Approaches to Teaching

Designing Engaging and Rigorous Learning Experiences

What is Approaches to Teaching?

"Approaches to Teaching" encompass the various methods, strategies, and philosophies that educators employ to facilitate learning experiences for their students. These approaches are shaped by pedagogical theories, educational research, and practical considerations, and they form the foundation of how educators structure their interactions with learners in the classroom.

In the context of inquiry-based teaching and learning, "approaches to teaching" take on a dynamic significance. Inquiry-based teaching encourages students to actively explore questions, problems, and scenarios, fostering critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a deeper understanding of concepts. Educators who embrace inquiry-based teaching often employ strategies that empower students to drive their own learning processes through investigation, experimentation, and reflection.

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Learner agency, a central tenet of modern educational theory, emphasizes the importance of students' active involvement and ownership of their learning journeys. Approaches to teaching that prioritize learner agency recognize students as active participants in the learning process rather than passive recipients of information. These approaches empower students to make choices, set goals, and take responsibility for their learning, fostering a sense of autonomy and self-directedness.

In essence, "Approaches to Teaching" encompass the methodologies and frameworks that educators use to create engaging, student-centered learning environments. When connected to inquiry-based teaching and learning and learner agency, these approaches prioritize curiosity, exploration, and self-discovery, ultimately empowering students to become independent, lifelong learners who are equipped to navigate and contribute to an ever-evolving world.

Approaches to Teaching Infographic

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Source: Chris Gadbury

Designing Engaging and Rigorous Learning Experiences

This guide-book from Toddle will walk you through the process of examining your learning experiences and provoke you with questions to redesign them with a goal to promote higher-order thinking. Discover frameworks and examples to understand how you can integrate technology, focus on higher-order thinking skills, and support student agency, to make your learning experiences truly come alive! 

Use This Resource To:

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Source: Toddle Website

What Learning Do We Value?

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Source: Innovative Global Education

Learning and Young Children

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Source: Innovative Global Education

Co-Constructing Planning - Who Do We Plan For

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Source: Innovative Global Education

The article’s premiss is “schools and teachers should view planning as being responsive to student learning and interests. The planning process continues throughout the life of the unit and is developed according to the experiences and wonderings that occur during the learning process. There must be space for students to engage in meaningful conceptual inquiry and teachers need to create that space. Without space for student inquiry, wonderings and curiosity it would need to be questioned if the presence of authentic student inquiry existed within the unit.” The article advocates that effective conceptual planning is based on eight principles and understandings.    

Understanding by Design Podcast

Foundations of Understanding by Design with Jay McTighe is a series of four workshops presented by Toddle. In these sessions, Jay elaborates on the various stages, key elements, and processes of the UbD framework, along with providing accessible tips and handy resources for educators to make the best of the planning process. 

**Note: You may be asked to fill in a short form - For your school / organization you can use "Inspiring Inquiry".

Provocations to Spark Your Students to Think, Wonder and Question

The following websites offer a wide spectrum of provocations for students to pique their curiosity and get them thinking, wondering and speaking about topics that intertest them. These are wonderful conversation starters that can lead to the development of critical thinking, listening and oracy skills that can support your units of inquiry.

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Review or buy it here

"How Children Learn" by John Holt is a seminal work that challenges traditional notions of education and offers profound insights for teachers. Holt emphasizes the importance of understanding children's innate curiosity and their natural inclination to learn through exploration and experimentation. His observations underscore the significance of creating environments that foster active engagement and allow for authentic learning experiences.

One of the book's strengths lies in Holt's ability to debunk myths surrounding education, such as the idea that learning is solely achieved through formal instruction or standardized tests. Instead, he advocates for a more child-centered approach that respects individual interests and learning styles.

Teachers will appreciate Holt's emphasis on the role of play, hands-on experiences, and meaningful interactions in the learning process. By embracing his perspective, educators can better support their students' intrinsic motivation and intellectual growth.

Overall, "How Children Learn" offers valuable insights that can inform and inspire teachers to create dynamic learning environments that honour the natural curiosity and creativity of children. It's a must-read for educators seeking to cultivate a genuine love for learning in their classrooms.

** Must read: Review of How Children Learn by Peter Gray.

Key Learnings


Planning a Unit of Work

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Source: Innovative Global education

Rules of Great Teaching

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Source: Sylivia Duckworth

Why Failure is Important

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Source: Sylivia Duckworth

Creating A Culture of Curiosity

Byrdseed Website

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Many students don’t feel comfortable being curious at school. They’ve learned that asking a question might make them look foolish, slow down the class, or even upset the teacher. So if you want curious students, you have to retrain them to be curious again. You have to spend some time creating a culture of curiosity.

What Do I Do with This?

Take a few minutes once a week, show your favourite puzzlement or two, and simply let your students be curious.

Use these two prompts:

DO NOT: assign homework or create classwork out of these questions or you’ll quench the fire.

The great thing about these emails is that you're free to use them however you like. But here's how I'd get started:

Eventually, you can collect your kids' "wonders" and put them on your walls or your class website. Display them publicly. Add answers when/if they find them. Don't be surprised if kids come back in a month and say, "Oh, I figured out why that spider did that thing in that video!" And don't be scared to come back yourself and share an answer you found. Model curiosity! AND don't be afraid of leaving unanswered questions sitting there all year!

Source: Byrdseed Website

Knowledge Necessary, but Not Sufficient

Click/Tap image to view articleSource: Thought Stretchers Education
The decline in PISA math, literacy, and science scores [see 2022 PISA results: Volume 1; Volume 2] has sparked a call for a return to basics in education, emphasizing knowledge acquisition. However, I believe achieving an effective education requires balance. Knowledge is crucial but just one facet of a broader spectrum of educational outcomes.
For students to thrive, they need not only knowledge but also the ability to apply and expand on it, think critically, learn independently, and solve problems through inquiry. A holistic education encompasses various traits, characteristics, and abilities that collectively empower students.

10 Keys to Success For Student Group Work

Click/Tap image to view articleSource: Thought Stretchers Education
Embarking on a group project can be both exciting and challenging for students, offering opportunities for shared learning and diverse perspectives. Effective management is crucial for a positive and productive experience. This article provides some helpful 'dos and don'ts' to guide successful group work and student grouping.

Proof Point: The Myth of the Quick Learner

Click/Tap image to view articleSource: The Hechinger Report

This study from Carnegie Mellon University, 2023, underscores the crucial significance of grasping each student's pre-existing knowledge before embarking on a new unit of inquiry. Contrary to assumptions regarding differing learning speeds, the research revealed that disparities often arise from diverse levels of prior knowledge rather than inherent capabilities. The researchers strongly advocate for educators to prioritize well-designed practice exercises, underscoring that, with effort, anyone can learn effectively. Additionally, they emphasize the paramount importance of guided practice and feedback in the learning process. While the study acknowledges that its findings may be specific to computerized learning, with traditional methods potentially yielding different outcomes, it accentuates the need for educators to consider and address varying levels of prior knowledge among students before initiating new areas of study, ensuring the inclusion of guided practice and timely feedback for optimal learning outcomes.

Five Ways To Scaffold Classroom Dialogue; Check for Understanding; Build Student Confidence; Sustain Student Attention; Do Daily Review

The Five Ways To series are informative one-page summaries produced by the David Goodwin.

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Five Ways to Build Student Ownership in the First Month of School

The first month of school sets the tone for the entire year. Master teachers set up their students for the rest of the year. They actively scaffold student ownership, build classroom community, and cultivate a learning environment where the students were not only engaged, but also empowered.  Here are FIVE ways anyone can build student ownership in the first month of school written by A J Juliani.

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“Pedagogy has to embrace a sense of what kind of culture are we creating.”

Guy Claxton, 2021

Reminder: Children Still Love Learning

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Something I've been reminded of over and over again the last few weeks as I talk with my own children, and educators around the country working in K-12 classrooms: Children still love learning. They don't always like school, and therein lies the paradox, as school is supposed to be a place where we learn. 

As I was wrestling with these two thoughts, Tim Smyth posted this on his @historycomics Instagram page: 

What's so fascinating about this sentiment is that we all KNOW this intrinsically. I wonder what would happen if we stopped asking the question at school: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content PREPARE children for ________?

And, if instead, we asked the question: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content keep children loving learning?

We Know a Few Things to be True:

In short, most of what we are doing in an "assessment-centric" education system is not working, has been proven to have no correlation to student success, leads to disengaged students, and teacher burnout. 

But, our system remains unchanged in many places. And, the burden falls on school administrators, teachers, and support staff to try and make learning meaningful and relevant under these circumstances.

Here's the real kicker: In the midst of it all, children are still here in our schools every single day. They are with us in school for over 14,000 hours between Kindergarten and 12th Grade.

And, they still love learning, when the learning is meaningful.

There are too many people that want school to stay the same, even as many of us educators are shouting from the rooftops that things have to change.

Not for us (although that would be nice), but really for the children. Isn't that why we are doing this work in the first place?!?

There is so much we don't have control of or influence over. But, if you get the chance to make a decision for the children in your school or classroom, I hope we can ask the question: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content keep children loving learning? And design based on that answer.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Rune Time; 4:36 - Jan 6, 2010 - Source: CAST Website
*** Learn more about Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework developed by CAST. UDL guides the design of learning experiences to proactively meet the needs of all learners. When you use UDL, you assume that barriers to learning are in the design of the environment, not in the student. UDL is based on brain science and evidence-based educational practices. It also leverages the power of digital technology.

UDL describes human variability based on parts of the brain that manage the “why” (affective network), the “what” (recognition network), and the “how” (strategic network) of learning.

CAST developed UDL guidelines that are based on three main principles that align with these learning networks. The three UDL principles are engagement, representation, and action and expression.

The chart below includes the three UDL principles adapted from CAST. It also gives you some questions to consider and lists some examples of the principles in action. 

Source: Understood Website

Six Principles to Support Learning

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Source Facebook

Designing Learning Articles/Videos

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5 Ways to Stop Thinking for Your Students

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Too often math students lean on teachers to think for them, but there are some simple ways to guide them to think for themselves.
5 Ways to Get Your Students Thinking
  • Answer questions with a refocus on the students’ point of view
  • Don’t carry a pencil or marker
  • We instead of I
  • Stall your answer
  • Set boundaries

Better World Project - Unit EL Education

Run Time: 6:54 - June 25, 2018
This video features an inspiring Better World Project accomplished by the Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication (ISAAC) in New London, CT, an EL Education school. It was one of 18 winning Better World Projects selected by a committee of EL Education students, teachers, and leaders, from submissions across the country. 
EL Schools are not IB schools, but this project is an example of what an IB UOI could look like - truly transdisciplinary, inquiry & concept based with student voice and choice and connect to being internationally minded - what is means to be human. 
** View More EL Better World Projects

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