Instructional strategies or teaching strategies are the techniques and methods employed by teachers to deliver course materials and lessons in ways that enable the students to achieve their learning goals. The environment of a classroom is dynamic, with students from diverse backgrounds, different abilities, and unique personalities. There are differences in their learning pace, with some being faster learners than others. This makes it essential for educators to come up with effective and innovative teaching strategies to meet the individual needs of students and enhance their learning experience.
The purpose of such teaching strategies, aiming beyond subject comprehension, is to make strategic learners out of students. They encourage the students to focus on truly understanding the content or course material, and not just remember the same, by improving their engagement and capturing their attention. It is believed that with constant practice over time, the students will become capable of selecting the appropriate and effective strategies on their own to complete tasks at hand.
It can be a challenging task for teachers to come up with instructional strategies that are effective for all students. They need to select these strategies based on topic, grade level, class size, and available resources, and it must support all kinds of learners. The following is a list of them based on various factors as given below:
• Active Learning – As opposed to passive learning, this strategy promotes direct involvement and active engagement of the students in the learning process. Usually, students are encouraged to engage in individual, and small or large group activities focussed on writing, discussing, problem solving, and also reflection. Some techniques include think-pair-share, quizzes, and exit tickets.
• Visualization – This enables the learners to consume information visually and through practical experiences, which in turn helps in better retention of the information and its application in real world. Teachers can use various tools for this method including concept maps, graphic organisers, flow-charts, audio-visual clips and videos, classroom experiments, and field trips.
• Cooperative Learning – This involves making students work together on tasks and activities in small groups to accomplish a common learning goal. Cooperative learning strategies are used and reused in different school contexts as they are content-free structures. They enable educators to work on the core competencies, communication, and soft skills of the students, and promotes positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and active interaction among the learners. Case studies, role-plays, debates, and peer instruction are some of the examples of how cooperative learning can be incorporated into the lessons.
• Inquiry-Based Learning – This involves engagement of students through emphasis on their questions, ideas, observations, and explorations. Instead of just presenting known facts, this learning starts with raising questions and problems. The educator encourages the learners to develop a problem statement which needs them to raise questions using constructed response and further inquiry. They are then asked to research the topic during class time and present their findings. After that, they are asked to reflect on the process, giving justification for their findings. It involves various skills like questioning, observational, and research skills, along with the abilities to collect, analyse and interpret data.
• Differentiated Learning – This strategy is based on the allocation of tasks, assignments, and activities, by the educators, according to the learners’ abilities and individual learning needs. It enables the educators to adjust lessons to the different skill levels of learners, which helps in stretching the boundaries for students with higher academic capabilities, and supporting those who are struggling. Often, differentiation is required for helping the students in gaining confidence, along with motivating them. It ensures that no learner gets left behind.
• Flipped Classroom – It involves the educators giving pre-recorded lectures and videos for students to watch before class. In other words, students are given pre-learning before class. This makes it possible for the educators to then use the classroom time for actively engaging the students in interactional learning activities related to the lecture/video that they have already heard/seen. This strategy fosters greater flexibility and student-centric lesson design by redesigning the learning environment. During the covid-19 pandemic, it helped the educators in maintaining real-time and self-paced online participation of the students. Flipping the classroom enables the educators to gauge an understanding of their students before class, and to increase student engagement through interactive activities, which leads to students making more effective progress during class time.
• Blended Learning – This involves students doing part of their learning in digital environment, and part of it in physical classroom setting. Students can avail the benefits of learning experiences from both settings, which are complementary to each other. Reduced failure rates, improved learning, and enhanced engagement, are believed to be the positive results of ‘blended learning’. Students are able to learn at their own pace. This allows a student who has mastered a concept earlier than others to move ahead without waiting for others to catch up, and students who need more time are not compelled to move forward before understanding the concept.
• Student-Led Classrooms – This is a creative way for class interaction and discussions in the classroom. Students are encouraged to switch roles and take the role of teachers for a day. This not only brings a new perspective to the class, but also enhances the confidence of the students. Students can be put in groups and these groups of students may be given turns to teach a new concept on a regular basis. Other students will benefit from their classmates’ unique take on the concept.
• Project-Based Learning – This dynamic strategy motivates the students to gain deeper knowledge and skills by exploring real-life problems and challenges through projects. It is an inter-disciplinary approach and requires application of knowledge and skills by the students. This approach aids in the development of the 21st century skills – critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity, in the students and prepares them for life beyond school.
On exploring the different types of instructional strategies, we find that there is something suitable for every kind of student-level and subject. Application of suitable strategies effectively lead to deeper learning in students as opposed to superficial learning. It encourages higher-order thinking, beyond mere basic retention and recall. Educators need to engage in regular professional development programmes to know more about the innovative instructional strategies and use them to enhance teaching and learning in their classrooms. Using a combination of the various teaching strategies will enable educators to address the different learning styles and capabilities of students, and in making the classroom a dynamic and motivational environment for nurturing students.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.