Teaching Methodology. Many preschools seem to be obsessed with this term these days. Do these buzzwords really mean something, or are they used only for marketing? What are these teaching methodologies, and are they really required.
These are some of the possible questions swarming a parent's mind when they hear "teaching methodology" at a preschool. After all, there was no mention of it when we grew up; education was imparted in one way only, and that way was same for everyone.
What is an educational methodology?
To be fair, Educational Methodology is not a fad or buzzword. It simply refers to the way education is approached in a preschool. As a loose example, consider how teachers teach.
For instance, while some teachers prefer writing on the blackboard, others prefer carrying stuff around and demonstrating things to the class. Another approach might be that of collaboration, where the teacher stops being the teacher and instead gets to exploring along with the kids, making mistakes and learning from them.
Closely related to the educational methodology is the teaching style. Not all teachers are able to handle all teaching methodologies.
This symbiosis of the instructor's personality and the teaching method that follows is described very well in this article by Concordia University, Portland:
"Although it is not the teacher’s job to entertain students, it is vital to engage them in the learning process. Selecting a style that addresses the needs of diverse students at different learning levels begins with a personal inventory — a self-evaluation — of the teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. As they develop their teaching styles and integrate them with effective classroom management skills, teachers will learn what works best for their personalities and curriculum."
Why does the teaching approach matter?
Teaching Methodology matters because today's world is very volatile and evolving very fast; the worst thing we could do is keep teaching on the same principles that applied a century ago.
One-size-fits-all doesn't work anymore, and as a parent you need to be selective very early of what kind of education your little one receives.
Would you rather that you child be made to compete with others or left on her own to grow on her own pace? Do you think your child is more outward-drawn or inward? These are very important questions, and thinking about them leads naturally to a teaching methodology.
Research in support of Teaching Methodology
Enough research has gone into proving that the quality of teaching can be improved by following a clear strategy. For example, this review by the Oxford University Department of Education says that according to their findings, effective teacher share the following traits:
- Are clear about instructional goals
- Are knowledgeable about curriculum content and the strategies for teaching it
- Communicate to their students what is expected of them, and why
- Make expert use of existing instructional materials in order to devote more time to practices that enrich and clarify the content
- are knowledgeable about their students, adapting instruction to their needs and anticipating misconceptions in their existing knowledge
- Teach students meta-cognitive strategies and give them opportunities to master them
- Address higher- as well as lower-level cognitive objectives
- Monitor students’ understanding by offering regular appropriate feedback
- Integrate their instruction with that in other subject areas
- Accept responsibility for student outcomes"
Many of these points have remarkable similarity with what we've been discussing above. Teachers that are self-aware and aware of the needs of the students are able to adapt themselves accordingly. This results in better quality of instruction, and therefore, better results in the long run.
Common Teaching Methods
Now that the question of "why" is out of the way, we can begin to address the "what". Over time, great educators who weren't satisfied with the status quo raised the bar and experimented with their own teaching methods. In cases where good outcomes resulted, the methods became popular.
Some of the more effective teaching methods are:
- Montessori: In the Montessori method, children of different ages are mixed together to form a heterogeneous group in which both groups learn from the influences of the other. Besides this, the environment is specially prepared by the teacher to promote exploration and discovery. The independence of the child is considered primary in this method. The teachers act more like guides who align themselves to the child's individual needs.
- Play way: With its origin in Germany, the Play way method, as the name suggests, believes in the power of play when it comes to learning. This method believes that learning happens best when students are able to interact with their environment in a fun way.
- Reggio Emilia: This methodology has consciously stayed away from imparting hard rules to follow. Instead, the Reggio Emilia method focuses on letting the child discover the world around her and her place in it, through gentle and suggestive instruction and exploration. No two Reggio Emilia play schools are alike, as the needs of different children from different backgrounds are different.
- Waldorf Education: The Waldorf system sidesteps the more esoteric ideals of education, and instead focuses on a practical approach to holistic and well-rounded development of the child. Cultivation of imagination is central to this method, as scientific and creative pursuits are valued equally. Use of all senses is also an important trait of the Waldorf method. Kids are given activities they can actively participate in, rather than watching cartoons or playing computer games.
- Bank Street Method: In this method, the focus is on letting the child learn and explore the environment actively. The idea is to let them find meaning in life, and arrive at their place in the world by their own thinking. Social interaction is preferred, as are subjects related to culture and anthropology. Science and arts also find a place, but only in relation to the cultural angle.
There isn't a quick formula to figure out the best method of teaching. The best methodology is the one that brings out the best in your child. For this, your role as a parent becomes super-important; you need to be observant and participative in discovering your child's personality.
You also need to define what right education means to you. For your child, this step done right can mean a world of difference.