WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate Professor (Emeritus), Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto


Teaching & Learning
General T&L

This page provides perspectives and resources for instructional practices (and assessment & evaluation approaches) across a broad spectrum of subject areas. If you would like to comment about anything here and/or send me suggestions, links, etc., please feel free to write to me. Thanks.
Principles & Practices.
Teaching Standards.

Teaching Principles & Practices
Teaching & learning are highly complex, dependent on myriad contextual factors - including the nature of the teacher, students, the subject matter and the environment(s) for teaching and learning. Nevertheless, there are some principles that seem to apply to many contexts. Accordingsly, governments have set various standards for good teaching. Among these, it is extremely important that teachers consider various principles and theories about learning (e.g., @ Learning). Among these, constructivist ideas about learning have been very influential. Related to such learning principles, educators need to consider which teaching approaches are best for various situations. Many of the approaches described below can be applied to teaching and learning in any subject area. However, teachers also must be aware of
pedagogical content knowledge (PCK); that is, knowledge about general teaching approaches and how they should be used for different subjects. Therefore, although the general approaches below can be used for many subject areas, teachers also should consider approaches that have been tailored for particular subjects; such as for science and technology education. There also are some  principles pertaining to PCK that relate to particular subject areas; such as those for science education (e.g., @ PedContentKnowledge). Finally, it must be stressed that teaching and learning are dynamic. Educators need to continually review and evaluate teaching and learning and make efforts to improve them. Resources for such reflective practice are available @ Research & Development. Further detail regarding general teaching and learning principles, along with some specific strategies, is provided through the links below:

General Teaching & Learning (T&L) Approaches. Lesson & Unit Planning.
Specific Teaching & Learning Approaches. Classroom Management.
Student Assessment & Evaluation.

General T&L Approaches
Several Web sites provide perspectives and resources relating to a range of teaching & learning approaches. These vary in terms of priorities for education and perspectives about learning they support.
Teaching Methods: A, B, C, D.
Instructional Design Models.
Learning Theories/Teaching Models.
Co-teaching Principles: A, B.
Teaching & Learning Methods & Strategies.
Teaching Strategies: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I.

Teaching/Learning Models.
Teaching Models: A, B, C.
Teacher Companions.
Inclusion Education.

Use of Metaphors in Teaching.
Metaphors of Teaching.

Lesson & Unit Planning
The sites linked below provide some guidance for lesson and unit planning in various subject areas. Unit planning is, in essence, long-range planning of sequences of lessons that are related to a larger theme or topic. Those teachers choose may depend - to a great extent - on the particular teaching and learning approach (e.g., from those above) that form the basis of his/her teaching. This may, moreover, vary with the particular teaching and learning context; such as, for example, the topic or subject to be taught or the skill to be developed by students.
Lesson Planning
Unit Planning

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Specific Teaching & Learning Approaches
The strategies outlined below can be used for many teaching and learning situations, with appropriate variations for subject matter (e.g., PCK), for student grade level, for various language-cultural contexts, etc. Strategies included here are: i) Lecturing, ii) Socratic Instruction, iii) Concept Attainment, iv) Concept Formation, v) Cooperative Group Learning, vi) Problem-based Learning, vii) Case Methods.

Lecturing: In some situations, teacher may find that it is beneficial to lecture to students, often aided with media (e.g., chalkboard and/or transparencies & overhead projector and/or digital projector connected to a computer, possibly using 'slide-show' software such as PowerPoint™ and possibly connected to the Web. Lectures may or may not be effective, however. Some, but not all, students enjoy being told about ideas, have good listening habits and attention span and language comprehension.
Socratic Instruction: It is common to begin the instructional (TD/CE) part of a lesson with an interactive discussion, in which the teacher asks students a series of questions - often based on concrete phenomena and/or a teacher demonstration. These should be used with somewhat more student-directed activities, however, to consolidate the ideas.
  • Several sites discuss Socrates' method and provide suggestions for using it in larger classes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • To encourage student thinking skills and independence of thought, teachers should use divergent, as well as convergent questions.
  • In line with asking divergent, as well as convergent questions, teachers also should spread their questions along Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain.
  • At fundamental teacher 'skill' (requring some practice) is that of giving students time to think after asking one or more students a question. Different students require different amounts of 'wait time.' Teachers should acknowledge this, giving 'slower' students more opportunities for engagement in class discussions, although there will be a point at which the teacher can wait too long, and 'faster' students lose interest.
  • During Socratic discussions, as well as during lectures, it often is helpful for instructors to use visual aids of various sorts. Among these, various illusions can be helpful and stimulating; e.g., Illusion Works.
  • To be sorted: Leading & Facilitating Discussion. Critical and Creative Thinking. Five Types of Questions. Answering/Asking Questions. Questioning RE: SOSE.
Concept Attainment: This is a guided inquiry approach, in which students develop understanding through comparison of phenomena that have common characteristics with those that do not. A good explanation of this approach is provided here.
Concept Attainment Sites: A, B, C, D, E.
Concept Formation: Concept formation is a guided inquiry technique, in which students are asked to examine and classify phenomena inductively; that is, from specific instances to general principles. Concept Formation Sites: A, B, C.
Cooperative Group Learning: This is the general term for a variety of approaches that encourage students to share their learning.
Jigsaw Classroom.
Cooperative Group Problem Solving.
Cooperative Learning Strategies.
Problem-based Learning (PBL): This is a general term for a variety of approaches that involve engaging students in collaboratively solving 'real-life' problems or issues and, in the process, develop understandings in various subject areas.
Problem-based Learning.
PBL Learning.
PBL in Meds.
PBL Sites.
Case Methods: These approaches are similar to PBL approaches, but generally begin wtih detailed descriptions of phenomena for study.
Case Teaching.
National (USA) Case Teaching Center.
Teaching With Cases.
Teaching via Case Studies.
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Classroom Management
Apart from planning and implementing lessons and students activities that are meaningful and useful for students, a real concern - especially for beginning teachers - is classroom 'management'; i.e., strategies for ensuring all students have a safe and positive learning environment. Especially useful on last days of a term or year are various puzzles and 'brain-teasers.'

CM: Videos.
CM: D. Wiggins.
CM 101.
CM re SciEd.
CM Links: 1, 2, 3.
Brain Teasers.
John C's brainteasers.
Brainteasers, puzzles, riddles.

Assessment & Evaluation
For various reasons, teachers and others in formal education assess and evaluate student achievement. 'Assessment' refers to gathering of information (data) about what students know, feel, can do, etc. Usually, this involves some sort of action by students, such as speaking, writing (including tests), building, etc. 'Evaluation,' meanwhile, is a judgement of the value of such actions. Assessment and evaluation can be conducted at different times; e.g., i) Diagnostic = before instruction, ii) Formative = during instruction and iii) Summative = after instruction. Evaluation can be 'norm-referenced' (compared to other people) or 'criterion-referenced' (compared to standards). Assessment & evaluation can vary in terms of reliability (reproducibility) and validity (authenticity).
Assessment Methods.
Kathy Schrock's Assessment Help.
Authentic Assessment Overview.
PALS: Performance Assessment Links.
Assessment Techniques.
Portfolio Assessment.
Performance Assessment.
Forms of Alternative Assessment.

National (USA) Standards: Assessment.
Guidelines for Rubric Development.
Rubric Generator.
Ont G1-8 Curriculum Templates.
The Staff Room: Rubrics.
Test reliability & validity.
Test reliability, validity & fairness.
Norm vs Criterion Evaluation.
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Standards of Teaching Practice
In addition to setting standards for what students should learn, some governments set them for how teachers should teach. Those for Ontario are provided at right. Governments in other locations do the same.
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