Teaching strategies, differentiation and use of ICT in enabling learners to achieve their full educational potential

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The use of teaching strategies can play a vital role as to whether pupils achieved the set learning objectives within a lesson. Teaching strategies are specific methods used to teach specific outcomes to specific groups (Whitehead and Zwozdiak-Myers 2004). There are many different types of teaching strategies that have been derived using different assessment criteria or concepts.

The first set of teaching strategies under discussion, are those derived by Mosston and Ashworth (2002). Mosston and Ashworth (2002) considered the amount of decision making made by the pupil and the teacher when classifying their teaching styles (Mosston and Ashworth (2002) refer to teaching strategies as teaching styles, therefore any reference to teaching styles made are to be considered as teaching strategies).

The styles were primarily divided into two clusters the reproduction cluster (A-E) and the production cluster (F-K). The complete spectrum can be found in appendix A. As the styles progress through the alphabet the decision making made by the teacher in the pre-impact, impact and post-impact set becomes decreasingly prominent, and more decision making is made by the learner. For example Command style A, the teacher makes the entire decisions, as compared with that of the Self-teaching style K, where the learner makes the entire decisions.

Mosston and Ashworth (2002) have a comprehensive range of styles to choose from when considering how to deliver a lesson or lesson episode. One is left asking the question ‘how do I choose which style to use?’, and the answer is quite simple; consider the learning objective(s) of the episode or lesson and decide which style would most effectively achieve the learning outcome. This should not only be the sole deciding criteria but also the pupils’ ability and suitability to this style, safety, and learning styles should also be considered. For example given the learning objective, ‘pupils will devise a gymnastic routine that demonstrates flight, rotation and pairs balances demonstrating good body management’, an appropriate teaching strategy to use  would be that of the divergent discovery style, as pupils are given a set criteria of which they have to use, add, and adapt in order to devise their own routine, this style facilitates an adequate amount of decision making to be made by the pupil, without compromising safety or learning. An inappropriate strategy would be that of the command style as all of the decisions are made by the teacher which leaves no room for creativity by the learner, which is essential if pupils are to devise their own gymnastics routine.

Differentiation can also be achieved by selecting the appropriate teaching styles for specific classes, groups or individuals. For example, some pupils may be adequately challenged when performing the high jump using the reciprocal teaching style, others may be able to use the self check style as they are able to kinaesthetically asses their performance an better it. The lesson plans in appendix C and D are examples of how these strategies may be implemented within lessons. Combinations of appropriate strategies have been used in order to support the achievement of the learning objectives.

Question and answer is another strategy whereby pupils may be asked to provide the answer to a question, or the question that relates to a given answer. This strategy may be implemented during instructional or feedback stages or applied continually throughout a lesson or episode. The questions may be differentiated in order to challenge more able pupils using open questioning; and the use of closed questioning may also be used, for those less able as not to discourage them from answering questions. Questions may also be used in reverse, where the answer is given to the pupils and they have to state the question in which it relates to, if this is to be used a question must be given first and then they give the answer in order to the pupils to understand the topic in question. For example, the first question posed by the teacher may be which muscle allows flexion at the knee?, and the answer given by the pupil(s) would be the hamstring, this reversed could be, the teacher saying bicep and the pupils respond with the question which muscle allows flexion of the elbow?. This is another method by which the use of question and answer may be varied and differentiated in order to be tailored to the needs of the individual pupils, ensuring that they achieve their full learning potential.

Group work is another strategy by which pupils are given an opportunity to complete tasks and learning objectives, collaborating with other pupils. Group work enables pupils to work on social interaction skills, such as communication, teamwork and leadership. Group work may be differentiated by adding or reducing the amount of people in the group, assigning different tasks to different groups, and extending the task if a group completes it ahead of time, to name but a few. This is a great strategy in order to develop group interaction skills, however if overused it may alienate the pupils of and introverted nature, as the continual pressure to interact with others may have a negative effect on their motivation.

The teaching games for understanding (TGFU) approach; (Bunker and Thorpe 1982) is another strategy that may be implemented by the teacher in order to achieve set learning outcomes. Bunker and Thorpe (1982) devised the TGFU approach, in order to combat the traditional method of teaching specifically motor responses in a technical sense, as it was deemed that it was no longer appropriate as it focused on the content and not the pupil, and therefore, could be demoralising as it is focussed on the outcome rather than the process. TGFU encourages pupil’s to make their own decisions and devise concepts, and tactics themselves, fostering curiosity and interest. This enables active engagement in learning and hence acts as a motivation tool as suggested by Capel (2000).

The TGFU approach facilitates connections between the individual skills and their application in the game scenario. It enables the teaching of the ‘why’ of the game before the ‘how’ of the skill (Almond, Bunker, and Thorpe 1986). This approach will also enable a positive learning environment to be established, whilst not only maximising participation and achievement of success, but pupil enjoyment also (Capel, Whitehead and Zwozdiak-Myers 2005).

The TGFU approach could also be used as a vehicle by which an emphasis on health may be integrated into lessons. Health education is defined as any activity designed to achieve health-related learning. Effective health education can produce changes in knowledge and understanding, influence values and attitudes, facilitate the acquisition of skills and affect lifestyle changes, as stated by Cale and Harris (2005). This could not only encourage pupils to achieve their full potential during education but also post education ensuring that physical activity is maintained after full time education.

Some of the major motives for people to participate in sport are to improve skills, to have fun, to achieve success and to develop fitness as suggested by Weinberg and Gould (2003). By using the TGFU approach these motives can be utilised by maximising time playing games, thus appealing to the ‘having fun’ and ‘developing fitness’ elements.

Differentiation can also be incorporated in the TGFU approach by overloading games i.e. 3 vs. 2, extending the tasks incorporating more complex skills, and the level of questioning used i.e. open or closed.

Adopting a ‘Target Structure’ (Ames 1992) within lessons is another strategy that may be implemented by physical educators in order to create a positive motivational climate with a mastery focus. And explanation of the target structure can be found in appendix B. A resent study concluded that a mastery climate along with achievable goals corresponded positively with that of intrinsic motivation and satisfaction experienced by pupils (Papaioannou, Tsigilis, Kosmidou, and Milosis 2007), this clearly supports the notion of active engagement whereby learning is maximised when pupils are appropriately challenged, interested and engaged with their learning (DfES 2004). Differentiation is relatively easy whilst using the target structure as they task, time, grouping may be modifies as well as the level of evaluation taking place.

It is important to vary the teaching strategies used within lessons, units and schemes of work in order to appeal to kinaesthetic, visual and auditory learning styles. Without this variation it would be very easy to overlook one of these learning styles which would event in some learners not achieving their full learning potential. If the teaching styles used are not varied it could also mean the loss of motivation and enthusiasm experienced by pupils as the delivery is monotonous and tedious. Most importantly the teaching strategy must be appropriate when considering the learning objective of the episode otherwise pupils will not achieve the learning object as efficiently and thoroughly as possible. Teaching strategies must be selected in line with the learning objective, as the learning objective can not be achieved without the appropriate strategy (Whitehead and Zwozdiak-Myers 2004).

The teaching strategy use is just a component that could facilitate learning, teaching approach and style must also be considered as highlighted by Whitehead and Zwozdiak-Myers (2004).

The type of strategy used to delver a desired learning objective is also a method by which one can differentiated, for less able pupils it may be necessary to have more decision making made by the teacher or more guidance by the teacher, for those more able the amount of required involvement by the teacher may be reduced as to encourage pupils to discover the learning objective for themselves. For example, when teaching dance some pupils may be able to compose a piece of choreography with the teacher using the guided discovery style, whereas others may solely rely on the practice style as they are unable to derive totally new material. By combining the two styles within a lesson enables learning to be maximised by both the more advance and less able pupils ensuring that the learning objective is achieved by both through differentiation.

Not only is it important to consider the teaching strategy being employed within the lesson when it comes to addressing differentiation, but also differentiating by task and outcome. Ways in which we can differentiate by task vary considerably, from using different equipment, entirely different practices, the amount of space provided, the level of overload i.e. 3 vs.2, height of net, just to mention a few. When differentiating by task it is important to strike the right balance between pupils being adequately challenged without being over or under challenged. As physical educators we may also wish to differentiate by outcome. Differentiating by outcome must be planned by the teacher in the pre-impact set in order to it to be most effective. Differentiating by outcome may include the depth of knowledge or level of skill achieved with regards to the learning objective. For example, a pupil who is more competent at performing a lay-up in basketball is more likely to be able to apply this skill in a game successfully than a pupil who may not be able to perform the lay-up competently in a skills practice environment. Therefore, when applying he lay-up in a game environment the competent pupil is more like to achieve more in terms of applying this skill in a game environment.

Why is differentiation so important? Through differentiation one can achieve a pupil centred approach to teaching, ensuring inclusion, and active engagement is achieved, as well learners reaching their full educational potential. All of which contributes to the fulfilment of the Every Child Matters agenda (DfES 2007).

The use of ICT can also facilitate a pupil centred approach by appealing to different learning styles. In 2002 the use of ICT was added to the secondary national strategy, as a way of building on perceived strengths of the primary, literacy and numeracy strategies, as well as an attempt to address perceived weaknesses of Key Stage 3 teaching and learning (DfES, 2002). In theory, by increasing the exposure of ICT within both theory and practical lessons, it should in turn increase the teaching and learning standard across the curriculum. That being said, this will only transfer into practice if the ICT resource is used effectively, and indeed facilitates the improvement of teaching and learning within the lesson.

Through utilising the use of ICT within lessons it also encourages the notion of active engagement, whereby it is deemed that pupils learn most effectively when they are interested, involved and appropriately challenged by the task. This is typically when pupils are most engaged with their learning (DfES 2004).

The use of ICT is also another method in which a teacher can vary the type of teaching and learning within their lessons, ensuring a positive learning environment is achieved. This environment will maintain motivation and enthusiasm levels, which without could lead to behavioural and classroom management problems (Capel, Whitehead and Zwozdiak-Myers, 2004). The gradual exposure to ICT is also another method by which the youth of today can become acclimatised to using ICT, in a world where its presents and necessity are ever increasing.

In summary, by selecting appropriate teaching strategies to achieve intended learning objectives, applying differentiation into lessons and incorporating the use of ICT effectively, one can maximise the learning taking place within lessons and in turn contribute to the fulfilment of the Every Child Matters agenda (DFES, 2007) whereby pupils are encouraged to be healthy, be safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing. The teaching strategies chosen must complement the learning objective, whilst insuring pupils are adequately challenged through the use of differentiation and ICT, creating a pupil centred approach to teaching and learning and supporting the notion of active engagement.


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