A creative teacher is one who has first acquired the necessary skills to practice the science of instruction and who continues to refine and supplement those skills in such a way as to capitalize on his/her own personal strengths, those unique qualities of the learners, and the individual features of the teaching-learning environment in which students and the teacher find themselves.

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The four major instructional skills essential to effective teaching were developed by Madeline Hunter and are based on research of human learning. Crucial to the belief is that teaching is a constant stream of decisions made by the teacher before, during and after instruction. Madeline Hunter, author of the Essential Elements of Instruction lesson plan model (1984) is one of the more popular translators of effectiveness research. Her model is much more detailed than previous ones, beginning with anticipatory set which draws the student into the lesson and ending the lesson with independent practice that is designed to reinforce new content.

Monitor the students and adjust the teaching
Or also known in the idiomatic world of teaching "Check and re-load".

Monitor by eliciting overt behavior from all the students. Overt behavior is the viewable manner of conducting oneself; demeanor, deportment. Check and interpret the overt behavior then act on the interpretation. Look and listen carefully to the students responses. Ask yourself if the student behavior truly matches the desired learning.

Adjust the teaching by making a decision based on the above then:

  • Reteach which simply means to give instruction again and again; to communicate knowledge anew.
  • Move on This intends that most of the students have got it and it's time to move on to the next lesson.
  • Practice Now it's time for the class to practice with the information they have received so that it will move into long term memory towards mastery of the skill or
  • Abandon the lesson This happens to all teachers and it is the wisest ones who can acknowledge this in the classroom; to put the lesson on the shelf, to rethink and present at another time with a new strategy. There are just those days when the students are too distracted, tired or the teacher just can't get the lesson across. For the most part this means woohoo!!! go to recess! or take a break and spend a little time doing another more pleasant activity such as games etc. Everyone, including teachers need some time to kick up their heels and spend some human quality time with their class.

Use the Principles of learning

The principles of learning are:

Active Participation a clinical phrase that can be interpreted "All of the students, all of the time." or the constant engagement of the minds of all learners with that which is to be learned. There are three forms of Active Participation

  • overt - the most powerful form of active participation. Students are demonstrating the level of their understanding and a teacher elicits this by using words such as - show, explain, tell me,write, draw, act out, demonstrate, and color as actions making it an observable event for both the student and teacher. As a result the teacher may learn that a key element in the lesson may have been missing and the student may suddenly have a moment of 'aha! so this is what it means.'
  • covert -This is an unobservable event for the teacher but provides application of the lesson for the student and is triggered by the teacher by using words such as -- think, listen, imagine, pretend, visualize, compare, remember, focus. It may be an internal learning event for the student.
  • combination- By combining both overt and covert participation a teacher can skillfully layer a lesson into the varies areas of thinking for the student as well as get feedback as to how successful the lesson was and where to pick up on the next lesson.

Anticipatory Set

    This gets the students ready for the lesson. I've provided one for you dear reader, an example of an anticipatory set, with the quote at the top of this write up . Aha! I have been sneaky in teaching you about the Essential Elements of Instruction and you didn't even know it! See what a good student you are! The anticipatory set is a mental process where the student's mind seeks in the past information it has about the idea being encountered. It is a great way to start the lesson, a very pleasant way to get students prepared and makes learning more interesting for most. The elements of the anticipatory set are:
    • Going from the known to the unknown.
    • Drawing on prior knowledge and connecting it to the new information.
    • Must be congruent to the objective.
    • Must relate to the student's similar past experience.
    • Must involve the learner in active participation.

Motivation- Can either come from within, which means it's intrinsic or from outside influences, meaning the motivation is extrinsic. Motivation can be hard to create for some students, especially if they have learning difficulties, so this is an important craft for the teacher to hone in his or her teaching skills. But be aware of falling into the idea of thinking that the teacher is solely responsible for motivating the students. The students have their own responsibilities towards motivation and as a new teacher I was happily surprised to find most of my students possessed it innately. So try to take what the mass media hysterics with a grain of salt and remember their motivation is to sell newspapers!

    Motivation variables These are the attributes that make up what gets students interested in learning, they all concern the learner and are comprised of the anxiety/level of concern or the degree of expectancy that a student is feeling. These variables are *interest attributes, or things that occur in the lesson that are:

    • Vivid- stories, maps, colored chalk, outlines.
    • Related to past experience - By using things that include the students interests, motivation can often be elicited by the anticipatory set.
    • Novel- Things or ideas that include elements of mystery, arouses curiosity, games, and humor.
    • Feeling Tone- This is the feeling in the environment encountered by the learner~ it can be pleasant,unpleasant, and neutral.
    • Success- is an internal feeling of motion toward an achievable challenge which tells the student that learning is taking place.
    • Knowledge of results- is feedback. This is one of the most critical attributes and I cannot emphasis this enough, students get lost when the teacher fails to let the student know how well they are doing! It must be immediate and specific or you may end up wasting critical and precious teaching time reteaching a lesson that was poorly responded to and left the students hanging scratching their heads in confusion. This can lead to frustration for the teacher as well as the students and is unfortunately overlooked by too many teachers that I have encountered in my professional career. Feedback is not the time to start playing guessing games with students unless it is done in the spirit of fun as a novel way to motivate students during this part of the lesson.

      *Caution: interest attributes provide focus and they do not teach. Interest should not draw the students away from the lesson objective.

Closure is mental process occurring when the student's mind summarizes it's perception of what is being learned or as I tell myself Teacher close your mouth and let your students think! Oftentimes a teacher will confuse closure with Knowledge of results (see previous paragraph). Closure cannot occur until students get feedback. If they can't discern how well they understood what the teacher was trying to teach then closure will get off to a bad start in the students mind. It occurs at the end of any significant learning and there are many times where this intermittent closure can be usefully applied, as well as, at the end of a lesson. For the student it helps summarize and reinforces the learning by letting him or her know if they "got it", learning occurs faster, with better understanding, helps retention, and helps form a connection for application. And as any teacher knows application to a students life is a higher level thinking goal that is important to aim for.

Reinforcement- is the maintaining or increasing of behavior during a lesson and in the environment.

  • Positive reinforcement is the introduction of something wanted, needed, or desired either physically or psychologically. it may maintain or strengthen behavior.
  • Negative reinforcement is the introduction of something not wanted, taking away something good. It may suppress or alternate behavior, the results are unpredictable.
  • Extinction a total absence of response. Behavior may wither and die if not already an ingrained behavior.

Retention- has many variables and they are:

  • Understanding- and in the learning experience means the translation of ideas into action.
  • Practice- is just as it sounds a repeated correct performance by the student.
  • Modeling a demonstration- It is critical especially if it is new knowledge, that the demonstration be correct. The teacher models or shows the students in advance what is the hoped for objective.
  • Feeling Tone- The order of feeling tones set by the environment influences retention. Many studies have been done with regards to the classroom and how it may affect learning; even down to the color of paint on the wall and it effects. Tone is set by many factors, the most critical one is the teacher. The elements of feeling tone are: Pleasant, will add to memory, unpleasant, will add to the memory and neutral which is not related to memory.

Select the objective at the correct level of difficulty

To discover what the objective is it's essential to prepare a task analysis. To do so, a teacher makes a sequential list of all essential en route objectives that lead to the final objective. In other words it is a map so to speak as to how the lesson will get from where the students are at present onto the next step and all the intermittent steps that will have to occur in between. To get there one begins by:

  • Formulating the terminal objective. You have to know where your going in order to get there.
  • Clarify the objective In other words by the end of the lesson the students will be able to __________. and you the teacher, fill in the blanks.
  • Determine the essential components What parts of the lesson have to be presented to the students so that they can learn. Now is the time to come up with your anticipatory set but be flexible with yourself since the components often change during your task analysis.
  • Sequence the objectives- or on what order do you think it would make the best sense to present them in your lesson.
  • Restate the diagnostic objectives- Go back and look again at all of the objectives you have formulated. Stand back and look it over and see if they are still on track. Is there something that's there that might need eliminating because the student hasn't been prepared for that knowledge yet? or is there a missing link in the lesson that might throw it all off the track. ack! I hate when that happens, it throws a whole monkey wrench into my plans and the class ends up in a state of confusion.

Now it's time to create the

Plan- Ever wonder why the teacher in your family always presides over the family reunion? Well here is what they live for The Plan!. Feel sorry for me I have over 50 some odd teachers in my family! eek! and we have reunions every year... they have it down to a legacy now ...being passed on from one generation to the next! I had to become a teacher in self defence! ! ! No, only joking I have a most lovely and lovable family:) Planning includes:

  • Determining the topic, stating the objective and writing a task analysis.
  • Test- Ah yes, we have to have test our little subjects oops! students to see if we've been successful with the lesson or where to begin the lesson. If you're wondering why a teacher will start out the first day of the year with a test, well this may be what the teacher is trying to do, find a starting point for lessons with this particular group of learners. Look out!! if you get one of these kinds of instructors you're in for one of the best classes, you may well have a teacher who tailors teaching to the needs of the class. All experienced teachers know that from year to year classes will have distinctive personalities and it's the professional ones who acknowledge this and create accordingly. To test, a teacher will, design the diagnostic survey, administer the diagnostic survey, interpret the diagnostic survey, and cluster the learners. By being able to cluster types of learners it gives the teacher a way to effectively set up cooperative learning strategies in the classroom.

Teach Oh this is what it's all about!

Teach to an objective In teaching to an objective the four teacher actions are:

  • Provide information
  • Ask questions
  • Respond to the learners efforts
  • Design activities.

The teacher's actions must be congruent to the objective. Whew! All that work just to get to the teaching part! This is one reason why teaching is a calling more often than a profession. A teacher has to really love the act and art of teaching. It is a duty to the quest for that elusive and hallowed holy grail called the teachable momentand to teach most effectively one must plan the lesson, teach, the lesson, evaluate the lesson, and begin again !

Source: Heintz, Susie,"Essential Elements of Instruction." Tucson,Arizona
1991(Lecture presented at Flowing Wells Institute For Teacher Renewal and Growth.)

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