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Outside Thinking

It's sometimes too easy to get bogged down with textbook definitions and explanations, but how many times do students (and even educators) actually understand what it is we're reading? At the end of the day, what we remember is what we discover for ourselves. During education classes in college, my professor time and time again emphasized the important of leading the student to the door, but letting them walk through it themselves. Socrates was notorious for this method. Many of his students got frustrated with him since he rarely gave his own opinion on a matter. Instead, he developed a method that allowed his students to think for themselves, abandoning the lecture technique all-together. Here are three ways of student-centered teaching that Socrates has inspired:
 
Know when to use lecture.
 
Lecturing can be productive under the right circumstances, with the right students, and with the right content. However, many times the students only remember bits and pieces of what was said. The way to combat this is to get the students involved. Ask questions that lead them to a conclusion instead of reiterating what was said in their reading. Get their opinions. Using "why" questions instead of "what" can sometimes be much more effective.
 
Make it fun.
 
Everyone loves a good game (emphasis on "good"), no matter how much they say they don't. It sticks with them longer. A game or a song can be much more effective to remember a lesson than simple memorization. School House Rock is still the only reason I know the Preamble. 
 
Grades don't always reflect mastery.
 
Grades are great, and getting better grades is better. However, focusing so much on the grades can sometimes frustrate the student and teacher to the point of giving up. If a student is falling behind, don't try to hurry them up so you can move on with the curriculum. It's better to get one point expertly than to half-understand a dozen points and fail them all. Get to know the student's strength and weaknesses and work with them on those. Don't get so focused on a lesson plan that you forget to see if the student is still awake.
 

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Amber C.

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