What Are Some Innovative Teaching Strategies?

Classrooms today look, feel, and operate differently than they did 20—even 10, or even 5—years ago. Depending on where you look, you may see classrooms full of children with their own electronic tablets, or teachers making lessons come to life with an interactive whiteboard. 


You may also see completely empty classrooms, as school districts opt for remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These are called “flipped classrooms” (technically, a pre-pandemic innovation that has become more prevalent over the past couple years).


Administrators, teachers, students, and even parents are working within the confines of what’s called “the new normal.” In this new normal, the physical classroom is being rethought—as are the pedagogies at the foundation of education. Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you how hard it’s been, rethinking teaching and learning, and coming up with innovative teaching strategies on the fly. As researcher Jose Augusto Pacheco puts it, “many institutions had plans to make greater use of technology in teaching, but the outbreak of Covid-19 has meant that changes intended to occur over months or years had to be implemented in a few days.”


So, what is innovative teaching in the “new normal,” why is it so important, and what are teaching strategies that can help meet learners where they are and prepare them for the future that awaits? 


Let’s start with the importance of innovation in the “new normal.”

The Importance of Innovative Teaching in the New Normal

If you teach (or work with teachers, or are a parent), you don’t need this blog post to tell you how important innovation is for student engagement. By their nature, teachers tend to be innovators—you can see innovation at work in classrooms up and down our schools’ hallways, yet many fundamental challenges still weigh educators down. In addition to the logistical challenges presented by the pandemic, other problems plaguing education include poor teacher and student engagement, low morale and teacher shortages, and inequitable access to quality education. 

 

Is Innovation More About Technology or Pedagogy?

Innovation is more than adding technology to the classroom. Real innovation solves an actual problem, as opposed to just adding a new “shiny object” to the classroom mix (in the form of tablets and other ubiquitous technologies). The type of innovation we’re discussing in this post is more on the pedagogical level—not the tools teachers use, but the underlying mindset, focus, and approach.

 

How Do Innovative Teaching Strategies Improve Student Performance?

Innovative teaching strategies benefit students as well as teachers. For students, innovative strategies keep education exciting and relevant. For teachers, incorporating more innovative strategies in their classroom improves student engagement and performance as well as their own. 

Too often, the public forgets that educators are human beings, too. Just like adults in any career, they run the risk of getting bored, losing motivation, burning out, or leaving the field. And when this happens, administrators and parents are impacted as well.

Keep reading for a few examples of innovative teaching strategies that can help with equitable access to quality learning as well as general student (and teacher!) engagement.  

 

What Is Innovative Teaching in the “New Normal”?

We could wrap this post with a long list of examples of innovative teaching strategies—all of the technologies/applications and instructional practices that could be considered “innovative”—but that would be unwieldy. Plus, meaningful innovation is what happens just beneath the surface of all of these technologies and practices—it focuses on the why and the how behind teaching and learning, rather than the what. In other words, meaningful innovation happens when specific problems are being solved by new ways of covering important content.

 

The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, conducts in-depth research into the problems facing society and education and helps develop suggestions for new solutions to persistent problems. Through their research, they’ve developed a paradigm for thinking about innovation in teaching and learning—the Six Clusters of Innovative Pedagogies.

 

The Six Clusters of Innovative Pedagogies: 

The Six Clusters of Innovative Pedagogies are blended learning, gamification, multiliteracies, experiential learning, embodied learning, and computational thinking. 

 

Blended Learning

Blended learning means using online learning to increase flexibility in terms of meeting diverse student needs. Within this model, students are empowered to have some control over how they approach the content—letting them select specific topics of interest to them, as well as some control over the pacing and timing of lessons. This way, instruction can be effectively differentiated on students’ interests, learning styles, and progress.

 

Gamification

Gamification is largely an engagement driver. It offers another sort of motivation for students who may not be intrinsically motivated or personally interested in the content. When teachers can include elements of games, contests, or other incentivization or competition, they can “freshen up” content that students may be struggling to connect with. Whether teachers are conducting lively review sessions or tracking progress and milestones (with incentives!) over time, gamification switches up the pacing and helps students better engage with and retain the content—and maybe have a little fun, too.

 

Multiliteracies

Even in what may appear to be relatively homogenous student populations, a classroom is likely to contain a wide range of different backgrounds and cultures. Integrating a multiliteracies strategy can help students better connect with and understand perspectives different from their own. Multiliteracies can refer to multiple spoken/read languages in the context of an immersive, bilingual classroom, but can also apply to different types of literacy—being able to more critically read nonfiction (like the news), for example. 

 

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is a project- and inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. Through the adoption of a project-based learning approach, students learn by doing. This approach translates theoretical concepts into hands-on, real-world experiences. This is not only a much more engaging approach to content, but it also prevents the momentum-killing question of “when am I ever going to use this?”

 

Embodied Learning

Embodied learning is like a more left-brained version of experiential learning, in that it aims to teach through crafts and creativity. One benefit of embodied learning is that it is more hands-on, active, creative, and engaging than conventional lesson plans. It also resonates well with kinesthetic learners, for whom physical activity increases their understanding and retention of the material.

 

Computational Thinking

While it is central to the field of computer science, computational learning has a wider application and appeal. In the context of education and pedagogy, it refers more specifically to a problem-solving process that can apply to any sort of open-ended problems, teaching skills of persistence, reasoning, and the ability to break complicated ideas into smaller (more-easily solvable) parts.

Hopefully, these interactive and innovative teaching strategies can offer a blueprint for change, or some food for thought at the very least. You can learn much more about each of these in the Brookings Institution's in-depth study, Learning to Leapfrog: Innovative Pedagogies to Transform Education.

 

The “New Normal” Requires New Solutions

 

At XR Technologies, the “new normal” is where we feel most at home. As a team of passionate educators, researchers, and entrepreneurs, we understand the problems faced by educators and administrators—teacher shortages, insufficient or inconsistent teacher training, and support, hit-or-miss technology integration, and students falling behind due to inequitable access to quality education.

XR Mathematics, our signature offering, enables schools to provide what we call “Math Department as a Service.” It provides a blended learning environment including a mix of in-person instruction and virtual content. Our adaptive curriculum helps meet students where they are so students and teachers can thrive.

If you’re ready to meet the unique challenges of the “new normal” through true innovation, contact us today!

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