Alternative Teaching Methods

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Alternative Teaching Methods

All members of WikiEducator are invited to collaborate on this page. Additional methods, critical responses to methods included here, thoughtful observations -- all are welcome.--Phil Bartle 11:21, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

 ? Good teachers use a variety of methods of teaching in the classroom, and set up contexts for a variety of learning modes for their students. The emphasis on this page is on alternatives to the standard pattern: teacher in the front of the class, students sitting in rows facing the teacher, teacher making a verbal presentation of the content, students allowed to ask questions of clarification after the presentation.
 ? Here are a few examples for illustration. The list is in no way comprehensive, but may stimulate you to think up others.

Aural Method

 ? An important learning method alternative is the aural method of learning an oral language. No notes, no text books, no memorizing grammar rules. It works well even for languages that are written.

Role Play

 ? Many different kinds of role playing can be set up. Perhaps the best is where the students take on specific roles and are asked to invent their own dialogue. This can be used for acting out an historical situation or event, a case study of a topic within one of many classes, a possible future event. A more complex role play to set up, and a bit more restrictive in terms of student creativity, is where the dialogue, or some of it, is prepared by the teacher. Here, though, specific quotations can be used out of an historical text book or a text of case studies. A role play can be any length from a few minutes to longer. Shorter is perhaps best. There should be time for the participants and non participants to comment on and analyze the role play.

Simulation game

 ? Simulation games differ from role play in that the participants are not seen to be acting out parts, but are set tasks and goals, individually and/or in groups, that they attempt to achieve to play the game. One of the most useful simulation games is Starpower, which I used in the late sixties and early seventies to teach about class and caste systems, with a focus on Apartheid. It is described in the inequality section of my sociology modules. When done well a simulation game can instill feelings and perspectives in the participants, often at odds with each other, and the huge energy created requires lots of time and guidance in debriefing afterwards.


 ? Puppets, flannel cloth and magnetic boards. Puppets can be a lot of fun because of their entertainment function. They go way back into history and are used in many societies. It is important however, that the students do not simply watch them passively, as we are wont to do in this television age. Making the puppets, and writing a play for them is far more productive. Here they are similar to role playing noted above. Flannel boards are like puppets but more appropriate when you need less action among the players. They are good for non animate props, and a cardboard "puppet" on a stick can be used over them to add action where needed. Magnetic boards can be played the same way, but usually need commercially manufactured figures, unlike flannel which lends itself better to making the props and characters in class. If you can get some generic fridge magnets, cardboard characters and props can be pasted onto the magnets and you then are less dependent upon commercial ones, and the students can make them.

Cultural groups

 ? Song, dance and culture groups. In many communities, or nearby, local amateur performer groups can be found. Sometimes they are part of ethnic group associations. In some places this might be a choir. In others it could be a group that stages plays, music, drumming and singing. Usually a donation is expected so your school might have to budget that. Now, while the entertainment value is great, they can become teachers. Many of them are willing to put on a play or sing a song, then take your students in to their group to get them to put on a simplified version. That is where the learning lies. As for content, they often can be given an assignment to put forth a specific message. If they are given enough time, they will come up with something good. That message can be one related to your curriculum.

School Play

 ? Putting on a play, concert or operetta. Many schools put on plays, concerts and operettas, and this is valuable in itself. To make such activities part of the curricula, however, something must be added. The topic of the entertainment should be closely related to the subject of the course. The participants should do something more than memorize lines or stanzas and act or sing them out on a stage. Any play can be edited, and the students can modify it, for example, to use local environment as ambience, and local individuals as characters. Remember that West Side Story is a modern derivative of Shakespeare. A big challenge would be to create a play that illustrates an entry or topic in a course of study.

Reviewing Videos

 ? Videos and films with a twist. All too often videos or films are shown to a class without comment and without time reserved for the class to discuss it. In this age of television, we have increasingly become passive viewers, putting nothing into the presentation of the film. Yet videos and films offer a big potential for participatory methods of learning. The simplest one would be an assignment, perhaps best in small groups of four or five, to write a review of a video, or analyze the various ways which it cross cuts the current topic of a class. In more complex assignments, students would be given editing tools, eg. on computers, to re arrange a video and make a shorter but relevant statement related to the current topic. One of the bright spots now is You Tube with short video clips. Video clips would provide the time for discussion that Videos did not allow.

Making Power Points

 ? Making power point presentations. We usually think of power point presentations (or similar programs) as a good way to present a topic, with illustrations, sound, colour and animation options. Good as they are, the students become a passive audience. What is more effective is to ask the students to prepare a power point presentation. You can even give them some of the pages and illustrations that you once used when you prepared one, but do not give them everything. This works well with small work groups.
 ? I agree that when students do the work well they learn more than just watching something. With adults I use power point presentations to teach art history. In Hawaii we "talk story" which in this case means that as I talk about a picture I ask questions which I do not expect to be answered. this seems to have brought an energy into the lecture. --Katherine Bolman 21:52, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
 ? Pecha Kucha. How about we teach students right from the start how to create presentations that are not overkill - we all know what those are like. I think the principle of Pecha Kucha is fantastic and will be introducing it to my students (and using it myself). Take a look/listen to this presentation from an 11 year old about the evolution of his art work and then think about how any student could use this format. --dragonsinger57 05:10, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

Building a Model

 ? Building a model, map or construction. When students build a map or a model, it is not the final product that is so valuable as the doing of it. A model of the Bastille to illustrate the fourteenth of July. A three dimensional map of a district, province or even a small country, laid out on a table, could be a long term project, where mountains are made from paper mache. When students build such a map or model, they identify with it, and it becomes easier to get them interested in characteristics of it. Important here to not insist on too precise a replica; the building of it is more educational than the final product. I would like to collaborate with a history teacher to have the students do the research and gather the images to make art history pages with me.--Katherine Bolman 21:52, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
 ? Class or group projects, when done well, are very good learning experiences. When done poorly they can be disasters. In our functional literacy module we describe where the classroom is converted to a board room or planning room, the participants choose and design a project, such as collecting fish prices in a fishing community, go on a field trip to collect the information, then return to make pamphlets and/or signs. The literacy they learn is almost seen as a secondary objective. There is a wide range of group or class projects that can be used in this way. They are most effective when the participants themselves design each project. Many of the activities listed here can be well adapted to doing them in small groups.

Work Groups

 ? Work groups and assignment groups. An easy way to break up the monotony of everyone sitting in rows and listening to the same presentation, is to divide the students into work groups. Mine found it interesting that their first task as a group was to choose an animal as their totem, and that, of course, stimulated discussions of what totems were. While work groups can encourage cooperation and a communal attitude, that is not the most important feature here. A teacher must have a high tolerance for students talking in class, and multiple things happening at the same time. When students have an assignment, they discuss doing it, and that "doing" is a valuable contributor to their learning. One assignment is that they create a multiple choice quiz or exam. Often they do not know what the purpose of tests are, and may suggest questions that are so easy that everyone gets them all right, and I ask, what does that test? Sometimes it is possible, when appropriate, to set up a minor competition between groups; who finishes first, who gets the most or least of something. Play with it.
 ? One of my favorite small group assignments was the Mobius strip. I brought the materials – scissors, tape and long strips of newsprint. They were told to tape the strips into a circle, with one flip so the ends met but not with the same sides of the paper touching. Then I asked them to cut the strip in two, right down the middle. As they did it I asked what they expected to get, and most said two circular strips. This was a lesson at the beginning of sociology, where I wanted to demonstrate that common sense does not always prevail. What you see is not what you get. Of course if they did it right they got one larger but thinner strip in a circle.

Students as Teacher

 ? Students teaching a topic. Most teachers know that when they have to teach a subject, they end up knowing much more about it than they would without having to teach it. Some forget this phenomenon when they look for ways to encourage their students to learn. Do not overlook it. This works if you give a small teaching assignment to a student to prepare overnight or over a weekend, and present it later in class. That preparation creates an investment that the student puts into the assignment. You can also ask a work group to prepare the lesson as a group, then choose one of its members to present it. Do not confuse this with asking a student to get up in front of the class and read a passage out of a text book. That serves little purpose. They must feel responsible for the other students learning what they teach, and the investment they put into preparing it helps that.

Varied Furniture

 ? Do away with some of your desks!: A radical idea BUT some students prefer NOT to sit at a desk and work better lying on the floor or sitting on a bean bag or whatever. I am starting 2010 with 30 desks - however 13 of those have computers on them so for 'traditional' book work some of my students will not be working at desks. I have a low table some can kneel around; an outdoor area around a tree with seating for students to work at; 4 bean bags and lots of floor space. --dragonsinger57 00:00, 26 December 2009 (UTC) Thanks, I agree. --Phil Bartle 00:54, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

General Observations

 ? Do not make the mistake of thinking that these alternatives are appropriate only for younger students. I have successfully used all of them at undergraduate and post graduate seminar levels.
 ? A good teacher will come up with others, appropriate to the community, to the students, and to the topic. A better teacher will work with the students to come up with even more.
 ? Avoid "busywork." In all of the above, there is a danger of the assignments becoming what we call "busywork." Each assignment must be relative to the curriculum at hand, and not become meaningless drudge work for any student. These are not alternatives to working by the teacher, but in fact take more work.
 ? In all of the above, it is important for the teacher to find ways to maximize student participation in conceptualizing, planning, creating and setting up the alternative methods.
 ? This illustrates a need for a catalogue or WikiEd Page for anybody to contribute examples.
 ? Administrators and some school boards, based on corporate culture as they usually are, like standardization and orthodoxy. Among other reasons, they are easier for producing statistics. The methods listed here are not adapted to producing such statistics; grades. Many educators support the idea of encouraging creative initiatives, but are hindered by the orthodoxy of their administrations.
 ? What is needed is a movement, and a forum for sharing those ideas and building up a force for change. The "They said it could never be done," attitude was prevalent in the segregated areas of the USA at one time, in Apartheid South Africa at one time, in East Germany at one time. Now there is no Apartheid in South Africa, there is no East Germany, and segregation does not have so many local laws supporting it.
 ? "We can do it." It can be done, and that means more than voting for Obama. We need the collective will to make it happen, and WikiEducator is a good platform, among several, from which to urge the change. --Phil Bartle 22:44, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
 ? See and collaborate with the WikiEducator open educational resource, training methods.


 ? From Carlos Raul:
--creatiga 02:50, 15 December 2009 (UTC)