Stretch Your Classroom with Practical Active Learning

As part of this month’s Teach 2030 focus on Practical Active Learning, we meet Oluwatosin, a science teacher in Nigeria, and one of our Ambassadors. He discusses the impact in his classroom of implementing numerous teaching strategies learnt from this course, including ‘Do Now’, ‘TurnTalk’ and ‘Stretch-It’.

Oluwatosin begins by describing the traditional education roles that he is accustomed to in Nigeria. He emphasises the high levels of teacher talk expected by learners, which often results in his students feeling disengaged.

In my country, teachers go into class, talk and then give notes and assignments. All the students do is nod their heads – everyone shaking their heads, with no response, and then they leave. There is no certainty that the teacher has actually helped the learners; it is all on assumption.

Oluwatosin explains that he is more used to pupils reading and memorising, rather than demonstrating understanding of learning. The Practical Active Learning course represented a shift in his expectations, due to it promoting student contribution and interaction. He is keen to clarify why this role reversal has been so fundamental in improving his teaching skills.

The Practical Active Learning course has helped me become a better teacher by making the class more interactive than it used to be. Now, I am not the only one speaking and I am getting feedback from the students in real time. They enjoy it and look forward to the interaction every session. This has helped them retain more information. They are giving me a comparison to practical everyday life and how the topic affects them.

With these techniques, I can now see that my students are actually learning. They don’t stay mute in class or recite from their textbook; they now think it through. The ‘Do-Now’ helps me to build formative assessment. I give them some notes to prepare for the next class. This means they come prepared and I start teaching the topic straight away (‘Do Now’). I then ask a question and begin ‘Turn Talk,’ so I can see that they have done their homework and some research. ‘Stretch-It’ helps me to push them further, to think about how they got to the answer.

The ‘Stretch-It’ technique that Oluwatosin uses in his classroom.

Relating the strategies to lesson objectives is of utmost importance to Oluwatosin. Yet, changing his teaching methods required discipline and careful planning, mostly because the students were unfamiliar with his new teaching style.

A challenge I encountered was getting them to respond when a question is asked. The learners expected the teacher to supply the answer. It was a strange method to them. So the general response was “I don’t know” or to stay mute.

To overcome this challenge. I guided them on how to solve a problem. For example, I wrote out a problem and showed them each step taken to solve it. By doing this, I showed them my thought process and how thinking a little harder and longer can yield a better result and impress into the memory the knowledge needed.

I also began with one or two short questions and later on, I pushed them. They started giving me positive responses, so I started asking, ‘how did you get that answer?’ The more I kept asking, the more they were responding. Some were so eager to come to the board to explain how they came about their answer, even going further. They showed me diagrams without me even asking.

Oluwatosin exhibits all the attributes that Teach2030 most admires in a teacher. His perseverance and ability to model both the behaviour and growth expected in his learners has changed the mindset of his entire classroom. By demonstrating the thinking process to his students and scaffolding the tasks, he has encouraged enthusiasm, motivation and – most importantly – higher-level learning.

Develop your skills today by taking our Practical Active Learning course. Then, tell us which strategy you found most effective and why.

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