Traditionally, teaching used to primarily teach pupils and then test them. The ‘chalk and talk’ methods and ‘auditory modes’ of instruction have now been widely discredited. In fact, one of the main reasons why some schools fail their OFSTED reports is because the conventional teaching methods they adopt do not meet pupils’ learning needs.

True learning with the innovative teacher

True learning is both a brain and body-compatible teaching methodology that is derived from research on how children learn best. Teaching strategies involve preparing the most conducive learning environment, using brain-friendly techniques and adopting learning review activities that facilitate total understanding and retention. Below is a 4-phase learning cycle providing practical classroom strategies to ensure their teaching is focusing on true learning.


The goal of this phase is to arouse pupils’ curiosity, create a positive learning environment, get pupils into an optimal mental and emotional state for learning and develop a positive relationship with the subject being taught.

  • Arouse interest by sending pupils a fun prep kit before the lesson telling what they are going learn.
  • Give pupils the big picture with an overview of the subject and a step-by-step guide for the material that will be covered.
  • Create curiosity with relevant colourful posters on the classroom walls.
  • Remove any barriers to learning by making positive suggestions. For example, tell pupils that what they are going to learn will be fun, relevant to their lives and easy to learn. Sometimes teachers inadvertently set up barriers to learning by making remarks about the difficulty of the subject matter.
  • Play music with lively vocals to greet the class as they enter the room.
  • Tell pupils what the benefits are of learning a subject or ask them in teams to brainstorm the benefits at the beginning of the class. This allows pupils to get connected to what is in it for them.


  • The goal of this phase is to help pupils encounter new learning by getting them totally involved by appealing to a wide range of learning styles.
  • Alternate between teacher-directed and learner-directed tasks. Use short teaching that are 20 minutes or less and then set a learning activity for pupils to make sense of the information.
  • Use action learning and ensure that you are getting pupils to constantly alternate between being passive and physically active. Prolonged periods of sitting causes pupils brains to go to sleep.
  • Utilise short clips or audio-tapes that are inspirational or thought-provoking so that strong visual metaphors can be connected with the content being learned to enhance memory.
  • For your own personal review, ask yourself whether the design of the lesson centres around the learner’s need to personalise learning.  


This phase should focus on pupils personalising their learning in a variety of ways. A significant amount of time needs to be spent with a variety of learning activities and exercises that get pupils to practice and create meaning from the lesson.

  • Encourage class collaboration and rich social interaction by alternating between partnered, team-based and whole-class learning activities. Ensure that you provide some opportunities for individual work so pupils get time to personalise their learning and reflect upon it.
  • Create classroom games for fast and fun reviews that fill in any gaps for the learners.
  • Use problem-solving as a means for pupils to engage with the subject matter.
  • Provide debriefing sessions after lessons so that pupils can capture the learning.


The goal of this phase is to ensure that knowledge is retained and that learning is continuous.

  • Provide activities for pupils to show you what they know. For example, get pupils to teach each other by using ‘teachbacks’. Get pupils into teams to teach the class the key points of a lesson.
  • Use evaluations in the classroom. Self-assessment of teaching and pupil’s self-assessment of learning should take place long before pupils are tested. Ensure that you provide performance exercises that enable you and your pupils to evaluate the results of their learning.
  • Create post-classroom learning activities and reinforcement resources.
  • Ask yourself the question, ‘How will I know whether pupils’ learning was successful?’ Also ask yourself what measures can be created to ensure that learning was successful.

 This article was first published in Teaching Expertise, April 2005.