Recently, I have been experimenting with student-centred teaching and learning strategies in Maths class. Student-centred learning is an approach to education that places the learner in an active role in the classroom. The teacher then becomes the facilitator of learning.
I have found that this model of teaching requires a much higher degree of classroom management than traditional methods, however, ripples with immense benefits to the learning culture of the class. There are immediate signs of increased student engagement and autonomy. It is well worth the efforts in planning and implementation. Its success is influenced by the teacher knowing each learner’s needs, managing the classroom effectively and expecting the most from each student in each and every lesson. It is a powerful approach to learning Maths pillared on high expectations and teaching to the highest standard.
Strategy #1: Mini whiteboards
- Mini whiteboards is a common assessment for learning tool that allows the teacher to provide immediate feedback to their students. It can also be used for pair/group activities and student led discussion within the classroom.
- Students are sometimes reluctant to write their ideas down in their books because of fear of being wrong. This helps break down that barrier.
- Use foam sponges as the eraser. This is more economical long-term.
- Mini whiteboards are very versatile so be creative! It can be used for students to check their understanding of mathematical concepts, address misconceptions and accelerate the pace of the lesson to allow more time for higher order activities.
- It can be messy!
- It requires materials including whiteboard markers, whiteboards and erasers.
- It is a routine that needs to be taught. Students need to refrain from doodling, drawing on the table etc.
Strategy #2: Visualiser for students to explain their work
- Students love to be at the front of the room showing their work on the visualiser (document camera). The student becomes the Student Expert, i.e. a class leader and instructor.
- Displaying and deconstructing work on the visualiser allows for best practice to be modelled for students. It can be book work, a good diagram, the layout of a worked solution to a question etc.
- Set up the visualiser to the correct position and relieve your duty at the front of the class to the Student Expert. Place yourself at the back of the room, then allow the student to lead class discussions.
- The visualiser may require initial testing to ensure that it is focused on the correct area of space.
Strategy #3: Students model their answer and teach the class
- Students modelling their answers provides opportunity for some students to lead class discussions, others to self-assess their work and for the teacher to address misconceptions and comment on best practice.
- Encourage the Student Expert to ask the class for help for tedious steps (e.g. large multiplications) to accelerate the pace of the explanation.
- Create a safe and supportive environment where it making mistakes is considered essential to part of the learning process
- Proactively teach appropriate etiquette e.g. If the Student Expert has made a mistake on the board, students should raise their hand to address the issues instead of calling out.
Strategy #4: Split class into smaller groups to solve harder problems
- Working in smaller groups enables multiple high ability learners to lead discussions.
- It also encourages social support and student self-regulation, which are skills that are often overlooked in the Maths classroom.
- It is useful to have multiple large whiteboards in the room for this activity.
- The smaller the groups the better.
- Consider how the groups will be created. They could be differentiated by ability where lower ability learners are given scaffolds or they can be mixed groups where no scaffolds are given.
- Working collaboratively generally requires a flexible classroom layout where students are able to move to the area in which they are working
Strategy #5: Students to teach alternative methods of working out the same question
- Comparing alternative methods of work acknowledges and values different ways of thinking. Often Maths is taught using the teacher’s preferred method of working, however, comparing methods enables students to develop an understanding of the creative application of an individuals mathematical capabilities.
- Students to remain working until the Student Experts have finished writing their solutions and are ready to discuss. This maximises the time in the lesson students spend working productively.
- An additional task may be to deconstruct alternative methods of completing a question.
- Similar to other student-centred activities, a culture of appropriate feedback etiquette to be developed.
Strategy #6: Use of online Maths teaching and homework platforms
- Maths technology is naturally engaging for students as they are able to use their devices.
- Students receive instant feedback on their answers and, depending on the site, are provided with hints and explanations for each problem.
- It can make a good starter or extension activity.
- Consider using appropriate time constraints.
- Set clear targets i.e. Complete task on Factorisation.
- Depending on the site, the questions may not be differentiated. In this case, set targeted tasks for different learners.
Strategy #7: Students to tutor their peers if they move fast through class work
- Students become experts when they are able to explain concepts they have learnt to others. It can be mutually beneficial for both parties.
- The class seating plan should accommodate this strategy. For example, high ability learners can be seated with low ability learners to enable communication.
- Recognise positive behaviour such as patience, self-management, the use of mini whiteboards for teaching etc.
- Unproductive behaviour such as arrogance, disruptions and loitering should to be nipped in the bud.
These strategies listed can be adopted into other KLAs. Positive results from any strategy will arise from consistency, positive reinforcement of good behaviour and purposeful practice.
What has are some strategies that are focused on the student-centred learning? Share your ideas on how to improve student outcomes in our classrooms!