set of goals. It is especially good when teaching well-defined information or skills that a student must master. It isn't as effective when the aim of the lesson is learning concepts or exploring and discovering.

2. Orienting the students to the lesson before it begins is another way of improving a lesson. At the beginning of a lesson a teacher should establish a positive mental attitude of readiness in their students. This mental set can be established in these ways:
a. The teacher should require the students to be on time for the lesson, and start as soon as the period begins. This establishes a sense of seriousness and purpose.
b. Next, the teacher needs to arouse the students’ sense of curiosity or interest in the lesson.
c. Humour or drama can be used to establish a positive mental set.
d. In starting a lesson, teachers must give students a map of where the lesson is going and what they will know at the end. By stating the objectives, it enhances the achievement of those objectives.

3. Review the previous knowledge. Teachers need to make sure that students have acquired the skills needed in advance in order to connect the information that they have already obtained with the new information they are about to receive. A review could just remind them of what they did the previous day. Generally, just asking a few recap questions will help before starting the new lesson. This will remind students of what they know and give them the outline that they need to integrate the new information.

4. While presenting a new lesson there are some things that the teacher should keep in mind:
Lesson organization: Lessons should be rationally organised. Information that has a clear well-ordered structure is better retained than less clearly presented information.
Lesson Emphasis: Effective teachers give clear indications of the most important elements of the lesson - by saying that these elements are particularly important. Repeat important information and bring them back into the lesson whenever appropriate.
Lesson clarity: An effective lesson has clarity - the use of direct, simple, well-organized language to present concepts. Moving into unrelated topics disrupt the flow of the lesson and detract from the clarity.
Explanations: Effective teachers also use explanations in their lessons and explanatory words (i.e., because, in order to, consequently) and follow a pattern of presenting a rule, then an example, then the rule again, when presenting new concepts.
Worked examples: These are used for teaching certain kinds of problem solving techniques, especially in mathematics. A teacher will present a problem to the class, then work through it and explain their thinking at each step. The teacher is replicating the strategies that an expert would use to solve the problem, so that the students can imitate these in similar situations.
Demonstrations, Models and Illustrations: It is important for students to see and have hands on experience when appropriate throughout their learning. Visual representations (Mind and idea maps) are retained in the long-term memory more than when the information is only heard.
Make it lively: Straight, dry lectures can be boring and bored students soon stop paying attention to the lesson. Teachers should introduce variety, activity or humour into the lesson to make it lively and maintain the students’ attention. However, too much variation can be harmful to the lesson - there is a balance that must be achieved.
Content Coverage and pacing: An important factor in effective teaching is the amount of content that is covered. While covering the content teachers’ must have a balance between content and the time required for understanding. Simply covering a huge syllabus or content doesn’t make any sense. Always keep in mind that learning takes place only when the learners are able to think, analyse, comprehend and transfer the concept in a new environment and connect it to their day to day life.

5. Frequent learning feedbacks. Teachers must be frequently conscious of the effects of their teaching. Just because students seem to be paying attention, does not mean that the information has been successfully received. Teachers must regularly check their students understanding of the topic being presented. Learning feedbacks are the various ways that teachers can ask for brief responses to the content of the lesson. They give the teacher a clear idea on the students’ levels of cognition. They can take the form of open-ended or closed questions to the class or as brief written or physical demonstrations of understanding.

6. Check for understanding. The purpose of the learning feedback (see above) is to check if the students have an understanding of the lesson. Wait time is also important. This is the amount of time that the teacher will wait for the students to answer their explorative question before going on to another student. Research has found that teachers tend to give up too quickly on students whom they perceive to be low achievers, which tells the student that the teacher expects little from them.

7. Random calling order for questioning. In classroom questioning, calling order is a concern. Teachers often call on volunteers when asking a question, but this allows some students to avoid participating in the lesson. This can be solved by asking a randomly selected student.

8. Use class fun(work) time properly. Time given for class fun or independent study in the class is often misused. Student time spent receiving instruction directly from the teacher is more productive. In order to use this time appropriately, there are few suggestions:
 Do not assign class fun(work)until you are sure that the students can do it.
 Keep class fun assignments short. About ten minutes of fun is adequate for most objectives. E.g. Map skill or drawing a diagram.
 Give clear instruction.
 Make sure that every one received the material for class fun (if you are distributing).
 Once students start their fun-work avoid interruption. Take a round of the class to be sure that everyone is underway before attending to the problems of individual students or other tasks.
 Closely watch the independent work. This keeps the students on task and makes the teacher available for questions or clarification. (Remember, it’s not the time for correction or entering marks or attendance into the register)
 Collect the fun-work and include it in grades (CCE). One of the major problems of class fun-work is that students see no reason to do their best on it because it has little or no bearing on their grades or marks. Students should know that the work counts towards their grades. It is a good idea to save some time at the end of a lecture to go over the answers to the questions and allow students to exchange or check their own papers. This will give the students immediate feedback on their work.

9. Assess performance and give feedback. Each lesson must include an assessment of the level to which students have mastered the goals that are set for the lesson. It could be done informally, with the teacher asking questions to the students, or with the use of class work as an assessment. As well, a teacher may use a quiz to assess understanding. Feedback is important too. If students are learning everything that is being taught easily then maybe teachers can pick up the pace of their instructions. On the other hand, this feedback may reveal that students are having misunderstandings with respect to the topic, and teachers can then re-teach the lesson and focus on the steps to get students back on track.

10. Practice and review. When students practice and review things over time this increases the retention of the knowledge. As well, teachers should assign home-fun(work)in most subjects, especially at the secondary level. This gives learners the chance to practice skills learned in one setting at one time (school) in another setting at another time (home). Well-structured home-fun(work) generally increases achievement, particularly if the teacher checks the home-fun and gives feedback at the right time.

All the works - class work or homework, should be enjoyable for the children, otherwise it's meaningless. The usage 'homework or class work is outdated. In the real sense it's we, the teachers, should make the work we assign to the children an absolute fun. So let’s reorient ourselves to the new concept of 'home-fun and class-fun' to make the learning experience really thrilling and enjoyable one.

Print and Online References:

1. Kyriacou, Chris (2005); “Essential Teaching Skills”; Nelson Thornes Ltd, UK – High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.
2. Kyriacou, Chris (2005); “Effective Teaching in Schools”; Nelson Thornes Ltd, UK - High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.
3. Beard, Colin and Wilson, john P (2006); “Experiential Learning – A Best Practice Handbook for Educators and Trainers”; Kogan Page, London - High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.
4. Anderson, L. W. (1995); “International Encyclopaedia of Teaching and Teacher Education” Oxford. - Oxford University online library.
5. http://www.humboldt.edu/~tha1/hunter-eei.html