Case study: The impact of great teaching versus talk-and-chalk

By casolivier, 28 May, 2013

As an accredited provider I trained six lecturers at a Further Education and Training (FET) College in South African on the principles of great teaching.


Background sketch of the status before lecturers were training in Great Teaching:

The concern of the college was that most learners have to repeat a module or year.

The only method the lecturers used was the talk-and-chalk way of teaching. The following were the issues that frustrated the lecturers most:

  1. Although they explained over and over most learners do not understand
  2. Most learners were busy with their cellphones either communicating or on social media.
  3. Discipline was a general problem.
  4. They did not have hope for the learners, using expressions such as: “I do not have hope for most learners”.
  5. They were tired every day after speaking most of the time during class periods.
  6. They were always ready to provide learners with answers.
  7. Before each test series, they were confident that the learners will do better. This however never happened.
  8. Learners do not see the context or bigger picture.
  9. The lecturers did not feel successful in their jobs.


After lecturers were trained in great teaching principles:

The lecturers were trained for five days over a period of five weeks. This enables them to test out the principles.

After their training which entailed a paradigm shift from the talk-and-chalk method to using five teaching method, they were successful in:

  1. Converting the curriculum into learning challenges, instead of translating it directly into lessons.
  2. Designing learning material for learning instead designing teaching aids.
  3. Identifying quick-win topics and start with instead of unpacking the curriculum layer by layer.
  4. Linking new topics with learners’ prior knowledge instead of linking it with previous topics.
  5. Interpreting ‘teach’ as enabling learners to learn instead of interpreting ‘teach’ as explaining information.
  6. Enabling students to discover the curriculum content instead of covering the curriculum content as they teach.
  7. Starting a lesson from what learners know and progress to what they need to learn instead of starting the lesson irrespective of what learners know.
  8. Enabling learners to solve problems, work out answers and construct own knowledge instead of expecting learners to master the information as they explain.
  9. Adjusting their pace according to the learners’ learning pace instead of setting their lecturing pace according to their internally set metronome.
  10. Following learners and providing direction to instead of being leaders and expect learners to follow.
  11. Putting learners in the learning driving seat instead of being in the teaching driving seat.
  12. Ensuring productive noise and productive silence in class instead of ensuring learners are silent in the class albeit unproductive silence.
  13. Deviating from lessons to enable learners to gain quick learning-wins instead of sticking to their lesson-planning guns
  14. Allowing learners to discuss and discover the content instead of speaking most of the time.
  15. Enabling learners to explain until the teacher understands instead of explaining to learners and regularly ask: Do you understand?’
  16. Expecting learners to summarize the work instead of drilling the information into the learners’ brains.
  17. Using rubrics to monitor learning progress. Previously they did not use rubrics
  18. Praising attempts when answers are incorrect and use it as basis for their next questions until the learner reaches the correct answer. Previously when an answer is incorrect, they move on to next learner until they get the correct answer.
  19. Determining the reason for slow progress, then assist and support learners to make progress instead of taking it as a given that some are slow learners who will probably never catch up.
  20. Praising attempts when answers are incorrect and use it as basis for their next questions until the learner reaches the correct answer.
  21. Enabling learners to discover and create knowledge until they fill their own learning gaps instead of providing learners with information to fill the gaps.
  22. Providing a variety of scaffolds to support learners instead of providing learners with additional exercises.



Observations in classes after the training of the lecturers:

  1. The lecturers provided great teaching.
  2. ALL learners were involved in the LEARNING process.
  3. There were NO disciplinary issues.
  4. At the beginning of a class ONE learner was on his cellphone but stopped when realized he was not part of the learning group. In the other 5 observations NO learner used a cellphone.
  5. I heard one of the students saying: “I like solving my own problems”.
  6. At the end of a session one learner declared himself as “A clever guy”. This is in fact a feather in the cap of the lecturer.
  7. In all classes there were a balance between productive noise and productive silence.
  8. NOT one lecturer did ‘talk and chalk’.
  9. Learners discovered and created knowledge themselves.
  10. The learners enjoyed their LEARNING.
  11. The learners took ownership of their own learning.


The impact on the assessment results based on great teaching

The following are the assessment results based on GREAT TEACHING, compared with the average of previous 5 assessments on the same subject, namely Electricity: The theory of Lightning offered the TALK AND CHALK WAY.

The pass rate increased my 20% and the group average increased by 24%. The lowest score increased from 15% to 61% which is 46%.



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