Friday, June 23, 2023

Application of “The Techniques of Teaching” in a School Context?


Having written extensively on teaching techniques, it is only natural that teachers may wonder: "These teaching techniques work in a corporate training setting, but can they be applied in a school setting?"

Let's cut to the chase: "Professional-grade teaching skills can certainly be applied in a campus setting! However, some appropriate adjustments are required."

Are students easier to teach than corporate professionals?

Let me ask: Do you think college students are easier to teach than corporate professionals? The answer is: Not at all!

In my early career as a professional lecturer, I taught courses in three universities for two academic years. I taught day and evening classes, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, both at public and private universities, and offered both elective and required courses. Since I was part-time, I taught a very "diverse" array of subjects. In addition to teaching marketing management due to my EMBA background, I taught mainland China market research because of my consulting experience there, and financial investment, commercial insurance, futures and options due to my previous job in the finance and insurance industry. And of course, my most familiar subject, the Content Management System Joomla, was also one of the subjects I taught.

Contrary to expectations, university students are not easier to teach than corporate professionals! Whether they are from public or private universities, or day or evening classes, it was true ten years ago and it is still true today! I've encountered students who would stroll into the second class late with a basketball in hand; and many students who would stare blankly at the front of the class, as if being in the classroom was something they were being forced to do! (I really wanted to tell them: "Guys, no one is forcing you!") After a hard day's work, it's common for evening class students to be in a daze. Although I haven't taught at a university for several years, the few times I've returned to give lectures, I can tell by looking at the students' faces before I start that things have not improved, but rather, become more challenging! Because... smartphones have appeared! Teachers not only have to combat low motivation but also the high allure of mobile phones! From these points, I don't find students any easier to teach than professionals in a business setting.

So... what should we do?

Starting from Grouping

No matter it is in education ten years ago, or lectures after, grouping is the key of many teaching techniques. This is because that grouping is the only way to allow every individuals to perform in a group. You can imagine that if a student attend the course too diligent, he or she will be hate by others. But when he or she is a part of the group, all the performance was changed into scores. This way, all his or hers’ performance will be considered for the team instead of his or herself. Work for others is able to make him or her even better!

Teaching Beyond Lecturing

While lecturing is highly efficient (all you have to do is talk), its effectiveness leaves much to be desired! Teachers don't need me to prove this; just look at the expressions on the faces of the students in your classroom! Of course, I'm not discounting those teachers who are excellent orators, making students laugh every three minutes and sharing captivating stories every five. But believe me, reaching such a high level of lecturing skill is truly more challenging!

The question is: Are there teaching alternatives beyond lecturing? The Socratic method, or question-and-answer approach, is certainly a good start, but relying on it alone won't sustain a class for long! Could we introduce topics suitable for group discussion, with opportunities to express opinions? Could we incorporate videos for students to discuss after viewing, or to confirm discussions held beforehand? Can hands-on activities be included? Could we engage students in case studies, allowing them to operate, discuss, and practice, and then wrap everything up with a summary? Could we extend teaching beyond the classroom? Assign out-of-class homework? Or perhaps, could we have students interview professionals and then return to summarize their learnings? With a flipped classroom approach, students complete their learning outside of class and return to discuss any problems. These are all non-lecture-based teaching methods, and they can yield great results!

During my years as a part-time university teacher, I designed an investment simulation game in the classroom, using real stock market ups and downs over a certain period, real news events, and a chip system to give students a sense of the dynamics and risks of futures trading. Their experiences with market volatility and the eventual loss of all their chips made a deeper impression than any amount of lecturing! We also used real-world Nike and McDonald's cases for group discussions on marketing strategy in a marketing management course, with videos to confirm the answers. For a course on mainland China market research, I required students to interview two people currently doing business or working in mainland China to learn about their experiences, followed by summary reports. To ensure the quality of the interviews, I asked students to prepare interview outlines beforehand and explain why they were asking certain questions and what answers they expected. As I mentioned before, I once used a project competition and presentation format to replace the traditional written final exam, allowing students to rapidly analyze problems, collect data, propose solutions, and complete reports.

I believe that if teachers are committed and willing to innovate, they can certainly leverage these teaching techniques to create better educational experiences!

Implementing Gamification in Teaching

Ten years ago, I wasn't as familiar with gamification in teaching as I am now. However, unbeknownst to me, I had already begun to utilize the three main elements of gamification: Points (P), Badges (B), and Leaderboards (L). We would encourage group discussions among students by assigning and tallying points. At the end of each class or month, the top-ranked groups would receive small rewards. Sometimes just a few drinks or a packet of snacks could make the students very happy! (The reward isn't the goal, it's just a reason to participate.) However, I was not very proficient in using leaderboards at the time, so only a few proposal competitions or semester-end results would reveal the ranking among the students.

Learning from Elementary School Teachers

You may wonder: Is it difficult to incorporate gamification into teaching?

Last month, during the open class day of my daughter, Yun Yun (in the first grade), I sat at the back of the classroom and observed how the teachers guided the young students. They used a group approach, where each student's participation would earn points for their group. Especially good contributions would earn individual points. The scoreboard was right there on the blackboard at the front, and the teacher used magnetic markers to instantly reflect each group's score. When the score accumulated to a certain point, it could be exchanged for biscuits or small gifts. I even managed to learn a neat trick of graphical scorekeeping on the spot! (Thanks to Yun Yun’s primary school teacher!) In fact, I believe that all teachers are creative; they just need some guidance and breakthroughs, and they will definitely produce incredible results!


Of course, I've only touched upon key aspects like grouping, teaching methods, and gamification. Other elements like the opening (for example, establishing teaching highlights and learning goals in the first week of school), classroom management (handling mobile phones & rules, replacing negative point deductions with positive point additions), and many more intricate details of teaching techniques, are all there for the discerning teacher to discover and utilize.

Though I previously mentioned that students are no easier to teach than corporate professionals, corporate training itself presents its own set of challenges compared to academia. When your audience is comprised of professionals, all with unending work and limited patience, a novice corporate trainer stepping onto the stage must immediately command the room, captivate the professionals, ensure that they gain abundant knowledge throughout the day, without even having time to check their phones or reply to emails. This is a task that requires a high degree of teaching skills to complete. The greater challenge lies in the fact that if a professional trainer fails to deliver an effective lesson, the next class may disappear altogether! When teaching outcomes are tied to actual performance and income, that's the real challenge professional trainers face every day. This is why such emphasis is placed on practical experience and tried-and-true teaching techniques. I hope to provide these insights to school teachers, as a reference for future changes in their teaching.

Once, while waiting for the high-speed train, I heard someone say, "Hello, teacher!" It was a student I had taught more than a decade ago at Chaoyang University of Technology. After exchanging pleasantries, he told me, "Teacher, I've forgotten almost everything you taught me! (That doesn't seem like a compliment XD). But I do remember: the games we played in class! The interviews you asked us to conduct... What I remember most is: your passion for teaching! It has influenced my work attitude until now!"

Isn't this the greatest pursuit of a teacher?                                                                                            



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