Your Guide to the Top Teaching Methodologies in Primary School
Should you use project-based learning? Or try an inquiry-based method? Or perhaps you should brush up on the Montessori method. As teachers, we always want to do the best thing for our students.
But which teaching methodology from the long list of teaching methods should you pick?
The list of teaching techniques you could use with elementary-aged students is a long one and some are definitively better than others. However, there’s no perfect teaching, and knowing about different methods is like having a few aces up your sleeve. With basic knowledge of each method, you can tweak and experiment with your teaching style to reach every student and their unique needs.
Are you ready to learn more about some of the best methods of teaching? Check out our list and analysis below to learn which methods have the research to back them up:
List Of Teaching Methods
Often thought of as one of the most traditional teaching methods, the teacher-centered methodology, attention is concentrated on the teacher. Teachers are in charge of the classroom and direct all activities. Typically, in this approach, children are seated at individual desks that face the teacher. While group-work may take place, most classroom time is spent with the teacher explaining concepts and assigning individual work.
The teacher-centered methodology has recently fallen out of favor because this strategy for teaching is seen to favor passive students. Ideally, teachers would rather their students participate actively in the learning process. The teacher-centered approach does not strategically aim to facilitate this. Instead, control over student behavior is a priority. One advantage is that behavior problems are typically easy to control in this environment. Another advantage is that it’s rare for a student to miss a topic because the teacher directs everything that happens in the classroom.
Despite its advantages, there are quite a few downsides to the teacher-centered approach. Most importantly, children don’t get to benefit from the social advantages of other approaches. In addition, children don’t get the chance to direct and play an active role in their own learning. Life skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, debate, and more, are harder to gain in a teacher-centered classroom.
2. Student-Centered / Constructivist Approach
Many of the teaching methods and strategies on this list are considered student-centered or constructivist. In simple terms, it turns the focus on students rather than only on the teacher. In this approach, children may sit in small groups, access centers, and possibly move about the classroom freely. Children play a more active role in their learning and may even help choose the topics they learn about.
To avoid behavior problems, teachers must lay a lot of groundwork in student-centered classrooms. Typically, it involves instilling a sense of responsibility in students. In addition, students must learn internal motivation. Although sometimes challenging to achieve, these qualities of responsibility and intrinsic motivation also build self-confidence and instill a lifelong love of learning in students.
The student-centered approach can be difficult for teachers to master or perfect. However, the results and outcomes can be very positive when the approach is effectively employed.
3. Project-Based Learning
A relatively new teaching method, project-based learning is a teaching method that falls within the student-centered approach. As the name suggests, in project-based learning, students complete projects. However, these are big, meaty projects in which students acquire knowledge, research, think critically, evaluate, analyze, make decisions, collaborate, and more. Also, an important tenant of the project is that students have choice.
Typically, projects are created in response to an open-ended question such as “How can our school be greener?” or “How was our city planned in the past and how could it be planned in the future?” Another important part of the projects is that they relate to real-world problems. The projects shouldn’t be just a project for school but have an impact, too. For example, students might make a radio show for the whole school to hear. Or, they might write a letter to the town council and attend a meeting to express an opinion.
All of the learning is conducted under the care of the teacher. In between projects, a teacher may provide scaffolding and smaller bite-sized projects to help build skills such as how to research, how to solve division problems, how to write a letter, etc.
Project-based learning teaches many skills that are useful after graduation, and so is considered a very useful teaching method.
This type of teaching is based on a methodology that’s over 100 years old. Yet, it continues to offer a novel approach to creating a student-centered classroom. Maria Montessori was an Italian doctor who worked with poor children in the early 1900s. She developed her methods based on careful observation of the children in her care.
Today, the Montessori method is most popular in preschools, kindergartens, and lower elementary grades. In this method, the teacher prepares an ideal classroom environment full of activities that children may pick from to work on. The teacher guides the children to ensure that they choose an adequate number of lessons from all of the subject areas.
The method also encourages the use of “materials” or carefully created objects designed for learning. For example, there are trays containing different types of triangles or cards and definitions explaining the parts of a bird.
Children often work independently and have their choice of what to work on and where to work in the classroom. However, group work is also common at the elementary level.
Furthermore, the Montessori method includes areas of the curriculum that teach social skills and practical life skills such as cooking and cleaning.
Strong intrinsic motivation and a strong sense of responsibility are important qualities that the Montessori method strives to instill in students.
5. Inquiry-Based Learning
What if learning was question-driven? This is exactly what inquiry-based learning is about. In this approach, the teacher guides students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. To learn these skills, the teacher helps students think through their processes, teaches them possible approaches, and encourages them to try various methods. Students are encouraged to fail as a part of the process and then improve their performance in subsequent activities.
Instead of repeating answers students have been taught, students learn to seek their own answers to questions. So, students develop strong research skills. In addition, children learn how to choose questions to answer and what questions they might ask.
This approach is also student-centered as it requires active participation on the part of students. The teacher guides and teaches, however, students also help choose topics of study.
6. Flipped Classroom
In this fascinating approach to learning, homework is very intentional. Rather than being “extra” practice, homework is a preparation for the next class. With this approach, students may watch a video or lecture about the content and ideas that will be used in the next class. In other words, lower orders of thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy, such as remembering and understanding, are relegated to homework. Then, classroom work focuses on higher orders of thinking and learning such as analyzing, evaluating, and creating. The idea is that students should have more time in-classroom focusing on achieving these higher levels of thinking and learning. That way, the teacher can guide this practice more effectively.
The FLIPped classroom is also an acronym. The letters FLIP represent the four pillars included in this type of learning: Flexible environment, Learning culture shift, Intentional content, and Professional educator. As you can see, the second pillar refers to a culture shift from the traditional approach where students are more passive to an approach where students are active participants. As a result, this approach is also a student-centered teaching method.
7. Cooperative Learning
As the name suggests, cooperative learning involves a lot of group work. However, it also requires a lot of structure and intervention from the part of the teacher to make learning as effective as possible. Some commonly used cooperative learning strategies include “think-pair-share”. Discussions in small groups or pairs can also be effective, as can a “jigsaw” approach. In the jigsaw model, students are broken into small groups and read or learn from a certain perspective. Then, one group member from each of the groups form new groups and they bring their understanding to that group.
Essentially, cooperative learning believes that social interactions can improve learning. In addition, the approach recreates real-world work situations in which collaboration and cooperation are required. There is good evidence that this student-centered approach is an effective teaching strategy.
8. Personalized Education
Personalized education takes the student-centered approach to a new level by, as much as possible, responding to each individual learner’s unique needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Through individualized instruction, learning is tailored to the student. In today’s world, this might be seen in one-on-one tutoring or high-tech, responsive learning applications like Happy Numbers.
A very effective form of learning, personalized education can achieve outstanding learning outcomes. Some examples of this approach include the Montessori method, which strives to allow each student to follow their own interests and move at their own pace. However, many other high-tech programs may also achieve this type of learning. Finally, a personalized education approach may also mix-in cooperative learning for a balanced mix of social and individualized learning.
What Is the Best Method of Teaching?
There is no “best” method of teaching. However, some methods do prove to be more effective than others. Many researchers today agree that including more student-centered learning approaches to the classroom can improve learning. Using only a teacher-centered approach leaves out many skills and learning opportunities for students. Yet, there may still be space for teacher-centered learning for some specific topics and learning objectives. However, teacher-centered learning shouldn’t be the only strategy in your teacher toolbox.
The bottom line is that each teacher needs to find a teaching style that fits their personality. An effective teacher is a passionate teacher who is confident in what they’re doing! So, if any of the strategies on this list of teaching methods intrigued you, why not look into it a bit more? You might discover a new method that motivates your students and improves their learning and your teaching experience!