Wednesday, October 5, 2011

5 Practical Uses for Errorless Teaching Strategies

1) The first time a piece of music is played.

As a musician, I was taught that it is extremely important to play a new piece of music very slowly - which would allow me to avoid making mistakes. The idea being that if I made a certain error, for the first couple of times I practiced a piece, it has more of a chance to become engrained into my future performances. Of course, after the piece is sufficiently mastered at this pace, the tempo should be increased at an appropriate rate.

"The secret of success is 'Practice'... Practice slowly and critically - examine it."- Lloyd J Reynolds

2) When introducing complex concepts such as higher level Physics or advanced Chemistry.

Simple lab experiments or group activities involving a straightforward activity or task are a wonderful way to introduce more complex concepts. While dry-ice and semi-volatile chemistry experiments are usually good attention grabbers - they also offer an easily understandable (and executable) example of the concept being taught. Adding a group element to these teaching opportunities provides even more of an errorless nature - since three or four learners teaming-up are much less likely to miss an important step. The confidence resulting from the successful completion of these mini-experiments will hopefully lead to further explorations into the subject.

3) Practically anything mathematical.

This can also be said of most things which are sequential in nature - such as early language acquisition. Mathematics is an especially good example of the need for errorless teaching, since the understanding of each subsequent concept is dependent on knowledge of the previous. Consider how strange it would seem if an elementary school Mathematics teacher introducing long division by assigning several homework sheets on a topic she hadn't covered in class! The time spent guessing, practicing errors and getting frustrated would most likely impede the students' progress.

4) When a learner is anxious or has emotional challenges.

If a learner has underlying feelings of inadequacy or emotional and/or social challenges, errorless style teaching can go a long way to building their confidence. This is also true for typical students as well. If you consider the previous example of an early physics experiment being an example errorless teaching - only imagine that a particular student has wandered into a mid-level physics lab class by mistake. Without the basic understanding from previous classes he would be totally lost! And not only that, he would be the only one that was struggling! Incorporating errorless teaching early can allow these students to solidify the confidence to participate and reach out.

"A student is almost always motivated to practice if he leaves his lessons feeling capable". -Frances Clark

5) If repeated, typical teaching trials have failed.

Even though the previous situations are great examples of chances to use errorless teaching - this technique can be used in any teaching environment. If a learner is having a particularly hard time with a concept, continuing to challenge them may lead to overload or - at minimum - undue frustration on their part. In respect to the teacher, there is often times an unwillingness to relent when it comes to this scenario ("Wait, let's try it this way..."). At a certain point, teachers and parents need to recognize that the approach is not working and, perhaps a more errorless approach is required.

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