Practice What You Teach
I have just returned from teaching a weeklong Salvation Army Continuing Education Program class with my instructor partner, Mike Rowland. Mike is the director of community relations for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. I am executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Once a year for the last three years, I have been adjunct professor for a Community Relations Class at the Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. The first two years, I averaged approximately 15 students in my class, including undergraduate and graduate students. The class that I just finished teaching totaled nine students. I love teaching, and last week gave me a welcome break from the grind of continuous development work.
As a perfectionist, I always wonder if I maximized my teaching techniques with my students. My goal each year is to make my students learn theory and blend theory with practical applications for greater job success. I constantly used different teaching methods from basic lecture to discussion structures. I also had each student present to the class and lead class discussions. My instructor and I would balance speaking roles, and each student had to spend non-class time doing research. There were many written assignments that had to be turned in. We also had each student do mock media interviews with the use of a camera that were graded. The week-long class was intense, but I attempted to keep the mood light and very thoughtful. My hope was that each student learned new techniques and strategies to be used in their job going forward.
As all of us are teachers in some manner, whether we are talking to students, staff, board members, prospects, external communities or others, effective teaching communication is important. The article titled “Smart Strategies for Student Success” provided five techniques you can use with students in any class to help boost their long -term learning outcomes:
- Explain it to your brain. Students who use self-explanation tell themselves what they are thinking and doing when learning. Students can self-explain when they problem solve to help them decide how to proceed.
- Take brain breaks while learning. Facilitate active engagement in learning by giving students an opportunity to move by taking short two- to five-minute breaks every 20 minutes or so during class time. This can help to get more oxygen to the brain.
- Self-test for success. Teaching students how to test themselves will provide them with one of the most powerful tools for reinforcing their learning. Have students write questions on index cards for memorization for a practice test and take the test.
- Make schedules and pace your practice. Encourage students to create a study planner to build in time for going to class and the library. The brain needs at least seven to nine repeated exposures over time before new content is learned.
- Teach it to a friend. It works best to set up teaching pairs and allow each partner to have a chance to teach the other a part of the lesson. Students may create greater knowledge and memory if they can teach concepts to each other as a teaching stimulus.
Faculty Focus’ article titled “Effective Teaching Strategies: Six Keys to Classroom Excellence” noted that the following six principles interrelated with students’ experiences create maximum effectiveness: interest and explanation; concern and respect for students and student learning; appropriate assessment and feedback; clear goals and intellectual challenge; independence, control and active engagement; and learning from students.
The article titled “A Summary of the Best Practices in College Teaching” provided a collection of best practices that constitute excellence in college teaching. Some of these practices are:
- Lecture practices: Talk in seven to 10-minute segments, ask for classroom feedback, provide stories to embellish material and introduce a regular immediate mastery test whenever practical.
- Group discussion triggers: Use short readings, first person experience, individual task with review, total group response, case studies, visual studies and roleplay.
- Thoughtful questions: Ask the right questions for thoughtful student response. Elements in these questions should include description, reflection, analogy, common purpose, procedures, possibilities, prediction, justification, theorizing, generalization and definition.
- Reflective responses to learner contributions: Use reflective listening techniques with elements of paraphrase and parallel personal comment.
- Reward learner participation. Effective teachers support emerging initiative, cooperation and perseverance with well-timed positives.
- Active learning strategies: Research shows that students learn by doing. The teacher must match activities with the purpose in mind. Examples of this concept are construction spiral, round, brainstorm, writing in class, concept models, simulations and games, peer teaching, question pairs and examinations.
Other strategies include cooperative group assignments, goals to grades connections, modeling, double loop feedback, climate setting and fostering self-responsibility.
In summary, practice what you teach. Communication is vital to what we do in our jobs. Whether you realize it or not, you are a teacher most of the time. This may take place in a group setting or one-on-one setting. Always seek to look for best practices and maximize feedback by those you are communicating with. Test to see if people completely understand what you are saying. If you want to be a better teacher, become a student and test communication strategies. Your ultimate success depends on it.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at email@example.com.