A Simple Tactic to Double the Value of Your Teaching
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Here and now is a sample from a new book that makes classroom teaching profoundly easier for the teacher, not only more effective. This mere sample will make teaching easier for you... and more effective!
Meet right here a simple, easy-to-use classroom tactic, Instant Replay. You can learn it in one minute. Instant Replay, obviously a review method, will in fact serve you as much more than a review of your day's lesson in teaching. As an educator, you will find your leverage remarkably improved, along with your classroom outcomes.
This sample is an excerpt from a simple little book for you, the dedicated teacher whose very dedication, in the very teeth of current schooling conditions, has brought you close to the limits of endurance and eroded your originally strong desires for highest-level performance. The book’s title: Three Easy Tactics to Use in Your Classroom—How To Teach Smarter, Not Harder. This present article briefs you on one of those three tactics.
We all want better outcomes in our schools, but none of the major reforms have really worked and taken hold. Each reform has seemed to many teachers to be yet more of a burden, to require still more time, still more attention, still more energy of them than they are already putting out, pushing them closer to the point of exhaustion. In contrast, the improvements suggested here greatly improve the lot of the teacher, not only that of the students. These allow the teacher to recover much of his or her earlier vigor, clarity and enthusiasm.
In fact, you need only minutes to learn and successfully apply the three simple classroom tactics given to you here, which you can then freely use as little or as much as you please. Each time you do use one or several of these, not only you but your students will do better. This one same tactic here, from the three simple tactics in the book, is representative of a larger body of educational techniques, modern Socratic Method, whose tested outcomes have been most heartening indeed and to some even startling. More about that soon, and about the little-known special branch of Socratic Method, Maieutics(1), which these present tactics most closely resemble. Meanwhile:
Have you ever experienced it all catching up with you as a teacher—the long hours and many competing demands for your energy and attention? Have you ever started to run dry in the middle of a lesson, your eloquence, powers of persuasion and context mostly evaporated?
Have you ever wished, in mid-lesson, for a two- to four-minute breather in which you can regroup yourself, your thoughts, and the case you are making to your students, somehow pause to re-orient yourself without meanwhile throwing your students into some routine drill or some tedious makework?
Here is a good part of how you can find yourself respite and relief, regroup yourself, and plunge back in re-powered and refreshed—while your pause to come up for air actually pulls your students forward in a major way instead of sticking them into a temporary holding action.
To do that, use whichever of these three simple tactics is easiest for you to do:
That creates safety for your students to respond with more confidence and fluency. It is hard to fail with an answer to a question so worded. They are answering with what is important to them and that is not all that easy for someone else to contradict.
In addition, they are having to dig into their own experience and feelings, making their own connections and relationships with the material while doing so. There is less failure. There is higher involvement. The higher the intensity of involvement and absorption that your question can develop for your students, the more complete your 2- to 4-minute respite can be. A question that really has students searching their own experiences and drawing their own relationships to the current material will not only give you a more profound and complete respite, but get an important part of your job done for you.
Our three simple tactics given in the book are almost as simple as those three options. In their descriptions below we do add a few pointers, especially on how to turn your students loose into such “buzz-group” sessions with everyone talking at once, totally involved, while keeping them fully and productively focused and on target, and how to easily and cleanly and in one quick instant pull them back to quiet order with their attention completely yours to direct. Even with these pointers added, you will find these next three simple, respite-generating tactics to be easier to conduct—and more productive for you as well as for your students—than just about any of the classroom techniques you are using currently.
So far, one school has trained its entire faculty in modern Socratic Method, of which these three present simple tactics are representative. Individual teachers and professors have used elements of this method before in their classrooms and been ecstatic about the results, but now an entire school, presumably the first of many, has started using the results and testing the effects of those results before and after.
Why does the student body of St. Andrews Country Day School in Buffalo, NY, learn so well and more rapidly on average with our modern Socratic method, compared to conventional schooling methods? How well? On average these students in Buffalo gained 4.4 years in academic achievement level in one school year, 2008-2009. One really fun class gained eight years in just the one year. Graduates are winning scholarships in unprecedented numbers. Reports from the subsequent year are that, instead of tailing off, these gains are actually expanding: the students are now doing even better.
In this present paper, we hereby give you use of the first of the three tactics, tactics which are representative of the methods now in use at St. Andrews and which have been selected not only for their power but for their immediate ease of use and for the respite and restoration their use gives to teachers.
Practice this simple Instant Replay and to a substantial degree, like the classes at St. Andrews, your classes will also substantially improve, enrich and accelerate.
As you will see, that such very happy educational outcomes should happen makes good sense, even if it seems astonishing to most teachers and school officials today. Because:
In addition, there is a lot of research showing that not only learning but growth and development of the physical brain itself stem mainly and best from feedback on one's own activities.(2) In other words, those students in Buffalo are not only learning more and faster and with more understanding, but their physical brains are also improving: studies in neuroplasticity recognize this phenomenon - they are becoming smarter.
In practical terms we have been finding that an optimal classroom mix is about half didactic instruction such as what goes on conventionally now, and half Socratic "buzzing" on key issues and questions. This proportion optimum will vary from teacher to teacher and from topic to topic, but at least a third of classroom time should be Socratically invested if students are to realize anything like that 4.4 times greater learning gain.
And now, here are your instructions for the first of these three simple tactics for use in your own classroom:
Even 5 minutes invested at the end of each lesson, invested Socratically as shown in the simple way given you here, can double the value and long-term memorability of that lesson. Here is that simple, easy, Instant Replay technique:
These are easy small steps leading toward a situation where, if you let it go full course, you will eventually have everyone in your classroom being a Socrates to themselves and to each other, drawing out each other and themselves in detail, in depth and at length, perceptively, reflectively and thoughtfully, on every topic in your curriculum.
Socratic Method is the original accelerated learning or "super-learning" method. Socratic Method serves both as a powerful learning method and as a problem-solving method and a method for inventing and innovating and discovering, basically a method for figuring out things. It is better tested and demonstrated than any other good learning method throughout 2400 years of history. Your very own profession, education, is named after its central concept, of "drawing forth" knowledge and understanding—"educare."
Each time the Socratic Method has been widely used, it has always resulted in the highest levels of intellectual performance. The questioning approach of the great Athenian, Socrates, became the Hellenic foundation of western intellectual tradition. In late classical Greece, when it was used with a few tens of thousands of people, we saw not only a much greater proportion but a greater absolute number of world-class geniuses than all of Earth’s present-day seven-plus billion people are producing today, even with all our information technology advantages. Later, in Renaissance Europe, Socratic Method was revived and used with a few hundred thousand people, and we again saw not only a much greater proportion but a greater absolute number of world-class geniuses than with today’s seven-plus billions.
Today, thanks to several centuries of science, we know why. As we explore through the 3 Easy Tactics book, or through the introductory and advanced courses taught by the Center for Modern Socratic Innovation(3), we will touch on some of the reasons why use of Socratic Method has these effects. Also, we will touch on some of the things we've done to ensure that use of Socratic Method has more of these benefits and, especially, to make it easier to implement than the original version was. Note that one of the main reasons traditional Socratic Method dropped out of general use was that its practice demanded higher levels of knowledge and skill from teachers than were available. By contrast, you have already seen here how easily you can set a modern Socratic process in motion.
Make room at end of your lesson for this little Instant Replay session. Tell your students to “turn to the person next to you” to buzz answers to the question you ask them, then ask them one of those five questions, which leads them to review their perceptions and experiences and search out and express meaningful relationships with what you have just taught them.
You can settle for this one simple quick-Socratizing Instant Replay. Even if you stop with this one technique and add it to your repertoire, it will more than double the value and lasting memory in your students of what you have been teaching them. Or you can go on, for that was a drop in the bucket, a way to get started in an ocean of easy yet vaster improvements you can make in the educational outcomes of your classroom. Your classroom.....
If you are in a group studying such method, please turn to the person next to you now, or when coordinator or facilitator so indicates, and tell that person in 2-3 minutes your answer to one of the four questions just below.
If you are working alone, you might want to do the same activity with an audio recorder. This will give much sharper focus and stronger leverage to your perceptions and understanding than will simply thinking your answers or writing them down.
Then be there for that person while he or she tells you his or her answer. If you are studying this briefing alone, perhaps you can round up a friend as live listener while you run your answer by him or her or summarize what you have read to him or her. A poor substitute, but at least some sort of productive working substitute, will be to use some sort of audio recorder, with the intention or expectation that eventually someone else will hear what you have recorded. That external listener will, just by possibly being there, cause you to focus more of your attention better on what you are saying and describing, resulting in an amazing improvement in quality of your own understanding and perception.
What's good for your students is also good for you: having—and using—a meaningful audience is supremely important not only to figuring out things, not only to learning lesson content, but to higher development of some of our most important and fundamental traits and abilities as human beings. Your converting some of those goof-offs in your classroom into being meaningful audiences, meaningful participants, meaningful human beings, can be among your very greatest triumphs and achievements as a teacher and educator.
Note, please, just how easy it was to get meaningful involvement by your students going in this very first lesson. You can settle for achieving in pretty much your present range of classroom results, but do so far more easily and less stressfully than by the methods you have been using up to now. And/or you can also achieve much more by doing what we expect most of your colleagues will soon be doing, using a combination of your old methods with some elements of the new, modern maieutic Socratic Method.
If you have not done so yet, please DO turn now to the person next to you, or nearest best equivalent to such a person such as an audio recorder, and tell your answer to one of those four above questions.
(2) As reflected in the work
of such notables as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Omar K. Moore,
Santiago Ramon y Cajal, and Marion Diamond. Their gist: not only
learning, but the basic physical growth and development of the brain
itself derive mainly and best from feedback upon one’s own actions.
This can also be related to behavior’s principal natural law, the Law
of Effect, informally stated: “You get more of what you reinforce.”
(3) The Center for Modern Socratic Innovation, CMSI (or
“Semsi”), formed for the purpose of organized professional training in
modern Socratic Method, can be contacted through Win Wenger at Project Renaissance or N. Bakos at Solutions
(3) The Center for Modern Socratic Innovation, CMSI (or “Semsi”), formed for the purpose of organized professional training in modern Socratic Method, can be contacted through Win Wenger at Project Renaissance or N. Bakos at Solutions Partnering.
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