Teaching and Learning Strategies: A classroom guide

Paul Main

Which classroom teaching and learning strategies are worth embedding in your school? Find out here.

What are the teaching and learning strategies?

Teaching strategies are the techniques and methods that a teacher applies to support student learning. A teacher selects the teaching strategy most suited to the current level of knowledge of the students, the concept being studied, and the stage in the learning journey of the students.

A learning strategy is a learner's way to organize and use a specific range of skills to learn curriculum content or complete other tasks more efficiently and effectively in a classroom setting as well as in non-academic settings.

An effective teacher applies the most innovative and creative teaching methods to teach academic concepts and meet the individual needs of students. However, the demands of ever-expanding curricular means that educators often stick to their favoured teaching methodology. We all have our preferred teaching methodology but it is important to explore evidence-informed pedagogical ideas that have the potential to expand our repertoire in the classroom.

What are some of the popular teaching and learning strategies?

It can be hard to know which teaching strategy will work the best with a particular student. So, below is a list of teaching strategies teachers can use to enhance their teaching methodologies:

  • Visualization: Visualization is a useful technique to process or summarize the knowledge that has been instructed in class. When students receive the information through visual means, they are more able to retain both the previous learning and new information for a longer time. Visualization is also a helpful learning process for lower-attaining learners to receive the information in a simpler, clear and systematic way. Thus, an effective teacher would use visual tools such as flow charts, graphic organizers, concept maps and Venn diagrams, that allow students to grasp information more effectively through visual memory.

Use graphic organisers to promote comprehension
Use graphic organisers to promote comprehension

  • Teamwork: Dividing the class into groups to complete a task is a teaching strategy that does wonders. It is recommended to encourage learners of mixed abilities to work with one another. By doing so, those who have more knowledge of the subject can share their knowledge and help their peers understand the topic better. Studies of classroom instruction show that the teachers can promote cooperative learning by splitting the class into small groups and dividing different tasks amongst students. For example, in Science class one student can experiment, another would read the instructions and someone else will write notes about the learning process. Previous studies reveal that group assignments improve teamwork and help students to succeed. For some educators, this is not a preference for teaching strategies. Group work needs to be well-managed and requires a level of independence.
  • Inquiry-Based Teaching: Encouraging learners to ask a lot of questions is an effective teaching strategy that does not only motivate students to think more practically but also helps them to become independent learners. Inquiry-Based learning motivates students to ask questions and work with one another to solve any problem. Through this strategy, students tend to show more interest in the learning process such as formative assessments. Inquiry-based learning provides student experience of working with one another as a class and also allows students to revise previous learning and retain new learning in a better way.
  • Student-led Classroom: Studies of classroom instruction reveal that giving more power to students allows them to become self-aware of their strengths. To facilitate Student-led instructions, teachers encourage learners to ask many questions and provide more frequent feedback. In a student-led classroom, teachers encourage students to perform their research online and bring their learning outcomes to the classroom. A student-led teaching strategy is widely used to build greater confidence in students. Previous studies show that this approach allows students to take more responsibility for their learning and bring long-term advantages such as higher levels of soft skills.

Using visual learning methods in the classroom
We are all visual learners

  • Implementing Technology in the Classroom: The productive use of technological tools as active learning strategies in educational institutions may develop a vibrant learning community, help educators prepare and improve their lesson plans. Using technology in the classroom is a valuable tool that prepares students to learn 21st-century skills. Use of PowerPoint presentations, videos, virtual classrooms, robots and augmented reality (AR) does not only add liveliness to the classroom but may also lead to a more inclusive and effective learning environment that improves inquisitiveness and collaboration between the students and allow educators to compile data on student performance. When classrooms around the world were forced to participate in online learning, schools had to re-examine their institutional teaching methods. Some of the student feedback surrounding the sudden use of technology was very positive. In certain parts of the world, student engagement increased. If however, your home did not have suitable technology, the student experience of home learning was not so positive.

Learning strategies for students

Previous studies show that students depend upon their senses to process knowledge around them. Most of the successful learners tend to use one of their senses more frequently than the others. Over the last few years, the concept of 'Preferred Learning Styles' has been heavily criticised. According to recent literature in the field of education, the idea that a child has a learning style preference is a myth. In some schools throughout the UK during the early 2000's, children were effectively labelled either a: Visual learners, auditory learners, social learners or even naturalist learners. This practice was misinformed and sidetracked teachers from engaging with more evidence-informed ideas. If you were a teacher trained in the late 90s you may well have been on a workshop where you explored whether your class were verbal learners or tactile learners. It is widely agreed that there is limited evidence for the concept of preferred learning modes. This article is not advocating the idea of having a dominant learning style but it is worth exploring how the different senses play a part in the knowledge acquisition process.

  1. Visual Strategies: Pupils learn and retain the knowledge better when it is presented to them in a pictorial form, such as diagrams, charts, arrows and symbols. This approach has been refined through the research into dual coding. Using clear visuals of information hierarchy as an approach to teaching practices is an accessible way of giving access to complex regular content. To apply this approach into the classroom management strategy, teachers can apply the following in the classroom learning environment:
  • Use a wide range of visual aids such as pictures, charts, graphs, and illustrations;
  • Include handouts and outlines for teaching various academic concepts;
  • Show pictures and explain;
  • Remove potential distractions;
  • Leave some space in handouts where students can write notes;
  • Show clear screens while using multimedia;
  • Use colourful illustrations and presentations.

Providing assistance for students using visual learning strategies
Providing assistance for students using visual learning strategies

  1. Auditory strategies: Creating learning experiences that involve listening and talking. Successful teachers need to apply the following instructional methods in their classroom:
  • Begin new topic with the background of what academic concepts are coming;
  • Use activities such as discussion groups or brainstorming;
  • Ask the learners to read aloud the question;
  • Have learners sit in groups where vocal collaboration is possible;
  • Conclude by summarizing what was taught.
  1. Reading & Writing - Using more traditional instructional methods such as rewriting their notes, reading textbooks, and note-taking. They tend to learn better by applying the following in their classroom:
  • They must be provided with the written information on worksheets, and other text-heavy resources;
  • Ask students to rewrite notes;
  • Using bullet point lists;
  • Turning charts and diagrams into words.
  • They must be asked to reference written text.
  1. Kinaesthetic Learning [or embodied cognition] is also referred to as tactile learning. Kinesthetic learning is the most physical of all the learning styles, as kinesthetic or tactile learners grasp information best through the instructional strategy that involves the practical strategy of motion, movement and touch. The word kinaesthetic learners indicate students' ability to sense movement and body position in the learning environment. Student understanding of Tactile learners is enhanced by the physical activity such as touching, feeling and moving things. In recent years, the field of embodied cognition has received a lot of interest. The work of Barbara Tversky has shown us that being referred to as a 'kinaesthetic learner' probably describes most of us. The following are a selection of strategies used to teach kinaesthetic learners (or anyone else for that matter!):
  • Involve physical movement in the teaching methods;
  • Provide hands-on experience to the learners;
  • Use flashcards to teach;
  • Engage students in classroom activities that involve physical materials.
  • Ask students to draw images of information in the formative assessments.

utilising multisensory approaches in the classroom


Other teaching and learning strategies you should research

At Structural Learning, we have been trying to uncover classroom ideas that are both evidenced informed and easy to implement. Organisations such as the EEF condense the findings of studies of classroom instruction. We can use this extensive evidence to make better decisions about how we can teach our lessons. Focusing on the pedagogy is with the highest impact is a good starting point for any school. The strategies listed within these journals help classroom practitioners widen their range of skills. If you are thinking about making some pedagogical changes across your school, you may want to explore some of the following topics:

  1. Integrating formative assessment strategies in your classroom.
  2. Advancing critical thinking skills by using graphic organisers to help students organise their thinking.
  3. Provide playful learning experiences that promote divergent thinking.
  4. Utilise dual coding methods to make curriculum content easier to understand.
  5. Integrate responsive teaching as a whole school philosophy.
  6. Build the pillars of teaching by embracing Rosenshine's principles of instruction.
  7. Provide insightful student feedback that moves their thinking forward.
  8. Promote critical thinking skills by using Oracy or dialogic teaching methods.
  9. Make abstract concepts in maths more concrete by using physical materials.
  10. Develop intervention lessons into engaging experiences by using different learning tools.
  11. Make your assessment strategy more creative by giving summative assessments less priority.
  12. Only embrace evidence-informed ideas that have a clear impact.


Embrace evidence informed teaching and learning
Embrace evidence informed teaching and learning


Final thoughts on learning and teaching strategies

The above discussion shows that students don't always have a unique learning style preference. It can be challenging to create learning solutions that are universally accessible for the whole class. Educational researchers believe that using a mixture of active learning strategies may help to improve the learning outcomes of each student and may motivate students to show deeper understanding. Thus, the best instructional methods for a teacher are a mixture of teaching strategies that will help learners to learn quickly and retain more.