Why Teacher-Talk Stifles Student Learning

Published On: Monday, January 20, 2020|Categories: Education Info, Learning Strategies, Private School, Tenney Subscribers|

Some teachers love to talk! It’s great to have an enthusiastic, passionate teacher, but in the classroom, there needs to be a balance between talking and listening. Too much teacher-talk can actually harm a student’s learning experience. Learn about the ways more talk leads to less learning.

1. Shortcuts Student Thinking

When a teacher asks a question and then stops talking, sometimes the classroom can feel really quiet. If the teacher is uncomfortable with the silence, she might jump in and answer the question herself. However, a quiet classroom doesn’t necessarily equal a non-learning classroom. Students need time to think through the concepts they just heard. Answers to questions don’t always pop into their heads spontaneously. Thought processes and problem-solving skills take time. A good teacher knows how to wait for students to think, or how to jog along with their thoughts with appropriate hints.

2. “Rescues” Students from Learning Through Mistakes

Teacher-talk in the classroom might fill the students’ minds with knowledge, but it also leaves no room for students to take risks and make mistakes. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Learn from your mistakes.” That’s true. Students do learn by answering questions wrong and getting corrected. That’s a good way to learn the right answer and remember it in the future. If the teacher doesn’t stop talking, the students will never get the opportunity to speak up and say the wrong things. Similarly, if the teacher feels like she needs to rescue a student from feeling shame for answering incorrectly, she’s limiting the amount of positive correction that happens, and the learning that accompanies it.

3. Students Won’t Own Their Learning Experiences

Class participation is one way that students grab onto their learning experience and make it their own. They discuss, ask questions, make mistakes, hear other students make mistakes, listen to the teacher respond, and become engaged in the material. When a student spends the class period listening to the teacher talk, the class engagement gets severely reduced. Students are far less likely to take ownership of what they have learned because they are only listening and not actively participating.

4. Teacher Won’t Understand How Much the Students Are Learning

An overly-talkative teacher surely knows her own understanding of the subject matter, and she is very willing to share that knowledge, but she may never know how much her students are understanding if she doesn’t stop talking and start listening. While written tests are one way of checking a student’s knowledge on the material, usually a bad test grade is the end result with no chances to relearn the material. If the teacher asks questions verbally during the class period, she can get a better handle on how much knowledge the students are grasping. In that way, she can better prepare the students for their test, so they can positively demonstrate what they learned.

5. A High Level of Teacher-Talk Leads to Instructional Ruts

When a teacher talks too much, it quickly becomes a habit. The students know that their teacher is going to stand in front of the room and talk for a long time without requiring much response. Tired, bored students then feel free to tune out until something more exciting happens. Over-talking is an instructional rut that can be avoided by asking questions, engaging the students with call-and-response techniques, and in general, allowing the students to think and discuss.

6. New Concepts May Never Be Introduced

If the students don’t get a chance to speak and ask questions, then the teacher gets to choose everything that is taught in the classroom. Part of the excitement and interest in a good classroom is the way learning one concept leads naturally to another concept. Learning can be methodical, but it can also be a series of rabbit trails. Too much teacher-talk limits the amount of imagination and curiosity in the classroom that leads to fresh learning. On the other hand, a teacher with good skills in questioning and discussion-leading holds the keys to valuable instructional methods.

At The Tenney School, we strive to maintain a good balance between teacher-talk and student-talk. Our one-on-one learning really encourages teachers to stop talking and listen to the student. We want our students to thrive in a healthy classroom with the appropriate amount of silences to encourage thinking and engagement. If you would like to know more about one-on-one learning, please contact us. We are happy to listen to you and then answer your questions!








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