Impact Teaching

There is a difference between teaching and learning. Just because you teach something does not mean learning has occurred. Most teachers have the desire to ensure students learn and grow from them. How you structure a lesson can support the goal of causing learning, resulting in more impactful teaching.

Here are six steps to creating more IMPACT in the classroom:

Introduce Clear Objectives
Begin by clearly stating the learning objectives for the lesson. Let students know what is coming up and the expectations for their learning within the lesson. One of the main questions students are pondering throughout their education journey is, ” Why am I learning this?” Day after day, many students walk into a classroom expecting learning to just ‘happen’ to them, without any clear reason or purpose.


This is especially true of the middle years. Students go to school in the early years to learn to read, write and do maths. Once they have a basic grasp of this – ages 9-10, why are they there? It is often not until the latter years of secondary school, that students often find their purpose or ‘why.’ For example, when they know they are heading to University and need enough marks, credits or a certain level of attainment, or when they know they are going into a certain career and are clear about what they have to do to get accepted.

Ways to create a bigger ‘why’ include:

• Connecting to real-world relevance: Provide concrete examples, case studies or stories that demonstrate the practical value of the lesson. Show them how the knowledge or skills can be used in their future careers, daily life, or in addressing current societal challenges.

• Help students set goals and know the steps they need to reach their goal.

• Connect lessons to Personal Interests: Make an effort to understand your students’ interests, hobbies and aspirations. Show them how the knowledge or skills being taught can help them pursue their passions or achieve their goals.

• Foster inquiry and curiosity: Encourage students to ask questions, explore ideas and pursue their own inquiries related to the lesson. Provide opportunities for independent research or investigation, allowing
students to discover the answers to their own questions.

• Create meaningful learning experiences: Design lessons that incorporate authentic and meaningful tasks or projects. When students can see the real-world relevance and application of what they are learning, they are more likely to find purpose in their studies.

Maximise Prior Knowledge
Before introducing new concepts, activate students’ prior knowledge by asking questions, conducting a brief discussion or using an engaging activity related to the topic. You might use a thinking organisational tool such as a KWL:
• Know
• Want to Know
• Learned

This helps students make connections and primes their brains for learning. It also lets you know which concepts they already understand and do not need to spend so much time on, and highlights the misunderstandings and biases they have.

Provide Varied Instruction
Incorporate a mix of instructional methods such as lectures, discussions, group work, hands-on activities, multimedia presentations and demonstrations. In her book, Seven and a Half Lessons About The Brain, Lisa Feldman Barrett cites research showing that the more pathways information is input into the brain, the easier recall becomes.

When the same teaching methods are used repeatedly, the brain can get bored and learning is jeopardised. Teach students how they learn and the many different ways they can process their learning. Study expert, Jessyka Coulter, suggests giving students permission to complete tasks in a way that suits them, rather than just your style. For example, when completing a series of Maths problems, they may
draw diagrams to understand the concept, talk it through with a peer or use counters to manipulate the numbers.

Experiment with different instruction methods such as role plays, discussion groups, interviews, investigations, independent and group activities, jigsaw activities, peer- to-peer learning or facilitation. Utilise technology tools and resources that align with the subject matter. This could involve interactive simulations, online research, educational apps or virtual field trips.

Remember, a combination of these instructional methods and the thoughtful selection of appropriate strategies can enhance student engagement, cater to diverse learning needs, and promote deeper understanding. It’s important to choose methods that align with your lesson objectives, content and the needs of your students.

Arrange Lessons into Chunks
Divide the lesson into smaller segments or sections. This helps students process information in manageable chunks and prevents cognitive overload.

This could take the form of each section being focused on a specific subtopic or breaking up a longer lesson with small activities or peer-to-peer discussions. It might include an introduction activity, some exploration, a mini-lecture, time to check understanding and a summary or conclusion at the end.

When there is a great deal of content to cover, ensure there are at least 3-4 breaks for the brain to process the information. As incredible as the brain is, it cannot take in information and process it simultaneously. Give your students short brain breaks. These breaks might include asking students to take a deep breath, stand up and move or run to the fence and back.

Capture Attention
Capture students’ attention and enhance their understanding and engagement by adding novelty, story-
telling or something unexpected. Dr Judy Willis, neurologist turned classroom teacher, tells the story of sitting in a little red wagon at the front of her physics class. Close to the wall, she held a fire extinguisher. When the students were settled she activated the fire extinguisher. The discharge hit the wall, causing her in the wagon to scoot across the floor. As Judy scooted across the front of the classroom she shouted, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction!” You can be assured her students remembered that lesson!

Indian computer scientist, Sugata Mitra, suggests every classroom should have an Xbox or PlayStation, and a teacher’s job is to be more exciting than that!! Have fun with your student. Create an environment of learning that is a lighthearted and enjoyable atmosphere which enhances engagement and memory retention.

Thoughtful Reflection
Dedicate time for students to reflect on what they have learned at the end of the lesson. Reflection promotes deeper understanding and retention. This could be through class discussions, writing activities or presentations. Other ideas include students interviewing each other to summarise the key points, facilitating the think-pair-share tool, using ‘show-me’ boards or utilising an exit ticket strategy.

Structuring lessons for impactful learning fosters a dynamic and enjoyable classroom environment where students are motivated to learn, reflect and apply their knowledge beyond the classroom walls. Ultimately, lessons structured with purpose and student engagement in mind pave the way for impactful and meaningful learning experiences.

Published on Saturday, July 22nd, 2023, under Uncategorized

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

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