I attended a lesson titled “Instructional Strategies,” and I particularly noted how well the teacher managed to organize the learning process into certain stages. I can say that major concepts of instructional strategies were explained not only explicitly through the educational materials the teacher delivered and presented to students but also implicitly through the very structure of the lesson and the way the educator interacted with the learners. First of all, the professor started with an introduction and described the purpose of the lesson, the learning objectives that will be pursued, the learning outcomes that need to be achieved, and the structure of the lesson. Further, there was a round of acquaintance: upon giving a self-introduction speech, the professor asked each student to introduce themselves and tell the class a little bit about themselves and their expectations from the lesson.
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Concerning the tools that educators may employ to deliver course materials to learners, the professor used a video presentation titled “The Art and Science of Teaching.” In a simple and concise manner, the video explained some fundamental principles of approaching the instructional process strategically. I think the use of visuals was justified because a verbal explanation might not have appealed to the learners as strongly as the imagery of the presentation. This promoted student interest and engagement; however, the presentation part of the lesson was not interactive.
To achieve interaction and ensure that the students were not merely listening to all the time, the professor used several strategies. One of them was referring to reliable sources when explaining lesson materials or presenting the video. The professor presented the materials as the results of academic studies and scholarly research instead of simply declaring them and expecting the students to undoubtedly believe that what is said in the materials is true, and this fact made the materials look valid and trustworthy. Another strategy the professor used was the Think-Pair-Share strategy. It is designed to ensure that the learners have time to process the materials they are provided with, and the processing occurs not after they leave the classroom but right in it. For several times during the lesson, a few minutes were given to students to organize their thoughts about what the professor had explained immediately before that, and then the students were expected to share their perceptions with a peer. During this thinking time, students could go over their notes, write something down, formulate a question for their peers, or draw a diagram to structure their understanding of instructional concepts.
There was not much active classroom-wide interaction: students mostly shared within pairs or asked the professor some questions. However, when students shared comments outside of their pairs, I noticed that there were two students who were remarkably active, and most students preferred to stay silent all the time. There was an evident effort of the professor to even out the discussion by addressing questions directly to those who were reluctant to share voluntarily. I noted that the professor did it in a very tactful manner and tried to avoid any pressure or discomfort. Repeatedly, the professor mentioned that the materials could be overwhelming, which is why it was okay for the learners not to grasp everything at once. Distraction was detected one time: one of the active participants mentioned an example from her personal experience to illustrate her point; I thought the example was irrelevant to the topic of instructional strategies, but the professor managed to link it to the topic instead of saying that the comment may not have been connected to the subject under discussion.
The professor did not resort to the strategy of adherence to roles, and I think it was the right decision for an introductory class because adopting the roles of timekeeper, recorder, questioner, facilitator, and summarizer would have been difficult enough for them to learn, and it would have made learning the educational materials even more difficult. Apart from this, what I think was done right, too, was the professor’s decision to refrain from providing complicated theoretical perspectives and focusing on examples instead.
Theory can be studied more closely during further classes, and what is needed from the very beginning is providing a basic understanding and fueling discussion, and real-life examples promote discussions more effectively than lectures do. However, what I think can be improved in the future is the classroom-wide discussion. The teacher had not initially planned a certain period dedicated to a discussion among all the people present at the lesson; instead, it was planned to have a discussion in pairs only, and the fact that it was the learners’ initiative to talk to each other outside of their pairs showed that it was the needs of the learners to have wider discussions. I think the professor should consider it when designing further lessons.
At the end of the lesson, as it had been announced in the introductory part of it, the professor asked the students for evaluation and feedback. The students were asked to explain what they had learned from the lesson. I think this part of the lesson can be improved, too, by asking the students not only what they learned but also what they thought about the format of the lesson and what they thought should be changed. A profound discussion of the lesson’s strengths and weaknesses would not only help the professor review the structure and presentation of materials but also help students see how the structure of the lessons influences their flow, the perception of materials, and the participants’ engagement in it.
The observation has revealed that the instructional strategies used during the class were effective and encouraged students to share their opinion with their peers, discuss the information provided, and critically address the materials presented in the classroom. Nevertheless, I believe that a discussion that would engage all students present in the classroom would be more beneficial both to the professor and the students if it were combined with the Think-Pair-Share strategy. A classroom-wide discussion could also be used after the video presentation to see how well the materials are understood and whether students are actively interacting with one another.
Additionally, student engagement should also be addressed. As it was already mentioned, only two students among those present were highly active, whereas others preferred to stay silent during the lecture and did not ask many questions. The use of the Think-Pair-Share strategy further limited students’ ability to interact with each other and the professor actively, which indicates that this strategy was not effective in engaging students in active participation. However, the professor recognized the problem and provided direct questions to other students as well.
I will use this observation as a basis for my future lesson planning; I will try to include several instructional strategies that will engage students in the discussion at different levels. At the same time, I also plan to approach students as respectfully and attentively as the professor did and present materials in a clear, student-centered manner.