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Why do exceptional teachers give exceptional instructions?

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Let's answer by recognizing that tutors are also called instructors and they are called that for very good reason: expertise in a subject matter (what they instruct), and expertise in how they direct the learning (the instructions) are key underpinnings of a good lesson.

There are a number of very important characteristics of an exceptional tutor, and at MyIT we try to be all of these (though not necessarily all at the same time😊).

• expert in the subject area

• expert in learning

• expert in learning strategies

• formative assessor

• archivist

• friend

• expert in maximizing germane load

• expert in motivational strategies

• answerer of questions

• demonstrator of culturally significant skills in e.g., music/art/sciences/literature

But let's stick to our knitting for now😊and answer the question on why exceptional instructions are so important.

An instruction given in a learning situation has all the hallmarks of good teaching.

When a task is clear, any conversation or thought around that task is beneficial because the work process is clear. This is precisely paralleled in exceptional learning where students are very clear on the concepts they have to work with, and as a result, their learning process is based on solid data and not poorly understood data.

The other considerable benefit, especially when managing more than one learner and potentially groups of up to 30 or more, is that when instructions are clear the amount of distraction while the task is going on is minimized.

Any student who is unsure of the task feels that they are not being led; feels they are being left to uncertainty; engage less with the learning; and concentrate less on their task. Clear instructions, in contrast, add considerably to the sense of harmony, purpose and alignment in any group of learners.

So, what are good instructions, and how do you give them?

Brendan Doogan International Instructor, International Umpire, World Champion in Power Breaking.

1. Signal: make sure your student knows you are giving one 😊

Pause, change your voice tone, change your voice speed, and signal that you are giving an instruction with something as simple as ‘So…now…’

2. What: say, slowly, what you want

‘I want you to…’

3. How many: say, slowly, how many things

‘I want you to do 1/2/3 thing(s)’

4. Detail (brief): say, slowly, what they are

‘First, study the example in number 7. Second, explain to me/your partner what you understand about the example. Third, complete number 8’

5. Check: check with different learners (avoid the temptation to ask someone who knows)

‘How many things are you going to do?’ ‘Why are you studying number 7?’ ‘Will number 7 help you with number 8?’

1. Signal. 2. Say what you want 3. Say how many 4. Provide brief detail 5. Check

At the end of your instruction-giving, you should be able to feel that your learners completely understand what the task is and that they feel guided in how they should approach doing it. When teaching knowledge or skill around any piece of content this understanding and guidance is also the outcome you are looking for.

There are many ways to check content. Some of the most comment ways of checking content are: concept check questions; asking students to rephrase what they have learned; asking students to explain to you what they have learned; asking students to explain to one another what they have learned; asking students to generate rules that they feel are applicable to what they have learnt; asking students to present summaries of what they have learned; asking students to take time to memorize what they have learned; and asking students to report at various stages in the lesson what it is they think they have learnt at that point.

The result of being a good instructor is that you can feel clear the content has been attended to in a dedicated way, and the time that has been made available for learning has been used in the most constructive and positive way possible.

And that is a nice outcome😊

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