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Authentic learning as a teaching style change for the Common Core Standards

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Change is inevitable, especially in education. Veteran teachers often share memories of years gone by when similar approaches to teaching were embraced, learned, incorporated, and discarded only to turn up again two decades later. With the adoption in most U.S. states of the Common Core Standards, teachers once again are faced with change. More than merely changing curricula, teachers should incorporate a particular style of teaching. As such, many teachers will face a mid-career teaching style shift to meet the Common Core requirements.

What is teaching style?

On a daily basis, reflective teachers may alter their lessons or assignments, but many maintain a particular teaching style throughout the school year. A teaching style encompasses aspects such as questioning techniques, formative and summative assessments, applications, or approachability. The class atmosphere also contributes to one's teaching style.

How can a teacher prepare for the difficult transition?

A few steps will help a teacher transition into a new teaching style. First, he should identify which style they lean toward naturally. This will help identify teaching strengths and areas of improvement. Several resources, including Anthony Grasha's five teaching styles can be assessed through a Grasha-Riechmann online teaching survey. The results scores a teacher as either expert, formal authority, personal model, facilitator, or delegator.

After seeing one's own strengths and natural tendencies, it is easier to transition into a new teaching style by incorporating aspects of one's current teaching style. The Common Core Standards embrace a particular style of teaching more than merely presenting new content. They include an authentic experience taking place in the classroom setting to best prepare students for college or life after high school.

What elements should a Common Core teaching style include?
The teaching style most closely aligned with the Common Core Standards engages in authentic learning. Research shows that when teachers and students engage in authentic instruction and learning, student achievement increases. The four authentic instruction standards are:

  • Higher-Order Thinking: Through use of synthesizing, generalizing, explaining, or making conclusions, teachers involve students in producing new meaning and understanding of relevant concepts.
  • Deep Knowledge: Via exploring connections and relationships between concepts, teachers thoroughly discuss central ideas of a topic or discipline. This allows students to understand at a relatively complex level of thinking.
  • Substantive Conversation: Using extended conversational exchanges between the student and his teacher or peers, teachers build an improved and shared understanding of ideas or topics within a particular topic.
  • Connections to the World Beyond the Classroom: Students make connections between the concepts they have learned in class with either public problems or personal experiences. Teachers attempt to expose students to these scenarios through discourse, problem solving, and reflective practices.

These four aspects of authentic teaching will help shape a teacher's lesson plans. Some teachers may find it difficult to change their style mid-career. However, forcing oneself to incorporate the four authentic learning aspects into each lesson plan will gradually help the change process to take root. Over time, the new teaching style will become part of a teacher's everyday pedagogy. In the end, not only will teachers align with a Common Core teaching style, but students should more readily connect and understand content substantively

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