Three Essential Teaching Techniques

People often find themselves showing others 'how it's done'. Typically nobody has ever shown them the very basics of getting things across efficiently and effectively.
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I found myself being 'taught' by people who didn't know the basics of teaching. It's not their fault, they mean well and are keen to pass on their knowledge and skills but nobody has ever shown them how. This is not unusual.

The challenge then is to enlighten them, and give them the necessary confidence to use good techniques without having to go through 'teacher training' and be lectured at about pedagogical terms. These are practical, hands-on people who need a bit of practical advice.


The best solution is to get them in a room with the explicit purpose of learning about techniques. Being coached by a really good coach is a highly motivational eye-opener. Sadly, good coaches are few and far between.

This article tries to put the essentials into nine pages so it's pretty powerful stuff. It should become clear that simple matters of technique will make a big difference.

1 - Elicit

Lecturing is communication from teacher to pupil but teaching is a continious dialogue. The teacher needs to know how well previous lessons have been learnt, what the pupil is finding difficult or where they've lost the plot, or have streaked ahead or gone off at a tangent. Eliciting is dynamic, keeps pupils on their toes and builds a team relationship between pupil and teacher.

2 - Divide

Almost all teachers try to get across ideas and skills that are too big to handle in one go. Just because the teacher finds it easy doesn't mean the pupils will. Firstly, if one part fails then the whole exercise ends in disappointment all round. Secondly, pupils need to know how the bits fit together and their relative importance. There are traps and tips.

3 - Exercise

Firstly, exercises need to be designed for a purpose. Usually this will be part of the whole. A good teacher will constantly be exercising their pupils in very small matters. Secondly, exercises 'burn-in' skills and knowledge through repetition. Again this is often a continious process joining 'last weeks lesson to this one'. Thirdly exercises are good monitoring tools for the teacher to assess practical results.
Obviously there is a lot more to teaching than this, but this article should be enough to convince non-teacher teachers that there's a lot of ways they could get better results faster (and more enjoyably).
  1. I get a huge buzz from teaching when the pupils are 'on the boil'. Getting them there and keeping them going in the direction you want is a constant challenge requiring quick thinking and flexibility - but it's so easy when you've practiced a bit.
  2. This was initially written for a Morris dancing group, but it applies as much to clerical procedures, first-aid, mathematics, sport, one-to-one and groups.
  3. See the companion article : Teaching For Amateurs
  1. Let me know how you get on.

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