Using teaching strategies (also known as instructional strategies) with embedded literacy and numeracy teaching


Sometimes people in the education world talk about using teaching strategies… or in slightly fancier language, instructional strategies.

This terminology can be confusing for a couple of reasons. One is that if you google the terms (most people’s first port of call these days), you’re likely to find everything from cooperative learning to discussion-based activities to shared reading to using social media.

When you talk about instructional strategies or teaching strategies you sometimes also refer to the kinds of strategies that you also want your learners to use when they’re learning.

In other words, different people use this terminology to refer to different things and often don’t seem to agree.

So… let’s simplify things. I’m going to follow the lead of the Tertiary Education Commission in the Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy and Numeracy here.

For our purposes, there are six main teaching strategies. And I’m fine with using “teaching strategies” and “instructional strategies” interchangeably at this point. And I’m just talking about what you – as the trainer or tutor – might be doing.

Six strategies

Below is a list of six instructional or teaching strategies.

  1. Discussing
  2. Prompting
  3. Questioning
  4. Explaining
  5. Giving feedback
  6. Modelling

Here’s an example from a practical horticulture training course for adults

The tutor’s intended learning outcome is to get the students to:

  • Estimate and then measure out a raised planting bed for vegetables in the context of their horticulture course.

The relevant numeracy in this case relates to estimation and measurement in metres and millimetres as well as working out area in m2.

Here’s some possibilities for the kinds of teaching strategies that the tutor might use:

  1. Discussing what participants already know about measuring out a rectangle or other area for building a raised vegetable planting bed.
  2. Prompting learners to make links to work they did previously with her using a tape measure to measure length in metres and millimetres.
  3. Questioning learners about what they needed to know in order to use the tape and actually do the measuring.
  4. Explaining how to use the tape measure, as well as how to develop a personal benchmark for estimating and measuring length, such as your stride or the length of your boot.
  5. Giving feedback on the group’s ideas on the best way to estimate and then measure out the planting bed.
  6. Modelling how to work out an area calculation on the whiteboard.

Now put it into action

OK… here’s your part if you want to understand this by applying it to something relevant.

  1. Pick an example of some specific content area from your training where there is clear embedded literacy or numeracy.
  2. Discuss or write down how you used any of these strategies across your different activities
  3. Note any particular qualities that relate to how you used the strategy. Have a look at the examples below for an idea of what to do. You might not need to discuss every strategy

Here are your prompts

  1. Discussing
  2. Prompting learners to make links to their prior knowledge by…
  3. Questioning learners about what they needed to know in order to…
  4. Explaining how to…
  5. Giving feedback on…
  6. Modelling how to…

There’s a handy graphic in the support guides that come with the Learning Progressions. And I’ve reproduced this for you below. It’s a bit small, but you should be able to click on it to enlarge. It’s also on page 25 of Teaching Adults to Read with Understanding

Learning Strategies

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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