By Dr. Marvin LeNoue
“Interactive” – Is it just another one of those 21st century buzzwords (Like 21st century for example.) you see popping up everywhere in the education blogosphere, across the literature on teaching English, and beyond. Speaking honestly from 20+ years in the classroom and as the holder of a 21st century technology-focused PhD, I have to say that this time there is significant substance behind the buzz.
What is Interactive Teaching?
Interactive teaching styles represent a break away from traditional lecture-based teaching and passive, empty-vessel learning styles. Based on the simple idea that practical application of target concepts and skills is the key to both engaging students in the learning process and consolidating their mastery of the subject(s) at hand, interactive approaches to teaching and learning are designed to:
- Involve both teachers and students in active learning processes.
- Promote higher levels of student participation.
- Place students in environments characterized by collaboration and group work.
- Pose problems that stimulate response, discussion, & skills application within the context of hands-on experiences.
- Employ technology and other aids that capture and hold students’ attention and support their search for answers.
When successfully executed, interactive teaching not only effects content transmission, it also promotes a wide range of indirect learning opportunities. Ideally, students are left in command of their own strengths and capabilities, possessed of a range of interpersonal skills essential for modern collaborative workplaces, and prepared to deploy critical and creative thinking in response to any learning challenge they encounter.
Interactive Classroom Basics
Fully interactive instructional approaches generally involve strategies drawn from problem- and project-based learning paradigms. Students are assigned a real-world challenge to meet or question to answer then set free to collaboratively develop solutions. The teacher moves from a directive, teacher-centered relationship with the material and students to a role as content guide and partner in the learning process.
Ideally, interactive instruction involves students in plentiful hands-on work and encourages engagement with the world outside school. If this is not practical and teaching style must adhere more closely to a traditional directive, recitation-based model, high-quality direct teaching is characterized by being “oral, interactive and lively, with pupils expected to play an active part by answering questions, contributing points to discussion, and explaining and demonstrating their methods to the class”.
In simple terms, a teacher can deploy an interactive teaching style by presenting an appropriate problem, often in the form of a question:
- How can children keep their rooms clean?
- What is the best way to stop the spread of colds and flu in the school?
- What can the local community do to address the effects of climate change?
Students are then guided through the process of finding answers, designing solutions, and in some cases, even deploying real-world responses to the given situation. From initial brainstorming sessions to final product presentations and, if possible, solution implementations, the teacher provides structure, tools, support for content knowledge acquisition, and help with difficulties. All while being sure to allow students to direct the learning process and work with the greatest degree of independence possible.
There is an abundance of interactive teaching techniques – many more than can be described in this short article, but an inspirational listing to jump-start your inquiry into this fun and effective teaching method can be found here.
Deliver Interactive English Lessons
An interactive approach is ideal for language learning because of the high volume of interpersonal communication involved. Discussion, debate, explanation, Q & A, and public speaking are just a few of language skill areas exercised by the work that characterizes interactive teaching and learning.
Excellent for immersion learning contexts, perfect for small-group settings, and far more engaging for both students and teachers than lecture and response-based methods, interactive teaching has found much anecdotal and a fair amount of empirical support as the most effective instructional methodology available.
Finally, every teacher can benefit by leveraging the primary advantage afforded by the interactive teaching paradigm: Easy applicability in non-traditional and informal instructional settings. The ubiquity of networked mobile digital technology in the form of smart phones allows a teacher to pose a huge variety of problems and students to access a world of research materials and useful project tools from anywhere within Internet reach.