Every student in every class deserves an answer to these 2 questions:
- Why am I doing this?
- What is it good for?
If you can’t answer those questions clearly and honestly, then you really need to take some time to think.
Warning: Some may find this inflammatory.
That’s not to say that everything you teach needs to be immediately and practically applicable, but if you can’t connect the dots for your students so they can see what’s valuable about what you are asking them to learn, then you haven’t given enough thought to your teaching. If you don’t give even that much thought to your teaching, then you shouldn’t be teaching.
I’m not the first person to coin the term “Teaching out Loud“, but I interpret it somewhat differently. The approach advocated by many of those who use the term seems to me to be closer to “Teaching Boldly” (or “Teaching Loud”) than it is to Teaching out Loud.
It’s time for educators to teach out loud. To have the courage to teach the way students learn. To have the courage to try new things. To have the courage to fight for their students.
First let me say, there’s nothing wrong with this approach. I actually think it’s a great idea and I do this myself. BUT, this is not what comes to mind (at least for me) when I hear the phrase.
What comes to mind for me when I hear “Teaching Out Loud” is more in line with the concepts associated with “Think Aloud” idea in psychological and educational research. The basic idea is that the ‘subject’ says what they are thinking about as they complete a task. The goal is to learn about the thought processes the subject is using. Given that, “Teaching Out Aloud” should be about the teacher explaining their reasoning and thought processes while teaching.
My view of “Teaching Out Loud” (or: Becker’s Teach Aloud Protocol) involves letting my students know why I am asking them to do what I am asking them to do AND telling them what I want them to get out of it. This goes beyond the typical learning outcomes listed in course syllabi (most students never read those anyways). It requires me to be deliberate about every single thing I do in class. I have to be very clear on why I am asking them to do this, and how it will benefit them. I also have to be prepared to explain to my students why I am doing it the way I am. I am not only justifying the instruction – I am also justifying my pedagogy. In this way, I am treating them as fellow adults (I should be able to do this in university) by inviting them into my circle.
Of course, this too can easily become just another academic exercise in intellectual masturbation, so it requires an additional step: I must ask my students to critique what I’m doing, AND I must be willing to consider those critiques WITHOUT penalizing my students in any way. I need to ask:
How did it go?
How can I improve this so it works better? Perhaps, it didn’t work at all and I should completely re-think the whole exercise.
A different approach that is also part of my Think Aloud Protocol has had a surprisingly profound impact on my whole philosophy of education. It’s this:
What if I don’t?
In other words, what is lost if I DON’T do this? What is lost if I DON’T set a hard deadline? What if I drop the typical rule that says students can’t submit the same work in two (or more) different classes for credit? What do I or my students lose if don’t have a high-stakes exam?
This has changed so much for me that I have started applying it to everything I have ‘usually’ done in my classes. Occasionally, I decide that this strategy or exercise is indeed very useful, and I keep it. More often than not, I discover that the reasons for doing something, or for doing them a particular way are very thin, and I am able to let it go and replace it with something more thoughtful and deliberate.
The end result?
Check out some of my gamification posts.