Positive Things Can Happen When You Change Your Pedgogical Style

If you have been following my work, you know I spent 7 years a K-12 teacher and 7 years as a university professor, eventually becoming the dean of a school of education. As a teacher, I was passionate about helping students reach their academic potential and become productive citizens. As a professor and education dean, I was devoted to developing the next generation of teachers and education administrators. For the last two and a half years, I have been an education entrepreneur, launching an education company, Lynch Educational Consulting, which also manages the following web properties: The EdvocateThe Tech Edvocate, and Edupedia.

However, I often miss being in the classroom, and when I do, I usually channel this energy in an article, resource, or project that will benefit educators everywhere. This time I decided to create a series of case studies that are meant to help pre-service teachers get a glimpse into the problems and issues that they will encounter in the field. These case studies will also give them a chance to reflect on how they can use each scenario to inform their own practice. Let’s get started.

As teachers, it is easy to fall in love with our own teaching style, believing it to be the best way instruct students. However, if our students are not paying attention, listening to our lectures, or completing assignments, it’s probably time to change things up a bit. For an example of the positive things that can happen when you change your pedagogical style, read the case study below entitled “Anthony, the New Teacher.” Afterward, reflect on the questions below, using your thoughts to shape your own practice.

  1. How did Anthony become a more effective teacher?
  2. What activities might you suggest to Anthony to challenge and motivate his students?
  3. What challenges did Anthony have to manage or overcome to become an effective teacher?
  4. How is Anthony’s story similar or different than your own?

Anthony, the New Teacher

Ever since Anthony Smith was a young child, he wanted to become a teacher. His father and mother were both teachers. His father worked at a nearby university and taught undergraduate mathematics, while his mother was a social studies teacher at the local middle school. Every day, Anthony eagerly waited for his parents to return home so he could listen to them talk about their school day. Sometimes his mother would tell him about how great her students were and what she taught them about the wonderful world of social studies. Anthony knew he wanted to be a teacher. After all, his parents were so happy and satisfied with their jobs, and he wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Years passed, and Anthony became increasingly interested and motivated to teach. He was particularly interested in teaching younger children. He thought to himself, “What a great joy it would be to spend each day with young children, teaching and laughing with them.” Anthony’s love of working with children became an important part of his life and was critical in his decision to pursue a path toward a teaching career.

By the time Anthony entered college, he had developed a fascination for the life sciences. He was fascinated by various life forms, and so he decided to major in biology and minor in education. A few years later, Anthony graduated and began job hunting. He was lucky enough to find a job quickly. Unfortunately, the job was thousands of miles away from his parents’ home. After graduation, he’d planned to live near his parents for support, as he suspected being a teacher would be financially and emotionally difficult in the first year. Still, he was committed to sharing his knowledge of the sciences with others. Anthony accepted the job, despite the long distance from home.

He started teaching in the fall of 2001 at a public high school. His school colleagues greeted him warmly, and the administrators were welcoming as well. Anthony was excited to start teaching. To his dismay, however, his students did not seem motivated or excited by his lessons. He remembered having to study very hard in college and wanted to prepare his students for the challenging road ahead of them. As a result, his lessons included a lot of reading and writing assignments (both in and out of the classroom) for students to complete. He overheard one of his students say to a classmate, “I think Mr. Smith is a great teacher! He has a lot of knowledge, but to be honest, his presentations are so boring!”

Anthony continued to teach in what he believed to be the right approach to teaching life sciences. Day after day, his students seemed to lose their enthusiasm to learn, and eventually, most of them stopped listening entirely. Anthony was devastated and had no idea what went wrong with his teaching methodology. At the end of his second semester at the school, the principal asked Anthony to attend teaching seminars being offered during the summer. Anthony reluctantly agreed, still believing wholly in his teaching style.

During the summer, Anthony went to a few seminars and a teacher conference. Through these, he learned the importance of using multimedia and technology to retain his students’ attention. He decided to apply what he had learned during the summer in his classes in the new school year. To his surprise, they worked amazingly well!

Suddenly, his students were paying more attention in class, and his nickname changed from “Mr. Snooze-Fest” to “Dr. Awesome.” Anthony felt deeply satisfied not only with his progress but more importantly, with his students’ progress. He vowed to continue learning more interesting ways of teaching the same material. Anthony is still working at the same school and is considered one of the best teachers in the district due to his innovative and creative teaching strategies.

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