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Teaching methods and building strong foundations


The best approach to educating adolescents and teenagers continues to be an intensely debated topic. At the root of most debates is questioning if teaching methods are promoting a deeper understanding or simply presenting facts to be memorized. Another component to the debate is the role of grades. There are a few challenges impeding experts’ ability to determine the best approaches of instruction. 

We learned our letters through song where we would sing them over and over again. Learning letters, numbers, colors, and numerous other foundational pieces of our natural development are learned through memorization, a method known as rote learning. Rote learning is repeating information over and over until it is committed to your memory. Rote learning is a basic and necessary piece of the learning process, but it has limits. Rote learning is an amazing technique we use for basic information, but it does not promote comprehension. An example of this would be vocabulary words. You can memorize the vocabulary words and what they mean through this technique but using the word in a sentence is harder. Rote learning is not a bad teaching method unless it is the only method. The same thought is true for all learning methods. 

Another teaching method often practiced is the concept of teaching to the test.There is a lot of controversy surrounding the teaching to the test method. Some say that it does not teach critical thinking and making the connection to the real world, therefore promoting only memorization. While others believe that done correctly it is a way for students to showcase their knowledge and skills. But what is the right way? 

The ultimate goal of education is to provide students with instruction that leads to in-depth comprehension, generalization and conceptualization. In short, being able to apply what they have learned to real life and varying situations.

Another piece of this puzzle is grades. Grades have turned learning from an intrinsic accomplishment into an extrinsically motivated task. . Intrinsic motivation is where you complete an assignment because you want to learn. Extrinsic motivation is where you do an assignment to avoid an unfavorable outcome. For example getting a bad grade or you do it for rewards and praise. 

Ruth Butler did a study in 1988 which was focused on intrinsic motivation. She studied a group of adolescents. One group received only feedback, both positive and negative, on a task. One group only received grades with no feedback. The final group received neither feedback or grades The purpose of the study was to see how feedback and grades affected interests and performance later. The results showed the children that got the feedback did better than the kids who got grades or no feedback. How can you determine the best teaching method when children are not focused on the learning aspect but rather the grading? 

There are so many pieces of information that affect determining the better teaching methods. But the common theme of all the teaching methods given is none of this work on their own. Not one teaching method gives a student everything they need.

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Lily Zimmerman, Writer
Hi, My name is Lily and i'm  a junior at AHS. I'm in 5 clubs: Spanish, Environmental, Project memorial, Civics, and interact. I also just started my own club called Wellness Club. I decided to write because at first it was just an outlet to write my feelings and now hopefully give others the feeling they aren't alone.

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