Chapter 10: Key Teaching Strategies 📚

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Learning is deeper and more durable when it is effortful.

Once you’ve had your first lesson and completed the FLQ you will have an understanding of the type of student you are supporting as well as their goals, personality and pain points. You will have outlined a plan together of what you will cover in the lessons leading up to their next key milestone, and spend some time preparing before each lesson.  Our most effective tutors are not only able to explain concepts and guide their students through answering questions, they are able to do so in a way that helps them retain what they have learned. 

Key Teaching Strategies 🤓

We have found the following teaching strategies to be effective in boosting students' level of understanding and retention. We recommend trying these strategies out in your lessons: 

  1. Subject Syllabus Overviews 🔎
  2. Self-Assessment 📋
  3. Resource Sharing 🤝
  4. Socratic Questioning 🤔
  5. Real-Life Examples 🌍
  6. Retrieval Practice 🔓
  7. Spaced Repetition 🔄
  8. Interleaving 🎨

Read through the guidance and application scenarios we have included below on each strategy. Each of these strategies can be incorporated into your lessons no matter what subject(s) you tutor, however, you'll find that some strategies are more relevant and applicable to certain subjects.

If you have any questions on how to use any of these strategies effectively, feel free to ask!

Subject Syllabus Overviews 🔎

Guiding your student through a subject overview provides them with a holistic understanding of their year-long curriculum, igniting curiosity and encouraging exploration of the subject. Subject overviews are most applicable to Year 11 and 12 student where the curricula is more predictable. Offering students a framework or roadmap for a subject helps them see the sequence of different topics, how they build upon each other and how different topics are interconnected. With this big picture understanding, students can better identify key areas or concepts that they need to focus on for a deeper understanding. 

Application of Subject Overviews

  • Subject overviews are a powerful staple lesson to include for all your students. To have the greatest impact, it is best to run through an overview in your first or second lesson.
  • Use visual aids to support your overview - this can be as simple as a table or mind-map. 
  • Continue to refer back to the subject overview (e.g. the mindmap) as you move onto new topics with your student to help them orient themselves within the framework. 


This involves asking the student how confident they feel about different subjects or topics by giving them a rating out of 10. Self-Assessments are a useful tool to gauge how to prioritise topics to be covered as you approach your student’s next key milestone. 

Self-Assessment in Action

Here's an example of a tutor is using Self-Assessment to help a student best prepare for an upcoming Maths test:

  • Tutor: Thanks for sending through the notification for your next Maths test. Before we start working on practice questions, let’s do a quick self-assessment on the topics included in your upcoming test. On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you feeling about the different topics you’ll be tested on - with 10 being “super confident” and 1 being “not confident at all”?
  • Student: Sure. Let me think. Algebra, I'd say about a 7. Geometry, maybe a 5. And trigonometry... um, probably a 3.
  • Tutor: Thanks for sharing, that’s helpful to know. As we have 4 lessons between now and your Maths test, how about we start with Trigonometry today, followed by Geometry next and then end with Algebra? This also leaves us with an extra lesson which we can leave open for now and plan closer to the date. 
  • Student: That sounds good.

Resource Sharing 🤝

Setting up a means of sharing resources that you cover together during lessons. 

Application of Resource Sharing

  • You can set up a shared Google Document or OneNote for your lessons with a student. In this shared document you can note down your lesson plan leading up to your student’s next key milestone. You can also include links to any resources you cover during your lesson
  • You can work on an ongoing Assignment or essay in a shared document
  • If you use a physical whiteboard, you can send pictures of brainstorms or notes taken on your whiteboard during the lesson. You can send these pictures via email or WhatsApp. 

Socratic Questioning 🤔

Socratic Questioning involves asking thought-provoking questions to encourage critical thinking and help students explore concepts more deeply. 

Application of Socratic Questioning: 

  • Ask your student open ended questions related to the topic of discussion. These questions are designed to challenge preconceptions the student has and encourage critical thinking. As your student responds to your questions, you can guide the discussion by asking follow-up questions, encouraging you students to dive deeper into their reasoning and examine the basis of their ideas.  
  • If a student isn’t sure how to do something, instead of telling them what to do, ask them questions to guide them towards the answer. This will support your student in retaining information for longer and developing stronger problem solving skills. 

Socratic Questioning in action

Here's an example of a tutor is using Socratic Questioning in an English lesson on text analysis:

  • Tutor: Today, let's delve into text analysis. What do you believe is important when analysing a piece of writing?
  • Student: I think it's important to understand the author's message and how they convey it through their writing.
  • Tutor: Excellent point! Now, let's take this short story we've been reading. What themes or messages do you think the author is trying to convey?
  • Student: Maybe it's about the struggle between individual freedom and societal expectations?
  • Tutor: That's an insightful observation. Can you find any specific passages or lines that support this idea?
  • Student: Well, there's this part where the main character rebels against societal norms to pursue their passion, but faces criticism from those around them.
  • Tutor: Great analysis! How does the author use literary devices like metaphors or symbolism to emphasize these themes?
  • Student: I noticed the repeated use of imagery related to confinement versus liberation, symbolizing the character's internal conflict.
  • Tutor: That's perceptive - how do you think the author's choice of language contributes to the overall tone and meaning of the story?
  • Student: The author uses vivid and emotive language to evoke a sense of tension and urgency, highlighting the character's internal struggle.
  • Tutor: Indeed. How might different readers interpret this story differently based on their experiences or perspectives?
  • Student: Maybe someone who values conformity might see the character's actions negatively, while others might sympathize with their pursuit of individuality.
  • Tutor: Precisely! How does considering various perspectives enhance our understanding of the text and its themes?

Real-Life Examples 🌍

Linking the theories and concepts you teach to real-life situations offers students relatable reference points which improves their understanding. This approach not only sparks curiosity but also cultivates critical thinking as students analyse practical examples. In addition, information associated with real-life experiences tends be more memorable, supporting long-term retention. When covering a new topic, think about how you can link the theory and abstract concepts to relatable examples. 

Real-Life Examples in Action

Here’s a scenario of a tutor explaining the Economics concept of demand and supply by linking it to concert tickets: 

  • Tutor: Today, let's explore the concept of supply and demand in economics. Imagine you're in charge of selling tickets for a concert. The number of seats available represents the supply, and the number of people wanting to attend the concert represents the demand.
  • Student: Okay, but how does that relate to supply and demand?
  • Tutor: Great question! Let's break it down. Initially, the tickets are limited, say, to 500 seats. Now, if there's a lot of excitement about this concert and many people want to attend—let's say 800 people—the demand exceeds the supply. When demand exceeds supply, what do you think might happen to the ticket prices?
  • Student: Um, would the prices go up?
  • Tutor: They would! With more people wanting tickets than there are seats available, sellers might increase the ticket prices. This increase in price occurs because the demand is high, but the supply is limited. It's like when the latest gaming console comes out, and there aren't enough in stock—prices tend to shoot up because everyone wants one!
  • Student: Oh, I get it - so, what if there were more tickets available than people interested?
  • Tutor: That's a great question. In that case, if there were 500 seats available but only 300 people interested, what do you think might happen?
  • Student: Would the prices go down because they want to sell all the tickets?
  • Tutor: Absolutely! When the supply exceeds the demand, sellers might reduce the ticket prices to attract more buyers. This situation is similar to when stores have excess stock of a particular item—they might lower the prices to encourage people to buy.

Retrieval Practice 🔓

Retrieval Practice is a strategy of deliberately recalling information, which forces us to pull our knowledge “out” and examine what we know. Retrieval strengthens the memory and interrupts the ‘forgetting’ process.

Application of Retrieval Practice

  • Questioning: Engage students by asking them questions about the material, encouraging oral review, written practice problems, or quizzes.
  • Practice Exams: Encourage completing practice exams without notes, under time pressure, and hand-written to simulate exam conditions and identify areas needing focus.
  • Active Recall: Teach students active recall by having them look at study notes or syllabus dot points, then try to recall the information without looking, reinforcing retention through effortful recall.
  • Identify Gaps: Prompt students to note down what they don't understand or create questions that jog their memory about important points in their notes.
  • Self-Testing: Encourage self-quizzing or creating practice problems to reinforce material and improve retention, utilizing tools like flashcards.

The goal is to encourage regular retrieval of information, making it a routine part of studying. These varied techniques help reinforce learning, improve memory retention, and aid in understanding complex concepts.

Retrieval Practice in Action

Here’s a scenario where a tutor uses retrieval practice techniques to reinforce a biology lesson about the human digestive system:

  • Tutor: Today, let's reinforce our understanding of the human digestive system. Remember the main organs involved and their functions?
  • Student: The mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. The mouth begins digestion by breaking down food with saliva, and then the stomach continues digestion with acid.
  • Tutor: Great start! Now, let's try something. Close your notes, and I'll ask you questions about the digestive system. First, what's the role of the small intestine?
  • Student: The small intestine is where most of the digestion and absorption of nutrients occur.
  • Tutor: Good! Can you name the enzymes responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the digestive system?
  • Student: Amylase for carbohydrates, proteases for proteins, and lipases for fats.
  • Tutor: Well done! Now, let's go a bit deeper. How does the structure of the small intestine aid in its functions?
  • Student: The small intestine has villi and microvilli that increase surface area, allowing for better absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.
  • Tutor: Excellent recall! Now, without looking, draw and label a diagram of the human digestive system.
  • Student: (Draws and labels the digestive system diagram.)
  • Tutor: That's fantastic! Lastly, let's create a short quiz for each other about the digestive system. We'll exchange and answer each other's questions to reinforce our understanding.

This scenario illustrates retrieval practice in action. The tutor engages the student through questioning, asks for information recall without notes, encourages visual representation, and promotes active recall through a collaborative quiz. This varied approach helps solidify the student's comprehension and retention of the complex topic.

Spaced Repetition 🔄

Spaced repetition is the method of practicing a task over time with larger and larger intervals between practices to move the learning from short term to long term memory.

Spaced Repetition in Action

An example of this would be if a student learns something new on Day 1, revises it again on Day 2, revises it again on Day 4, then again on Day 10, again on Day 20, again on Day 35 etc. The gap between revising the task in this example has increased from 1 day, to 2 days, 6 days, 10 days, then 15 days. The longer the time between practising the task, the more effort is required, and therefore the more likely that this information will be stored in the student’s long term memory when it is recalled.

This technique is often neglected in schools which traditionally focus on 'block' learning, where topics are covered sequentially without regular review.

Interleaving 🎨

Interleaving is a teaching method that involves presenting information in a mixed rather than a blocked format.

Interleaving in Action

For example, instead of preparing 20 Maths questions that are very similar for a student to work through, research suggests that a more effective strategy is mixing the practice of one topic with other different, but related topics. For example, alternating questions from 2 or 3 different Maths topics. By forcing the student to switch to a different topic, they have to think harder and more critically when they comeback to the first topic, as opposed to just acting on ‘autopilot’.

A side-effect of this is that students will likely get more questions wrong. However, this is actually beneficial for their learning, because when they see the correct answer they will understand the strategy behind it better over time.

Interleaving might result in more incorrect answers initially. However, making mistakes is part of the learning process. Revisiting these incorrect answers allows for a deeper understanding of the strategies behind correct solutions.

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Chapter 9: How to Run Consistent High-Value Lessons 🙌