5 pillars to teach efficiently

  1. Preliminary ignition : provide with answers rather than an information
  2. Deliberate practice : find the best exercices to help students to progress
  3. Trust atmosphere : allow students to overcome their fear of failure
  4. Instant feedback : provide instant and regular advice to speed up learning
  5. Spaced repetitions : repeat at least 4 times under various formats

1/ Preliminary ignition

According to Maslow, you have to go through four steps to learn :

  1. Unconsciously incompetent : you don’t even know you’re doing the thing wrong
  2. Consciously incompetent : you are aware that you’re doing the thing wrong
  3. Consciously competent : it requires a lot of attention to do the thing right
  4. Unconsciously competent : you do the thing right without even noticing

2/ Deliberate practice

The learning pyramid is an empirical concept attributed to the National Training Laboratories. It states that retention rate increases along with students’ participation. Here are the results :

3/ Trust atmosphere

Students must be confident to dare because learning requires practice and thus failure, at least at the beginning. This point is again more important in live sessions where students can dread the “judgement” of others or be the victim of the “model student” wanting to always be perfect and thus limiting themselves.

4/ Feedback

Isn’t feedback what makes a teacher so necessary? Usually, you can find the class material online or in a book. You can practice ahead of the lesson. But you have to wait for the lesson to finally get feedback on your practice. This could explain why individual lessons usually work way better than collective ones. This could also explain why a great teacher does not need to be the “best” in the field he teaches (think of football coaches) : this might help them better figure out what is hard to learn and provide their students with more helpful feedback.

5/ Spaced repetitions

Repeating over time at regular intervals (spacing effect) allows students to better memorize. Hermann Ebbinghaus was the first to theorize in the late 1800’s how the brain forgets (the forgetting curve below) and to show that active recall diminished drastically the rate of forgetting. Several models exists but what seems to work well is the following agenda based on 4 recalls :

  • 1st repetition after 2 days
  • 2nd 1 week later
  • 3rd 2 weeks later
  • 4th 1 month later

Conclusion : what about school ?

The more I teach, the more I think about school… Besides having been a school student for almost 20 years, I also have 3 children. So I have some concrete material to study! Let’s look how school scores against the five pillars :

  1. Preliminary ignition: a lesson usually starts by “Today, we are going to learn XXX”. Not quite an ignition! Why should we learn this particular lesson? How can it be useful for us? Think of mathematics that are hardly related to tangible life examples…
  2. Deliberate practice: if we look back at the “learning pyramid”, school is at the top, with the least effective teaching methodology: “lecture”… A teacher could say that it is the only way to animate smoothly a 30-student class but Liberating Structures have proven another way is possible.
  3. Trust atmosphere: in France, the atmosphere is at best… cold, at worst unfriendly with a focus put on highlighting what needs to be corrected (think about the red color used to correct). The teacher is far from the students on his platform making it hard to “relate”.
  4. Instant feedback: feedback happens rarely (tests), often under a negative form (“see everything you failed”). Since students rarely practice, teachers can’t correct their behaviors. Students learn at home, making it hard for the teacher to provide them with feedback. Again, there are solutions, like best students mentoring other students (see Céline Alvarez book “Les lois naturelles de l’éducation”)
  5. Spaced repetition: format is mostly text (even if some teachers try to enrich materials with movies or music, but hardware is not always available in classrooms) and repetition is limited as we move from one lesson to the next.

Appendix

Some amazing trainings I went through :

  • NLP : Technicien PNL by IFPNL Lyon : incredible teachers, incredible methodologies, amazing progresses achieved by my cohort within 12 days.
  • NVC : Paris and Caen, basic training by AFFCNV : “official” NVC teachers are really incredible at making people practice and using every form of learning possible
  • Liberating Structures by Inexelcis in Paris : 2 days to learn how to use Liberating Structures. Almost 0 theory, only practice
  • WILL Academy : a simple yet extremely powerful method that you will learn through 10 courses to solve your work related issues : conflicts, collaboration, management, organization. You don’t believe it ? Have a look (French training)
  • Discovery Training : 5 1H30 sessions to finally get deep and relevant insights from your discovery to make the right decisions on your product strategy, concentrate on outcomes rather than outputs and align your stakeholders ! More info.

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Pierre FOURNIER

Pierre FOURNIER

Tech entrepreneur, Coach, Trainer | Founder @WILL, ex-CPO (Chief Product Officer) at ManoMano, ex Founding Partner at Artefact